Hanna speaks at Eucharistic Congress

COLLEGE PARK, GA: With word, song, action and art, the speakers in the English track of the 2013 Eucharistic Congress inspired and informed the thousands gathered to listen and learn. The six presenters touched on the themes of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the importance of Scripture, the call to holiness and the role of Mary. Those attending included longtime participants as well as first-time attendees. The congress is an event Mark and Jen Faas look forward to every year. "I see friends and hear some of the speakers," Mark Faas said. "I’m surrounded by like-minded people; it just feels good to be here."

The first speaker was Atlanta investment banker and philanthropist Frank Hanna III. In the context of the theme of the congress, "Do whatever he tells you," Hanna shared the story of how he was able to acquire for the Church the famous Bodmer Papyrus XIV-XV, which contains the oldest existing copy of the Gospel of St. Luke and one of the oldest copies of the Gospel of St. John. (In gratitude for his work, the Papyrus was subsequently renamed the Hanna Papyrus.)

Hanna purchased and donated the papyrus to the Vatican Library in 2007. (The Hanna Papyrus was discovered in Egypt in 1952 and held by a foundation, which offered these two sections for sale.) The manuscript also contains the oldest existing copy of the Lord’s Prayer, in Luke 11:1-4. Hanna said that the word "whatever" in Mary’s instruction to the servers at the wedding of Cana, and to all Christians, is a powerful word—one that is "dangerous." "Following the rule of ‘whatever’ can change your life," he said. 

First contacted about purchasing the Papyrus in 2006, he initially resisted: "What in the world does it have to do with me?" He later came to see that the Papyrus would be a "gift of inestimable worth" to the church.

Hanna focused on the significance of the Papyrus. He said that there is one God, who came to earth one time. God gave us one prayer—and these pages contain the earliest copy of that prayer.

Hanna said, "I wouldn’t have had light and joy and peace in my heart if I didn’t try" to get this manuscript for "our church." Six months of negotiations later, he was able to obtain the Papyrus, and in January 2007 he and his family presented it to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

He described that moment, as the pope read from the pages. "We stood side-by-side, hearing the Vicar of Christ read in Greek the beginning of the Gospel of John in the oldest edition known." Hanna said that the beginning of that Gospel sums up our faith, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

"We have a treasure beyond all others," he said. "We have our faith."

Hanna ended his talk with a discussion of wealth and Western culture. It’s not material goods, he said. "All the best things in my life are gifts: my parents, wife, daughter," and faith and hope above all, he said.

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By Mary Anne Castranio. Excerpted from the June 6, 2013 edition of The Georgia Bulletin: The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta. Photo By Thomas Spink.