Since 2004, I’ve been a staff photographer for Catholic News Service. In 2009, I had the wonderful opportunity to move from the Washington, D.C., area to join the CNS Rome Bureau. For decades, CNS had used other agencies and freelancers to provide photographic coverage of the pope and the Vatican, but had never had a staff photographer in Rome.
When I arrived, I quickly realized patience and persistence are the keys to photographing Pope Benedict XVI. While it’s easy to take photos of the pope waving, it takes a lot of time and effort to capture images that are visually distinctive.
Following are some favorite images from the past three years.
KEY TO A GREAT PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI holds up the ceremonial key of St. Corbinian Parish as he dedicates the new church on the outskirts of Rome in
2011. Keys are a symbol of the papacy and I thought it was very unusual to see the pope holding a key. The guy who gave the key to the pope didn’t realize this would
be a great photo because he kept standing in front of the pope. Fortunately I was able to crop him out. All photos CNS photos by Paul Haring
SACRED MOMENT: Pope Benedict XVI kneels in front of the crucifix during the Good Friday
service in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 2011. The pope’s reverence of the crucifix every Good
Friday in a hushed and darkened basilica is one of the most sacred and moving moments. I consider
this shot very important and worry every year that I will miss focus in the low light of the basilica.
CHAIR OF ST. PETER: Pope Benedict
the statue of
St. Peter in St.
during Mass with
on the feast of
the Chair of St.
Peter this year.
I had tried
several times to
frame the pope
with the famous
statue, but I
to get the shot.
My luck changed
in 2011 when
the pope began
using a wheeled
platform, making him higher
up so the focus
and framing was
A NEW PERSPECTIVE: Pope Benedict XVI is easily one of the
world’s most photographed people. The challenge is coming up
with images from a fresh perspective. Here he is framed by a Swiss
Guard as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the
Vatican in 2010.
CNS photo by Paul Haring
CUBAN JOURNEY: I couldn’t
believe I would have a chance to
photograph Pope Benedict XVI
juxtaposed with an image of
Cuban Revolution hero Ernesto
“Che” Guevara at the conclusion of Mass in Revolution
Square in Havana this year. This
was a high-tension opportunity
on the altar, and, fortunately, I
didn’t miss the shot or I might
have regretted it forever. On
papal trips, the challenge is to
show the pope clearly situated
in the host countries.
you,” a fellow
photographer said as Pope
the aisle during a parish
visit in Rome
in 2010. Sure
look at me or
the other photographers as
a child. I’m
this close to
the pope only
about 10 times
a year, so I
need to make
these moments count.
CAPTURING THE UNSCRIPTED: Pope Benedict XVI kisses a reliquary containing a vial of blood
of Pope John Paul II during the beatification Mass of his predecessor in St. Peter’s Square at the
Vatican in May 2011. The pope’s unscripted kiss showed not only his affection for his predecessor but
also reconfirmed the importance of relics in the life of the Church. I shot this from very far away on
the colonnade with a 500 mm lens, one of my standard lenses for photographing the pope.
WEATHERING THE RAIN:
Rain falls as Pope Benedict
XVI leads the “Regina Coeli”
from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter’s
Square at the Vatican this year.
I’ve learned not to curse bad
weather as it often leads to interesting photo opportunities.
I used an 800 mm focal length
and a fairly slow shutter speed
to blur the rain.
TELLING A STORY: Pope Benedict XVI meets
Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome,
during his visit to Rome’s main synagogue in 2010.
One of the main challenges in photographing Pope
Benedict XVI is capturing images that show his relationships with others. It’s easy to photograph the pope
waving to the crowd, but much more difficult to make
a storytelling image.
Benedict XVI waves as
he leaves after visiting
the cathedral in Cotonou, Benin, in November 2011. The pope is
by a large entourage
of aides and security
personnel, which makes
capturing clean images
difficult even when you
have an extraordinary
background. In my
dreams, the pope alone
is exiting this doorway.
PAPAL PAN SHOT: The
pope arrives for a general
audience in St. Peter’s Square
this year. The key to a good
pan shot with a long lens is
to try to move the lens at the
same speed as the subject.
My early attempts weren’t
good, but I got in sync with
Pope Benedict using a shutter
speed of one-fifteenth of a
second with a 500 mm lens.
Paul Haring is a Catholic News Service senior photographer.
Related article: What it’s like to photograph the Church’s shepherd