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US Bishops Urge Catholic Response to Coronavirus

Joint Statement with Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Health Association of the United States

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Virgil Dechant, past supreme knight of Knights of Columbus, dies at 89

IMAGE: CNS photo/Knights of Columbus

By

LEAWOOD, Kan. (CNS) -- Virgil C. Dechant, the longest-serving supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, holding the office from 1977 to 2000, died in his sleep Feb. 15 in his hometown of Leawood. He was 89.

"God has called home a good man and one of the Knights' great leaders," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who succeeded Dechant in the top post. "Virgil Dechant used to say that his goal was to leave the Knights better than he found it, and in myriad ways, he accomplished that."

Dechant "leaves a lasting legacy and an excellent example of what it means to be a Knight and a fraternalist," Anderson added in a statement released Feb. 17. "Nowhere is this more true than in his home state of Kansas, which remains in many ways a model jurisdiction."

Born Sept. 24, 1930, in Antonino, Kansas, Dechant joined the Knights in 1949 and was a member of LaCrosse (Kansas) Council 2970 and St. Augustine Council 2340 in Liebanthal, Kansas. A successful businessman, Dechant operated a private farm in Kansas and he also owned and operated his own car dealership and farm equipment firm.

Dechant arrived at the Knights' headquarters in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1967 to serve as the supreme secretary for the fraternal order. Ten years later, he was elected supreme knight.

During his tenure in the top post, Dechant "oversaw tremendous growth in the order's membership as well as in its assets and insurance business," according to a Knights' news release about his death. He also opened the organization to greater involvement by the wives and families of its members.

In addition, Dechant forged a close relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, leading the order to sponsor numerous renovation projects -- including of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica -- and working with the pope to promote the faith in Eastern Europe, which was then behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1988, when the Knights held their Supreme Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, President Ronald Reagan in addressing the attendees via videotape singled out Dechant "for the counsel he has given me over the years.'' In his wider comments, Reagan commended the organization for its views on the family, work against pornography and help for the disadvantaged.

In 1990, the pope appointed Dechant to the lay board of directors for the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.

At the 2003 convention, the then-retired Dechant urged the assembled Knights to take the lead fighting the "new anti-Catholicism." He also said the Knights understand that lay leadership "is not about the laity seizing control of the church" but rather to work in " solidarity and cooperation" with bishops and priests.

On April 6, 2005, Dechant escorted President George W. Bush to the funeral of St. John Paul at St. Peter's Basilica.

Among his honors was his appointment to the Order of Pius IX, the highest papal honor that can be conferred on a Catholic layman who is not a head of state. Dechant also received the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great and was a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.

In 1998, Dechant received the National Right to Life award along with Sen. Jesse Helms, R-North Carolina, for their staunch support of the right to life and opposition to abortion.

Dechant is survived by his wife, Ann, their four children, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

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Raphael's tapestries briefly return to Sistine Chapel

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Vatican Museums

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An artistic masterpiece conceived by the Renaissance master Raphael was on display for one week in the Sistine Chapel to help celebrate the 500th anniversary of the artist's death.

"It's an important moment" and a way to celebrate a truly great artist, Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, told Vatican News Feb. 17. Raphael died in Rome on Good Friday, April 6, 1520, at the age of 37.

The 10 enormous tapestries designed by Raphael for the lower walls of the chapel were on display Feb. 17-23 in the Sistine Chapel, "putting them in the place they were commissioned for in 1515 and where (some) were hung in 1519," Jatta said. The tapestries are normally displayed behind glass on a rotating basis elsewhere in the museums.

The colorful and detailed tapestries depict the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul and events from the Acts of the Apostles. They were designed to specifically correspond to the frescoed images higher on the walls depicting scenes from the lives of Moses and Jesus, and Michelangelo's images from the story of Genesis.

After Michelangelo had completed the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1512, Pope Leo X wanted to leave his mark on the chapel, but every surface had already been painted by Michelangelo, Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Pope Leo chose the young and rising star, Raphael, to create 10 designs for a special set of tapestries for the chapel's lower walls, whose panels had already been adorned with "trompe l'oeil" drapery. Tapestries were a popular art form at the time and the church liked to use them for special liturgical ceremonies.

The painted designs, called "cartoons," were sent to famed tapestry artisans at Pieter Van Aelst's workshop in Brussels. Seven of the 10 original cartoons still survive and belong to the British Royal Collection.

The tapestries cost 1,600 gold ducats a piece -- an enormous amount of money because of the intense labor involved and the expensive materials used, including real gold and silver thread. The total cost for the 10 designs and tapestries was five times the amount Michelangelo was paid for decorating the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Seven of the tapestries were completed and sent to Rome in 1519 and the last three arrived in 1521, right before Pope Leo died in December and one year after Raphael passed away.

Miraculously, they have survived the centuries despite numerous unfortunate events. First, they were stolen during the Sack of Rome in 1527 but, by 1536, seven of the 10 tapestries made their way back home. Pirates got hold of the others and some ended up in Tunisia and Turkey.

The missing tapestries eventually were recovered in Venice in 1554, but others were snatched again from their home in 1798 during the Napoleonic Wars. It took the diplomatic finesse of Pope Pius VII's secretary of state to wrangle for their return in 1808.

All 10 tapestries have been restored over the years. Each covers about 35 square yards (30 square meters) and weighs between 110 and 132 pounds. (50-60 kilograms).

 

 

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Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

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Vatican Museums Exhibit Tapestries by Raphael

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