At the request of the Most. Rev. Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Pope Benedict XVI has bestowed papal honors on five priests serving the Diocese of Venice, which is the first time in the diocese’s history that priests have received such honors. Priests are given these honors in recognition of their contributions to the local church.
The honors come at the conclusion of the “Year for Priests,” which the pope declared June 19, 2009.
The Very Rev. Fausto S. Stampiglia, SAC, Dean of the Northern Deanery and pastor at St. Martha’s Catholic Church, in Sarasota, received the papal medal of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, which is the highest honor a religious priest can receive.
“It is not a personal honor; it is truly an honor to all of us at St. Martha’s,” Stampiglia said.
Stampiglia has been the pastor at St. Martha’s since 1991; he is also a member of the Society of Catholic Apostolate.
Monsignor Joseph E. Stearns, pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, in Sarasota, was recognized as chaplain to His Holiness.
Stearns said he was shocked when he heard about the honor.
“I wish there were more priests who got it, I feel a little embarrassed,” Stearns said. “This is a great honor for me and the parish; the parish is very excited.”
Stearns has been the pastor at St. Michael’s since 2007 and was the former pastor of St. William Parish, in Naples.
Other priests in the Diocese of Venice to receive honors were Monsignor Gerard Finegan, chaplain to His Holiness and pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Catholic Church, on Longboat Key; Monsignor Edward D. Moretti, vicar general of the Diocese of Venice and pastor at Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish, in Bradenton, who was named to the rank of Protonotary Apostolic Supernumerary, the highest honor that can be given to a Diocesan priest; and Monsignor Stephen Edward McNamara, chaplain to His Holiness and pastor at Our Lord Parish, in Fort Myers.
An investiture ceremony will take place for each priest in his respective parish.
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