Friday, April 29, 2005

If you have a little Latin...

... you might learn something - I spotted this today

'With the wild (ones) be wild'
I swiped that picture from this excellent site which also hosts this fine page dealing with Papal Coats of Arms to be found about the city.
Particularly impressive is this detail from the Triumph of Divine Providence by Pietro di Cortona which incorporates the arms of the Barberini Pope Urban VIII.

Papst Golf! (and other news)

The Corriere della Sera reports that a German man has listed a Volkswagen Golf on eBay which formerly belonged to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
It's quite a modest car - it cost about Eur 10,000 back in 1999 and has 75,000 kilometres on the clock. eBay have confirmed that they have checked the documentation and that the vehicle was previously owned by Cardinal Ratzinger and its disposal to a party based outside the Vatican has been properly documented.

Polish Priest a spy?

La Repubblica reports that Fr Hejmo has said that he was 'naive' but 'not a spy' whilst admiting to having said too much.
St Catherine's Day

Happy Feastday to all the Dominicans out there - especially Lauren and Tom. St Catherine of Siena is one of my favourite saints. I admit that her mystical writings are so unsystematic that they leave me cold (my fault, I'm sure) but her letters and the story of her life are quite extraordinary.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Spy Allegations Made Against Polish Priest!

I must confess to being gobsmacked about this - anyone who has been to a Wednesday Papal audience in recent years will recognise Fr Konrad Hejmo, a Dominican priest who helped conduct the Polish language part of the audience.
According to this article in today's Telegraph, allegations that he was a Communist spy are being made in Poland. Needless to say, Fr Konrad denies the charges.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

That Chasuble

I promise I'm eventually going to 'blog about something unrelated to the Pope... but Zenit has an interesting article about a convent of Benedictine nuns who used to host Cardinal Ratzinger on a regular basis:
ROSANO, Italy, APRIL 26, 2005 ( A spiritual haven of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was a cloistered convent of Benedictine nuns in this town in the central Italian region of Tuscany.
Cardinal Ratzinger "came often to our abbey," said the Benedictine nuns of St. Mary of Rosano, in a statement.
"The first time was in 1985, on the occasion of a novice's profession," the statement added. "Before leaving, when saying goodbye to the mother of the newly professed, he told her to be happy, as her daughter was in a safe place, in which the Rule of St. Benedict was lived with unique serenity, consistency and joy.
"Since then, His Eminence returned on various occasions, especially on the occasion of Corpus Christi. On that day, our church is full and he captivated everyone with his very profound homilies and the cordial simplicity with which he spent time with each one in the courtyard at the end of the Mass. He used to like to carry the Most Holy Sacrament during the procession, which went through the cloisters and the garden."
"He came to Rosano in June 2001 with his brother priest to celebrate [his] 50th anniversary of priestly ordination," added the religious in their statement.
At John Paul II's suggestion, the Holy See asked the nuns of Rosano to guide and shape the Benedictine community, made up of women religious from various countries, which last October began a five-year residence in the Vatican's Mater Ecclesiae convent.
At the Mass for the official inauguration of his pontificate, Benedict XVI wore a chasuble made for John Paul II by the Benedictine sisters of Rosano.
That last paragraph answers one of the most talked-about questions in Rome this week... Where did the chasuble come from and had we previously seen it worn by the late Holy Father?

Where did I see that?

I remember coming across a 'blog with a collection of newspaper cartoons about the death of John Paul II. I forgot to save the URL and can't find it using google - if anyone knows the site I'd appreciate it if the address were left in my comments box.


[Edited to add: Thank you readers, here's the 'blog I was looking for.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Pope's Arms...

Via the comments box over at the Shrine and the Archdiocese of Munich, here is a picture of the new arms of the Pope.

It's from a card made availible to some of the clergy who assisted at the Installation Mass and has a picture of the handing over of the Keys to Peter on the other side. A friend has a copy of that card. I've managed to lay my hands on a slightly different card (also issued by the Vatican) with the Pope's official portrait on one side and the arms (along with facsimile signature and date of election) which I hope to post when technology permits.
Anyway... it's in monochrome, so we don't know what colours are being used and nor does it include the Pope's motto.
Note first the crest - a slightly abstract design which appears to be a mitre, but on comparison with other Papal arms the lines on the mitre very closely resemble the shape of the tiara.

The pallium underneath seems to be an innovation - I don't remember seeing that before.
Note that his three distinctive symbols (Moor, Shell and Bear) are retained.
[Edited to add: Colour version of the Coat of Arms availible here]

Monday, April 25, 2005

Papal Arms - Update

I've managed to lay my hands on an official card (issued by the Vatican) marking the start of Benedict XVI's papacy and on the back is a monochrome depiction of what I presume his new coat of arms is to be.
It retains the elements of the old coat of arms - the crowned moor, the scallop shell and bear carrying a burden on its back.

The shield is divided in three kind of like this:
but the two diagonal lines curve inwards and meet at the top edge of the shield. (Thus dividing the shield in THREE and not two as show above) They are also much thinner, serving only to divide the shield and not as a decorative element.
The elements listed above are includes as follows
Top Left: Moor
Bottom Middle: Shell
Top Right: Bear
There's no motto on the card and the shield has the usual Papal keys, a slightly abstract tiara and underneath is a pallium.

On Papal Shoes...

Lauren has an interesting couple of posts about Papal footwear (here and also here) which reminds me of something I once read in Russell Chamberlain's fair-minded book The Bad Popes.

It refers to Pope Leo X (Pope 1513-1521; second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent Medici and also pictured in Cnytr's second Papal footwear post) who took more interest in hunting than in ecclesiastical affairs:
His hunting costume was a source of deep distress to Paris de Grassis [Papal Master of Ceremonies]: "He left Rome without his stole, and what is worse, without his rochet -and what is worst of all, he wore long riding boots which is most improper. How can the people kiss his feet if they are encased in long boots?" The metaphysical problem as to whether or not his foot could be kissed through a boot left Leo unmoved. Clad in his gorgeous, if uncanonical, costume he spent many happy days during which the affairs of the Cburch were discharged in the intervals between hunts. His courtiers swiftly learned that the best moment to present a petition was shortly after the kill, when the natural good nature and generosity of the pontiff were raised to exhuberent heights.
- p219

Sunday, April 24, 2005

What an ending...

And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.
-Conclusion of Homily, Installation Mass of Pope Benedict XVI

And I was there - Part 3 (The Inauguration)

I got up early this morning - it was still dark and I wanted to get the best place possible and so I walked across the city towards the Via della Conciliazione, stopping only to get an early morning coffee and cornetto to sustain me. As is normal on these occasions, it seemed that the entire city of Rome was populated by religious sisters. They got up even earlier than I did and travel in packs to the Vatican. As I neared the Vatican however, the profile of the crowd changed - there were seminarians and priests in their cassocks, scouting groups from Italy and German, the ubiquitous sisters and pilgrims from all over the world. Even though it was still well before 7am there were even families with small children, determined to pay their respects to the Pope and to give their youngsters the opportunity to tell their children 'I was there...' As I walked along the Via della Conciliazione I looked up at the windows of thw Pius IX Elementary School. The last time I took notice of those windows was when I went to pay my respects to the Holy Father. Then, the children had put out large banners bidding farewell to the Pope they loved so much. Today the banners were more festive and gave an warm welcome to the new Pope - they were decorated with hearts and said (in Italian and German) 'Holy Father, Our Little Hearts Love You.' (How cute!)
The crowd was held back until about 7.15, then access was allowed from the Via della Conciliazione to the side streets leading to the Piazza del Sant'Ufficio (to the left of the square) and from there one could access the square itself by passing through the metal detectors under the collonade. Of course it wasn't that simple. There was much pushing and crushing and so on - though in fairness, a special effort was made to let families with little ones through. And so it was that I had a fairly decent spot in the square at about 7.30. I had a clear (albeit distant) view of the altar, and could also see two of the big screens which are used to such good effect on these occasions. I could see various friends scattered about the place, but was sitting alone. Behind me and to my right was a group of Italian scouts, in front of me were Indian nuns in a habit resembling traditional Indian dress. To the left were a number of German school and scouting groups, and near the front of the seating area was a group of about 20 Germans - all dressed in white riding trousers, knee high boots, and elaborate multicoloured military dress jackets. They carried a variety of flags on long poles and looked like a cross between a high school band and a detachment of cavalrymen. (I never found out who they were.) Sitting in the square at that hour was chilly - there was a breeze and the sun had not yet warmed the Piazza. I took out my breviary and having said my office took out an article on moral theology. Every now and then I would go for a walk about and see the square quickly fill up.
At 9.15am the small bells of St Peter's began to ring - this was the signal for the various scouting and youth groups to begin their chants - the Italians shouting 'Benedetto... Benedetto...' while the Germans tried to outdo them by counting backwards from ten in German before shouting something incomprehensible to my lingutistically challeged ears. Then the Italian scouts took off their neck-scrves and began to twirl them above their heads - the Germans followed suit and before long the whole Piazza was alive with flags and scarfs and banners.
'Poland Semper Fidelis'
'Benedict XVI'
'We Love You Pope Benedict'
There were flags of every imaginable nation there, the one unusual feature being the large number of Bavarian flags and people in Bavarian costume.

The athmosphere in the crowd was strange - there was the same anticipation that goes with any Papal Mass of this scale, but there was an awareness of a particular dignity and historical importance. Perhaps it was the Germanic influence, but things seemed quieter and more intense. When the screens finally showed the inside of the Basilica (and didn't that look impressive!) there was a cheer and a round of applause, but when a group began chanting they were shhhshed into silence so that the choir could sing the litany and the crowd could follow what was going on.

I shan't give a blow-by-blow account of the liturgy - I'm sure you've all seen it. However, it was very moving to be there, and it seemed to be that the Holy Father looked as though he were about to be overcome by emotion as he received the pallium and Fisherman's ring.

Incidentally, note the new 'old' style of Pallium which is a reversion to the original 1st Millenium design.
Note too the Holy Father's vestments - I am informed that the mitre is actually one that Pope Benedict received as a Cardinal. Note the Cardinal's coat of arms (Ratzinger's or those of another Archbishop of Munich???)

Note that the Shell design of his Cardinal's crest is taken up in the chasuable he wore.

I understand that his papal arms are very similar to those he had as Cardinal. The shield will be divided into three with the crowned Moor's head, shell and bear carrying a pack retained on the shield. I presume he'll retain his motto 'co operatores veritatis'. (Excellent explaination of the symbolism here.)
The homily was impressive, though I though perhaps that there was material for two homilies there! It's interesting that the crowd reacted most strongly to the Pope's observation was 'young' and 'alive'. He also drew a laugh when he said that he wouldn't be laying out a 'programme of government.' (This is particularly funny given Berlusconi's political difficulties of the moment and Papa Ratzinger's reputation as being a man with an agenda. I think this is the first example of this man's legendary dry wit.)
Finally, and I apologise for my reflection on the Installation Mass being so poorly put together, it was great to see Fr Georg Ratzinger present.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Pope Pics

(With the Cardinals)

(The souvenirs are gradually arriving in the shops)

(There were rumours that his brother wouldn't be able to make the journey to Rome - but here he is at Munich airport. I hope he gets a good seat!)

The most public moving-day in Rome...

I decided to pop over to St Peter's this morning. I'd intended going into the Basilica to pay my respects at the grave of the late Holy Father, but seeing that a long queue had formed at 9am I decided to defer that for another day. I went to the Vatican post office, sent a few packages and bought a few stamps. I sat outside what was Cardinal Ratzinger's apartment for a while writing as few postcards. A truck was parked outside and workmen brought down cardboard boxes while German and Italian TV crews filmed them. I suppose he'll spend the afternoon unpacking them. ;)

Friday, April 22, 2005


For those of you who read Italian and/or Latin you'll find the text of the Mass for the Inauguaration of the Holy Father Benedict XVI's Petrine ministy online.

Flicking through I note:
The ceremony begins inside the Basilica with Benedict XVI accompanied by the Eastern Catholic Patriachs incensing the tomb of the Apostle.
The penetenital rite of the Mass will consist of the 'Laudes Regiæ' (Royal Acclaimations) - a kind of litany which seems to have historical roots in Royal and Imperical liturgies of the Middle Ages.
As is traditional at the most solemn Papal liturgies, the gospel will be sung in both Latin and Greek. This symoblises the Catholicity of the Church. I love hearing the Gospel sung in either language and am particularly taken by the way in which the Gospel is introduced by the Greek Deacon (and in many of the Eastern rites) : Wisdom! Let us stand and listen to the Holy Gospel...Be attentive.
I note that the languages for the prayers of the faithful are German, French, Arabic(!), Chinese(!) and Portugese.
Note in the Eucharistic prayer the special form only used by the Pope: una cum me indigno famulo tuo - in union with me your unworthy servant. He's the only priest in the world who never mentions the Pope's name in the Eucharistic prayer.
To me it seems (and I have not checked this) that the proper prayers of the Mass are simply those found in any altar missal 'For the Pope' with the obvious exception that instead of saying 'Benedict' the Holy Father says 'me'.

Also on that page is the text of the homage the Holy Father will pay at the tomb of St Paul on Monday.

Because I'm still generous...

Okay... I'm posting copies of the special Osservatore Romano that they printed on the night of the election to some friends tomorrow morning.

I have one left over. If you run a Catholic blog, e-mail me with your snail-mail address within the next 6 hours (that's before 10pm Roman time, Friday 22nd April) and I will randomly select one of you to whom I will then send the paper.
Again, I promise I will not keep on to your addresses or use them for any other purposes.
[Edited to add: Competition over - the lucky and unlucky parties have been informed]

A German Professor and his Books

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2005 ( For the second consecutive day, Pope Benedict XVI went outside the Vatican walls to spend a few hours in his former apartment.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger went by car for the short distance, passing through St. Anne's Gate until he arrived at the Piazza della Citta Leonina, where his old residence is located, amid the enthusiastic cries and applause of onlookers.
The Holy Father got out of the car, with license plate SCV-1, smiled and greeted those present, and went to his house, where he had as his neighbors Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos and Cardinal Pio Laghi.
It was the second spontaneous meeting between the new Pope and the faithful who came out to greet him.
While the Holy Father was in his old residence some three hours, a discreet security service was in place in the piazza.
Exiting from the residence to return to the Vatican, he was accompanied by Archbishop James Harvey, whom John Paul II had appointed prefect of his Pontifical Household.
Although Benedict XVI has already taken possession of the papal apartment, he is currently staying at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a guesthouse in the Vatican, while the papal rooms are being painted and redecorated.
When receiving the news of his election, one of the nuns who looks after him told Bishop Cipriano Calderon, retired vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America: "He will have to take his library, because he goes nowhere without his library."
A German journalist standing under then Cardinal Ratzinger's residence commented: "For a German professor, what is most important are his books. And now he is collecting them."

Cardinal Ratzinger walked every day from his residence to his office in the Vatican. Now, as Benedict XVI, he must go by car for security reasons.
That's just wonderful! I can totally empathise - even as Supreme Pontiff there are some little jobs that one can't delegate, and anyone who loves their books knows that the care of one's library is one of them.


One of my favourite books by 'Cardinal Ratzinger' is his volume of autobiographical memoirs 'Milestones' which covers the period 1927-77. I've been rereading it recently and find that his elevation to the papacy casts into further relief the goodness and humilty of the man so evident in the book. He treats of his life in the matter of fact manner that I have come to associate with so many people of true holiness - setback and achievement are dealt with calmly and as part of a project by which God educates the one willing to listen to Him.
I have always particularly liked Ratzinger's description of his priestly ordination.
We were more than forty candidates, who, at the solemn call on that radiant summer day, which I remember as the highpoint of my life, responded "Adsum", Here I am. We should not be superstitious; but, at the moment when the elderly archbishop laid his hands on me, a little bird - perhaps a lark - flew up from the high altar in the Cathedral and trilled a little joyful song. And I could not but see in this a reassurance from on high, as if I heard the words "This is good, you are on the right way."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Co-Workers of the Truth

(Cardinal's Crest of Pope Benedict XVI from Araldica Vaticana)

I'm surprised that more hasn't been made of the link between Pope Benedict's self-description as a 'humble worker in the vineyard' and his motto as Bishop and Cardinal Cooperatores Veritatis. Expect this to be a leitmotif of his papacy.

And I was there (Part II)

A continuation of my account of the night that Benedict XVI was elected Pope.
(I beg the indulgence of my readers for any infelicities of grammar, spelling or phrasing - I should, but don't, proof-read long posts like this)

His speech given, the new Pontiff seemed almost at a loss for what to do. It must be strange receiving the adulation of such a crowd for the first time in one's life. He waved, he smiled, and then (in his precise German way)
'We will now continue with the Blessing.'
I could never imagine his predecessor saying that in the way he did. It perhaps says something about the man that he wanted to get on with the business at hand. John Paul II would, perhaps, have had an ad lib for the crowd or have soaked up the applause for a little longer. Papa Ratzinger seemed slightly embarassed and wanted to move on to the Urbi et Orbi Blessing. I grinned inwardly - he might not have the natural 'showmanship' of his predecessor, but that glimpse of a reserved man thrust into the public spotlight doing his best under unfamilar conditions certainly won my heart.

In his distinctive singing voice he bestowed the Apostolic Indulgence and gave the blessing - his first as Pope. The crowd dutifully fell silent as he began and replied with hearty amens to each of the prayers. I have never felt so privileged to be in Rome before. Here we were, the Roman Church and the Universal Church gathered around our new Pastor, the 264th sucessor of Saint peter at the moment he exercised the Petrine power of the keys for the first time.
After the blessing, he received the salute from the Swiss Guards and the Italian military and then turned back into St Peter's, pausing only briefly for one last look behind him at the cheering crowd.

I knew we'd see no more of him that night, so I immediately sought to leave the Square via the Porta Anglelica. I knew a very good restaurant (a little secret frequently mainly by locals) nearby and I was going to celebrate! There was no point in hanging around the square and realising too late that there was no spare table availible anywhere. However, it was impossible to leave the square. The Italian police were overwhelmed. Many of us inside the square wanted to leave, but thousands of people were still arriving, hoping for a view of the new Pope. Gridlock! Even the carabineri band were caught in the crush and there was something comical to see their old-fashioned plumed hats above the head of the crowds. An old man speaking the Roman dialect explained to his neighbour that the Pope was hungry and had to go and eat now - I was amused to hear him say 'maniare' instead of the more correct Italian 'mangiare.'
After about 20 minutes, we were able to get out. I dashed to the restaurant and found myself to be the first customer. It's a small place, run by a married couple in their sixties. Their daughter is a student and helps out there - whenever there's a lull in work she brings out her books and begins to study. The 'mama' saw my grin and sat me down in what was the best table in the restaurant that night - the one with a direct view of the television. I had a real feast - game-sauce on toast, followed by a large steak in pepper sauce, a creme caramel and a coffee. This was an evening to enjoy - and even though I didn't have anyone to share my meal (I was dining Papal-style!) with, I didn't mind. I could see the coverage of events in the square, reports about Cardinal Ratzinger, international reaction and I could also eavesdrop on the conversations of the others arriving who were analysing what this new Pope would mean. I was also thrilled to see various friends from different countries (lay, clerical and religious) on the TV. The media attention paid to Rome in these past weeks has made us all 'celebrities'. I'd planned to stoll back to the square after I'd finished to pick up a copy of the Osservatore Romano special edition which I thought would arrive fairly late that night. During my coffee, however, I was surprised to see one of the RAI reports with a copy in his hand. I looked at my watch - how could it be 9.30pm already? They'd already started selling them! I was in danger of missing one of the most sought-after souvenirs of the night. I hurriedly paid my bill and briskly walked back to the piazza. (No more running for me that night!) The news-stand was already closed! A queue had formed outside, but it seemed that they'd sold out. Then suddenly the crowd started running - an Osservatore Romano employee had emerged from the Vatican with the last bundle of papers. He was immediately surrounded by about 50 or 60 people thrusting banknotes at him at grabbing papers. The police had to step in and rescue him from the mob and he and his newspapers were dragged in the Bronze Door for safety's sake. I strolled around the sqaure for a while - the crowds had mostly dispersed (and we must confess that had a Latin American been elected there would have been an all-night Carnivale in the Piazza). I wandered around amongst the knots of people (the square seemed empty, but there was probably still a few thousand scattered about in various groups) recognising one or two familiar faces.

And then I had a brainwave - I remembered a news stand where I'd often had success getting papers there after everywhere else had sold out. I was in luck - they had a stack left and I was able to buy several copies for people who'd asked me to try and get one for them. Thrilled with my haul, and thrilled because of the night that was in it, I boarded a bus to take me home, pulled out my breviary and said Vespers for the intention of our new Pope.
Our new Pope looking somewhat like St Pius X

Roman Fragments

I'm still grinning from ear-to-ear and am so looking forward to the Inauguration on Sunday that I'm reluctant to star blogging about the serious issues surrounding the expectations surrounding a Ratzinger papacy... So I'll leave you with a few of the questions and thoughts floating around the city and will continue my account of what happened on the night of the happy announcement.

Questions Historial
When's the last time we had a Theologian-Pope? Certainly John Paul II and Pius XII stand out for their learning, but the former was primarily a philosopher and the latter was a diplomat. Off the top of my head, I don't think we've had a professional theologian as Pope for well over a century.

And when's the last time that a Cardinal has come to the Papacy after heading up the CDF/Holy Office/Inquisition? Pope St Pius V???

Readers, please do correct me... I've not had time to research these issues...

Questions Political
Pope Benedict XVI doesn't have a reputation of being close to many of the movements and religious congregations (Neo-Cathechumens, Legionaries of Christ, Focalaire, Opus Dei, etc...) who profited from Pope John Paul's patronage. However, the Spiritual Family of the Work may be worth keeping an eye on.
So, who's going to be the next head of the CDF? I've heard numerous names including Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna, Bishop Rino Fisichella (Auxiliary in Rome), Cardinal Bertone of Genoa or even one or two Roman-based theology professors.
Whisperings I've heard, very strongly suggest Italian Theologian-Bishop Bruno Forte.

The new head of the CDF? Bishop Bruno Forte.

And a joke...
The latest news suggests that Cardinal Ratzinger has approved the theological ideas of the new Pope!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict Walkabout...

CITTA' DEL VATICANO - Prima uscita tra la folla per Papa Benedetto XVI. Il Pontefice si e' recato nelle casa dove ha abitato da cardinale al numero civico 1 di piazza della Citta' Leonina. Il Santo Padre ha salutato i fedeli che si sono avvicinati per fargli gli auguri. (Agr)

Vatican City - The first exit amongst the crowd for Pope Benedict XVI. The Pontiff returned to the house where he lived as Cardinal. The Holy Father greeted the faithful who approached him to offer congratulations.

The inside story?

As always the Italian press are putting together a picture of what might (or might not) have happened inside the Conclave. La Repubblica reports that Ratzinger seems to have achieved nearly 2/3rds on the 3rd ballot.
Cardinal Antonelli is said to have told a radio station that the conclave had 'an athmosphere of great festivity, unity and communion' and that it was 'a quick election' and that he would 'say no more.'
Cardinal Schonborn said that Ratzinger was 'happy to accept this responsability without reserve' and that 'he knows he will have to carry the weight of this mission unto death.' Schonborn also said that Ratzinger is 'not cold, as many think, he is merely reserved.' (To be quite honest, that's one of the reasons I feel great sympathy for our new pontiff.)

And I was there!

I was caught by surprise. No one was predicting an election this early and I was heading to the square on the assumption that we'd see smoke (presumably black) at about 7pm. I was actually drafting a blog post on the assumption that it would be thus. 'You're a Catholic nerd if you realise how absurd it is that the whole world is waiting for smoke to come from a tiny chimney and becuase of the sheer absurdity of it all you wouldn't be any other religion.' I was walking to the bus stop, listening to Vatican radio on my earphones and suddenly excitement - they were reporting a fumata and they didn't know of what colour. 'It seems to be grey' the reporter explained. I double-checked my watch and knew that there was no way they could have completed 2 ballots that quickly. It had to be white, even if the bells weren't ringing. After a moment's hesitation, I decided that the most secure way of getting to the square was to take the metro - who knew what effect this would have on traffic near the Vatican. Stopping only to tell a Spanish priest who was waiting for a bus that there was white smoke, I began my mad dash to the metro station. I probably cut quite a figure - a decidedly unfit and out of breath man in a long coat running through the streets, but I had an estimated 40 minutes to make it to the Square and having missed the white smoke itself I was determined not to miss the announcement of our new Pope.
I stamped my ticket and ran down the escalator. Getting to the platform I spread the news, and as the train arrived the PA system confirmed that there was smoke of some sort at the Vatican. But still no bells. Friends of mine in the square later told me that the bells came about 10 minutes after the smoke and only began to ring when Archbishop Marini came out onto the roof of the collonade and started making hand-signals to Vatican employees who were on the other side of the Piazza.
After a couple of stops confirmation came. Passengers boarding confirmed that the bells had started. 'We have a Pope!' A wave of emotion swept through the crammed rush-hour carriage and discussion began:
'An election this early? It must be Ratzinger or Ruini!'
'I don't want a right-wing Pope. Maybe it's one of the Latin Americans.'
'No, it must be Ratzinger.'
'Whoever it is, I hope he's as good as the last man.'

As we continued towards Ottaviano-S.Pietro metro station I fiddled with the controls of my radio. Being underground I couldn't pick up anything. Crossing the Tiber, however, we briefly surfaced and I could hear the excitement on Vatican radio. The bells were ringing, we have a new Pope. No one was getting off at any of ther other stops, and when we arrived at Ottaviano everyone just started runnining until the crush impeded progress.
Climbing up the steps and onto street level I was amazed. People were materializing from all directions and running towards St Peter's. Elderly nuns who normally shuffle along were doing impressive impersonations of marthaon runners and the police were being scrambled to start diverting traffic and officially blocking the roads which were already impassible to vehicles by the quantity of pedestrians overflowing the sidewalks. Taking a deep breath I began running too. I don't think I've ever crossed the city and made my way to the Square so quickly. I got a stitch in my side as I reached the Porta S.Anna. A friend once advised me that the best way to deal with a stitch was to keep running. Believe me, it doesn't work! Getting to the piazza I made my way to a good vantage point - in from of the obelisk, a spot from which I had a clear view of the balcony and of one of the big screens. A glance at the chimney showed the last few streams of white smoke, almost invisible against the backgroud of an overcast sky. Looking around I could see crowds running from all directions and the square filling more quickly than I'd ever seen it do so before. One Italian newspaper said that within 30 or 40 minutes of the white smoke over 200,000 people arrived in the Square. I can well believe it.
I took out a pocket telecope and focused it on the great windows of the balcony. Was there activity behind those white curtains? I couldn't tell. There was a festive athmosphere in the Square. There wasn't much singing (who knew what name to sing?) or conversation, but there was a lot of laughter. I found myself chuckling to myself with excitement on more than one occasion. At one stage it started to rain, but anyone unwise enough to start opening an umbrella was quickly chastised and told to stop. Everyone wanted a view. Seemingly out of nowhere materialized the Carabineri band, a detachement of the Italian military and the Swiss guards - all ready to pay their respects to the new Pontiff.
After waiting about 20 minutes there was definite activity on the balcony. Someone emerged and released the red curtains which had been tied back either side of the great window. The crowd gasped. And then Cardinal Estevez emerged and with much sssshing the crowd fell silent.
'Cari fratelli e sorelle,' (Dear brothers and sisters) he began. The crowd began to ask why he was not speaking Latin. Then he repeated the same words in Spanish (have they elected a Latin American?), and then in German, French and English. The crowd held its breath.

'Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum'
(And one could feel a wave of Great Joy sweep through the Square)
'Habemus papam'
(Applause and rejoicing - I must confess to being on the verge of tears)
'Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum'
(Yes, yes...)
(Nerves well and truly wracked
(And I cannot resist shouting 'Ratzinger' as Cardinal Estevez pauses for a mischievous smile)
'Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem'
(Get on with it!)
(The square explodes with joy!)
'Qui sibi nomen imposuit...'
(Ssssssh! )
'Benedictum XVI'
Immediately the chant went up - 'Benedetto! Benedetto!'
The Senior Cardinal deacon withdrew and Vatican staff emerged to hang the traditional tapestry with the arms of the previous Pope over the balcony.

After that they withdrew and the Cardinal electors began to appear at the balconies either side of the central one. They jostled each other for a good view and one or two began waving their birettas like schoolboys.

And then the processional cross was brought out onto the balcony by one of the Vatican MCs followed by the man himself! Benedict the 16th - Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. He looked overwhelmed - he gave his shy smile and began waving to the crowd. Not a natural showman like his predecessor he looked ill-at-ease, but for a second (and several people have said this to me) he looked just like John Paul II. A microphone was produced and he gave his message.
Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.
I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and act even with insufficent instruments and I particularly entrust myself to your prayers.
In the joy of the Risen Lord, trusting in His constant help, we move ahead. May the Lord help us and and may His Mother be at our side. Thank you.

It was a simple, but heartfelt speech. He stumbled over the words and I felt so sorry for him. I was overjoyed that such a giant of a man had been elected, but what a task! The consensus of those who know him is that he is a wonderfully kind and sensitive gentleman, with the stamina and intellect for the task, but what a burden, especially for one so evidently shy and scholarly. The Cardinals elected him in about 24 hours, knowing that he would be slated by so many sections of the church and media. That is an indication of the high opinion they have of a man they know well. Despite the smears, despite the critisism, they judged him to be the worthy amongst them! There was nothing of false humility about his speech - he will need our prayers, but I also know that he will receive the particular help of the Holy Spirit. No vocation is given without the grace to fulfill it. I am confident that he will recieve Divine assistance in his ministry to overcome any of his shortcomings and I hope that those too 'broadminded' to give him a fair chance will recognise his human talents and the work of the Holy Spirit in all he does to guide the Church.

To be continued...
Continued here

Papal Humour

And if I make a mistake, woe on you if you correct me...
Gianelli gives his take of the first 'Papa Ratzinger' joke circulating in the capital... It purports to give the text of Bendedict XVI's first address:
The Cardinals have chosen a Pope from a nearby land. I speak your langague very well, and if you make a mistake, I will correct you!


An "Insufficent Instrument"

Tu ergo accinge lumbos tuos et surge et loquere ad eos omnia quae ego praecipio tibi ne formides a facie eorum nec enim timere te faciam vultum eorum
ego quippe dedi te hodie in civitatem munitam et in columnam ferream et in murum aereum super omnem terram regibus Iuda principibus eius et sacerdotibus et populo terrae
et bellabunt adversum te et non praevalebunt quia tecum ego sum ait Dominus ut liberem te

But you, gird up your loins; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.
And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land.
They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the LORD, to deliver you." (Jer 1:17-19)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedictus qui venit...

I will blog about dashing across the city and being there when the announcement was made tomorrow.
Viva il Papa!

Problems with Conclave Stove

Following reports of techincal difficulties inside the conclave, in an unprecedented move the Cardinal Camerlengo has released this photograph of two Vatican MCs dealing with a stove malfunction inside the Sistine Chapel.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Prima Fumata...

I wasn't able to watch the opening (or closing, if you'd prefer...) of the conclave in person or on the TV. I did make a dash across the city to watch it from the big screens in St Peter's Square whilst listening to the procedings on Vatican radio, but was only just about to cross the Tiber when I heard the MC announce the extra omnes. I knew that that I'd have some waiting to do - on the schedule for the Cardinals was a reflection by Cardinal Spidlik and a question and answer session regarding the procedues to be followed.
Arriving at the Borgo Angelico I walked to the Square, strolled around a little and decided my time was best spent getting a pizza. Those 'in the know' asserted that if the Cardinals decided to vote this afternoon we'd see smoke at about 7pm.
I had my pizza and stumbled across a group of friends in the Square at about 6.30pm. We chatted and soaked up the athmosphere. The afternoon was sunny and warm, but as the evening fell it grew chilly and I began to wish I had brought my coat and gloves. 7pm came and went. There's a certain absurdity to being in the one of the most impressive locations in the world staring at a chimney. The fact that the colour of smoke coming out of said flue is world news and a sign of spiritual event of the first importance is even more absurd. We chatted, speculated, joked and (to be quite honest) began to get a little bored. Looking about we could see the square fill with locals and pilgrims alike, the former carrying flags from all over the world. Vatican radio estimated the crowd at 40,000. Quite a mob to look at a chimney.
At about 5 to 8 something began to happen. Inexplicably the crowd began to break into ripples of applause. Eyes, binoculars and telecopes were pointed at the chimney or one of the big screens. No one knew what the applause was about - there was nothing doing smokewise. A crowd sometimes has a mind of its own... perhaps that mind was trying to send the Cardinals a messgage - hurry up, it's getting cold here.
Then at 8.04pm it happened. Smoke! Just a little, but definitely white. It couldn't be! On the first ballot? It must be Ratzinger - who else would be elected on the first vote? More white smoke came out and the crowd surged forward and a wave of nuns swept past me. People began to shout - to their neighbours and into their celephones:
Non credo, è bianco!
White, white! I'm here in the square and the smoke is white!
Bianco, bianco, bianco!

And then it changed. Black, noxious-looking fumes began to billow out of that little chimney. The crowd just slumped. After 5 or 10 seconds of exhileration, of feeling that one was present at a truly historic event there came the anti-climax. 'Nero!' That's all one heard. 'Nero!' But it was as if the time of waiting was all worth it - it's curious that a few puffs of smoke could inspire so much emotion. And I walked away, disappointed that I wouldn't hear the announcement of a new pontiff this evening, but not feeling cheated. Afterall, what's a conclave without a false-alarm?

Parochialism alive and well...

This AP report is the epitome of parochial reporting:
VATICAN CITY (AP) - In a historic gathering steeped in intrigue, cardinals from six continents assembled Monday for their first conclave of the new millennium to elect a pope who will inherit John Paul II's mantle and guide the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics into a new era.
Representing 52 countries, the 115 crimson-robed "princes" of a church stung by priest sex-abuse scandals and an exodus of the faithful celebrated a midmorning Mass at St. Peter's Basilica before sequestering themselves in the Sistine Chapel late Monday afternoon.
Also note the 'dig' about the Casa S.Marta:
On Sunday, the cardinals moved into the super-secure Domus Sanctae Marthae, the $20 million hotel that John Paul had constructed inside Vatican City so the cardinals could rest in comfort in private rooms between voting sessions. Swiss Guards, their brightly colored uniforms covered by dark rain gear, saluted the prelates as they were whisked to the residence in limousines.
I'm sure it did cost $20 million, but that's probably not unreasonable for a building large enough to accomodate about 120 men. The article also neglects to mention that the 'hotel' is normally used as a residence for priests working in the Vatican. (Incidentally, they have been scattered to various locations about the city so that the Cardinals might be accomodated.)

What you know already...

From the Times - what you know already about the voting procedure, some ill-informed speculation and one or two tit-bits which shows that Cardinal-Electors are not that different from the rest of us:
Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, said that he would take some “light reading” into the conclave as well as devotional works. Asked if this meant novels by Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, he replied: “Good heavens, no. Perhaps Jane Austen.”
Cardinals will hold a public Mass this morning in St Peter’s Basilica. Television will broadcast for the first time their procession at 4.30pm to the Sistine Chapel — but the cameras will not enter the chapel, where all but voting cardinals will be excluded with the cry of “exeunt omnes”. La Stampa said that some cardinals, expecting a lengthy conclave, had packed compact disc players in their bags along with prayer books.

Ratzinger spells things out clearly

I, for one, am very keen to see a full English translation of Ratzinger's blunt homily (Italian text) which he delivered at this morning's Mass 'Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice'.
La misericordia di Cristo non è una grazia a buon mercato, non suppone la banalizzazione del male. Cristo porta nel suo corpo e sulla sua anima tutto il peso del male, tutta la sua forza distruttiva. Egli brucia e trasforma il male nella sofferenza, nel fuoco del suo amore sofferente. Il giorno della vendetta e l’anno della misericordia coincidono nel mistero pasquale, nel Cristo morto e risorto. Questa è la vendetta di Dio: egli stesso, nella persona del Figlio, soffre per noi. Quanto più siamo toccati dalla misericordia del Signore, tanto più entriamo in solidarietà con la sua sofferenza – diveniamo disponibili a completare nella nostra carne “quello che manca ai patimenti di Cristo” (Col 1, 24).
The mercy of Christ is not cheap grace and does not suppose the trivilaization of evil. Christ carries in His body and soul all the weight of evil, all its destructive force. He burns and transforms evil in suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vengance and the year of mercy meet in the Paschal Mystery, in the dead and risen Christ. This is the vengence of God : He Himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us. The more we are touched by the mercy of God, the more we enter into solidarity with His suffering - we become availible to complete in our fles 'that which is lacking in the suffering of Christ'. (Col 1:24)
Quanti venti di dottrina abbiamo conosciuto in questi ultimi decenni, quante correnti ideologiche, quante mode del pensiero... La piccola barca del pensiero di molti cristiani è stata non di rado agitata da queste onde - gettata da un estremo all’altro: dal marxismo al liberalismo, fino al libertinismo; dal collettivismo all’individualismo radicale; dall’ateismo ad un vago misticismo religioso; dall’agnosticismo al sincretismo e così via.
How many doctrinal winds have we known in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking... The little boat of thought of many Christians has been not a little preturbed by these waves - tossed from one extreme to the other: from marxism to liberalism, all the way to libertinism; from collectivsim to radical individualism,; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so on.

(By the by, I'm not suggesting Ratzinger as Papabile - but I certainly have great admiration for him.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Bogus papers...

I'm always quite sceptical of the abilities of others - primarily because I know that most of my own considered opinions are poorly founded. My suspicion is that most of us are much less wise and competant than we appear to the outsider. That's why I love stories like this:
A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jeremy Stribling said on Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.
The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.
To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.
In Russia, chess reveals itself to be a serious business:
Garry Kasparov, the world's former No. 1 chess player who quit the professional game last month to focus on politics, said Saturday he had been hit over the head with a chessboard in a politically motivated attack.
Kasparov, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was not injured Friday when he was hit with the chessboard after signing it for a young man at an event in Moscow.
A spokeswoman for Kasparov, Marina Litvinovich, said the assailant told the chess champion: "I admired you as a chess player, but you gave that up for politics."
There's a fascinating story in the Telegraph about a group of several thousand people in India being recognised as being one of the 'lost tribes':
Arbi, and 6,000 fellow believers in India's north-east, have been bolstered by a recent declaration that their claim to be descended from one of the legendary Ten Lost Tribes of Israel - said to have been driven from the Middle East by invaders in the eighth century BC - is to be officially acknowledged. Last month, after a visit to the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, announced that a team of rabbinical judges would convert them to Orthodox Judaism. This would allow them to settle in Israel under the Law of Return, which grants the right of Israeli citizenship to Jews. "I was so glad," says Arbi, who wants to become a nurse in Israel. "It was like my dream became real."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Because I'm in a poetry-posting mood

BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
John Donne

Happy Birthday...

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger - 78 Years Old Today

Friday, April 15, 2005

Some Poetry

The Fool
Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;
A fool that hath loved his folly,
Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes,
Or their fame in men's mouths;
A fool that in all his days hath done never a prudent thing,
Never hath counted the cost, nor recked if another reaped
The fruit of his mighty sowing, content to scatter the seed;
A fool that is unrepentant, and that soon at the end of all
Shall laugh in his lonely heart as the ripe ears fall to the reaping-hooks
And the poor are filled that were empty,
Tho' he go hungry.
I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.

Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me !
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow's teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God ; or was it a jest of Christ's
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?
The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, `This man is a fool,' and others have said, `He blasphemeth;'
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.

O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith
And so I speak.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
O people that I have loved, shall we not answer together?
Padraig Pearse


A photo from the Corriere of a Panda being operated on in a Chinese hospital.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ratzinger Boys...

You may have heard of the so-called Papa boys - young Italians who were ardent followers of the late Holy Father. Well, now we have the phenomenon of Ratzinger Boys - an Italian blog which purports to support Ratzinger as next Pope. I have my doubts... they claim to have received a set of Ratzinger's rosary beads 'made of wood from the Black Forest' which purportedly gives off an odour of sanctity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

To my fellow bloggers: I'm in a generous mood...

Cacciaguida links to this story about today's issue of Sede Vacante stamps. Well, I have a few left over after writing to all those of my real-life friends who I think might be interested. If you run a Catholic 'blog, e-mail me and I'll gladly send you a 'sede vacante'-stamped postcard. Free, gratis and for nothing with no strings attached.
I only have a limited amount left, so I'm not promising I'll be able to send everyone a postcard and I will give priority to 'blogs appearing on my 'blogroll.
(BTW, I shan't use your snailmail address for any other purpose and will in fact delete it from my e-mail account as soon as the postcard is sent.)

My e-mail is zadokromanus at gmail dot com .


In my comments box Romy (whom I had the great pleasure of meeting while she was in Rome) mentions the Archbishop of her spiritual home (Lyon) Philippe Xavier Ignace Cardinal Barbarin. Well, I don't want to frighten her, but the very day after she mentioned him to me I heard him mentioned as Papabile. He's probably about 10 years too young... but who knows? I'm adopting a policy of only mentioning 'long shots' on the grounds that in the unlikely event of my being correct I'll look really prophetic.
In that vein, I'm going to mention someone who is not even a Cardinal. Despite being retired, a Jesuit and only an Archbishop, Giuseppe Pittau is a well-regarded figure. I've heard more than one person say, 'Ah... if he were a Cardinal...' Does he have a chance? I don't think so... but I'm mentioning him in case he does!
(Cnytr links to obvious candidates - and I know that nun!!!)
And Finally
Don't ask how or why I found this - Leo XIII's IMDB entry. Wouldn't you love to see such gems as Pope Leo XIII Being Carried in Chair Through Upper Loggia, No. 101 or Pope Leo XIII Being Seated Bestowing Blessing Surrounded by Swiss Guards, No. 107?

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Cardinals of the Conclave...

There's more than enough info flying around the blogosphere about who the papabili are and so on. The Corriere della Sera has a nice list (in Italian) of all the Cardinal electors with photographs.

I have also heard that one of the Cardinal-Electors claimed in a homily yesterday that he had received miraculous healing from the Pope while he was alive.

My body shall rest in safety...

Goodbye Papa.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Nunc Dimittis

Thanks to Jimmy G for drawing my attention to an unofficial English translation of the Pope's testament.

Of note is the piece which is supposedly where the Pope ponders retirement.
2. To the degree that the Jubilee Year 2000 goes forward, closing behind us day by day is the 20th century, while the 21st century opens. In accordance with the designs of Providence, it was granted to me to live during the difficult century that is passing, and now, in the year during which my age reaches 80 years ("octogesima adveniens"), it is necessary to ask if it is not the time to repeat the words of the Biblical Simeon, "Nunc dimittis." (ED'S NOTE: `Now Master you may let your servant go.")

On May 13, 1981, the day of the attempt upon the life of the Pope during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, Divine Providence saved me from death in a miraculous way. He who is the sole Savior of life and of death, Himself prolonged this life, and in a certain way gave it to me anew. From this moment it belongs to Him all the more. I hope that He will help me to recognize the time until when I must continue this service, to which he called me on the day of October 16, 1978. I ask (Him) to call me when He wants. 'In life and in death we belong to the Lord ... we are of the Lord" (cf Romans 14, 8). I hope too that throughout the time given me to carry out the service of Peter in the Church, the Mercy of God will lend me the necessary strength for this service.
Given the context and given that the document almost exclusively occupies itself with the Pope's meditation on his own death I think that any suggestion that the 'Nunc Dimittis' in question was retirement rather than resignation to an approaching death is a misreading. The fact that the Italian word 'to retire' is 'dimettersi' - a cognate of 'dimittis'.

For those of you who read Italian...

The Testament of the Late Holy Father has been released. (pdf file)

It's also interesting t note the two preachers chosen to address the Cardinals of the Conclave on their responabilities - Fr Cantalamessa, the household preacher of Pope John Paul II and noted spiritual theologian Cardinal Spidlik SJ.


According to a press release from Archbishop Marini the Papal MC the Novendiales actually start on the day of Pope's funeral and are maked by special masses in the Vatican Basilica.

The details are as follows

Day 1. (Apr 8) Funeral Mass 10am Cardinal Ratzinger Outside St Peter's
Day 2. (Apr 9) Mass organised by the faithful of the Vatican City 5pm Cardinal Marchisano Inside St Peter's
Day 3. (Apr 10) Mass organised by the Church of Rome 5pm Cardinal Ruini Inside St Peter's
Day 4. (Apr 11) Mass organised by the Chapters of the Patriarchal Basilicas 5pm Cardinal Law Inside St Peter's
Day 5. (Apr 12) Mass organised by the Capella Papale 5pm Cardinal Sales de Araújo Inside St Peter's
Day 6. (Apr 13) Mass organised by the Roman Curia 5pm Archbishop Sandri Inside St Peter's
Day 7. (Apr 14) Mass organised by the Oriental Churches 5pm Patricah Nasrallah Inside St Peter's (Maronite Rite, presumably)
Day 8. (Apr 15) Mass organised by Religious 5pm Archbishop Nesti Inside St Peter's
Day 9. (Apr 16) Mass organised by the Capella Papale 5pm Cardinal Medina Estevez Inside St Peter's

Also online is the text of the funeral mass.


The tributes and the flood of pilgrims continue. The city is plastered with posters bidding the Supreme Pastor farewell. The lastest flurry read 'A Dio' - 'To God'. I had the privilege of assisting a Cardinal at a Mass for the Pope. Amongst the many other fine things he said, he reflected that whilst the late Pope was abundantly endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, what struck him most was the Holy Father's wisdom - that gift which allows us to understand the things of this world in their relationship with God. This, he saw, was the foundation of the Holy Father's pastoral and intellectual labours.
Today we eagerly await the publication of the Pope's message to the chuch as left in his spiritual testament. The Cardinals heard a draft Italian translation yesterday. The Italian press say that it was written in stages, from 1979 to 2002 and that the Holy Father specifically disdained writing a 'monumental' spiritual testament.
Ironic Headline of the Week
Stalin is said to have asked (in reference to Pius XII) 'How many divisions does the Pope have?' I saw a lady reading today's copy of the Communist paper 'Il Manifesto'. The front page consisted of a photo of the unprecedeneted queue to view the Pope's remains and bore the headline 'The Divisions of the Pope.'

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Queue...

Amazing pictures from Italian paper La Repubblica of the queue to pay respect to the late Pope. The queue is said to be up to 15 hours! If we take the 18,000 per hour figure as accurate that would imply that over quarter of a milliopn people are standing in line. It has been announced that from tonight no one will be allowed join the queue. Romans are even being asked to open their houses and shops to accomodate pilgrims.


Well, gentle readers, I'm wrecked! In addition to fighting a cold I've found that living through such a time as this is exhausting. As for news, I shall leave that to the media - the date of the conclave has been announced and the Pope's testament is to be published tomorrow. The Corriere della Sera rightly speculated that it would be in Polish and would not touch on the practical matters surrounding the burial. Civil and church authorities are expecting a huge wave of pilgrims in the last couple of days - on Friday no cars will be allowed enter the city and it'll become a 'no fly zone'. The media are still around in force - pretty much every English speaker I know here has been interviewed by the media at least once. I've not been over at the Vatican today and don't plan to head there until Thursday night/early Friday morning if my consitition permits. What is very noticeable is the stream of buses crossing the city bringing pilgrims from Termini train station to St Peter's. They seem to be passing (full to capacity) at the rate of a half-dozen a minute or so. The statistic of the day is that every hour 18,000 file past the Pope's remains and that I've heard accounts of people being in the queue for 9 and even 11 hours.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Day 3

The city is noticably busier today. The additional public transport services are packed and one sees little groups of pilgrims lugging their rucksacks about the place. Having missed the Pope's removal from the Sala Clementina to the Vatican Basilica yesterday afternoon due to inescapable commitments I made a dtermined effort to esape my commitments to attend the lying in state today.
St Peter's is open 21 hours a day - there are 3 hours of cleaning scheduled from 2am to 5am, but I understand that even that brief closure period is being reduced due to the numbers wanting to view the remains and pay their last respects. And so it was that at 9am this morning I joined the queue. I actually vascilated for a minute - the queue was about a mile long (by my estimate) and probably 15 or 20 persons broad for most of its lenght. However, I couldn't not do this, so armed with my breviary, a theology book, a rosary and a packet of what Americans would recognise as 'Fig Newtons' I joined it.
The athmosphere was surprisingly light - the sun was shining and (amazingly for Italy) there was virtually no shoving. People swopped anecdotes about 'Il Papa', sang hymns and watched images of his pontificate on the big screens which lined the route. Helpers were on hand to distribute water and rosary leaflet's with the Pope's postrait were passed arond. Perhaps some of my readers are surprised that there wasn't weeping - however, in many Catholic countries the well-lived life of a man who had reached a ripe old age is appeciated and death is seen as a homecoming. Wakes therefore are not necesaarily always solemn - there is a time to remember with joy the gift that John Paul II was to us all and to humbly but confidently trust in the Resurrection.
The hours passed by and I suppose that given the scale of what was happening the queue moved relatively quickly. By noon I had reached St Peter's Square where the queue narrowed and snaked about a couple of times before entering the Basilica by the centre door. As we neared the church the athmopsphere did get quieter. People began to join in with the prayers which were being broadcast from within the Basilica. Climbing the ramp that leads under the portico all I could see inside the darkened Basilica was the window of the Holy Spirit illuminated by the sun. He was hovering over where I know John Paul's body to be - a pledge that the Holy Spirit is still with the church and is waiting to descend again on our next Pontiff. I prayed some of the office of the dead as I made my way slowly up the aisle. Apart from the prayers and chants of a choir behind the high altar there was virtual silence - people whispered discreetly and infrequently. I lifted up my head and stood on tippy-toes at one point as the queue momentarily stopped and caught my first glimpse of our departed Holy Father. 4 Swiss Guards shoot about him, the six candles on the High Altar were lit, prelates and religious kept vigil either side of him and the body of the man himself lay in insubstanially on its bier. Dressed in red vestments, with pastoral staff by his side he looked thin and insignificant. His face was grey, but nonetheless something of his dignity still clung to him. 'A noble corpse!' they used to say in Ireland. It was John Paul and it wasn't. I sometimes think that until one has seen the corpse of a loved one one doesn't really grasp the idea of the soul as being one's spiritual substantial form. When life departs a body changes - it's very obviously not the person any more. Looking at John Paul's mortal remains I was very aware that the strenght and virility (if I might use that word in a 'respectable' and literal sense) which characterised him even in his times of illness had left him.
We were allowed draw close to the barrier to pray briefly and then we were sensitively asked to make way for those who were behind us. The dignity of the security staff and mourners alike at this point was striking - I kept expecting someone to refuse to move or for a security official to become agitated, but this was too solemn an occasion for that. As we people away, turning back for one last look many lost their composure. The side aisles of the basilca were reserved for those leaving and one could see dozens of people weeping copiously, kneeling on the pavement or curled up in a ball at the base of a pillar. A significant crowd gathered and prayed at the altar under which Pope Pius X is buried, whilst near the exit a small group was praying out of a breviary. There was a basket for messages and tributes at one of the side altars. As I approached the Holy Father I was aware that I was bring the prayers of so many other people with me - family, friends and even the readers of my 'blog who were unable to come to Rome in person. So, having prayed on my behalf and yours at the foot of the Pope's body I took out a piece of paper and wrote the only words I could think of to salute this great man - 'Farewell Holy Father.' Unoriginal, yes... uninspired, yes... but sincere... I think the Pope's great appeal, his sincerity, his rapport with young and old and the admiration he won even from those who disagreed with him profoundly is based on nothing other than the fact that he radiated and mediated a great holiness. And so he was a father to us and we wish him well... We thank him for what he did and we pray that he has passed into the company of the saints to be with the One he served so faithfully.

(Another first-hand account of events in Rome is availible at Dappled Things)

Monday, April 04, 2005


According to Italian press reports and those of colleagues who have been over at the Vatican the queue to see the Pope lying in state has already gone over the 200,000 mark. The basilica won't even open to the public for another 2 hours! I'd dearly love to have one final look at him but I honestly don't think I can reconcile a day's queuing with my other commitments...

Monday in the City

I made my way back to St Peter's Square again. The scene is largely unchanged. There are still thousands of people there, the upset and the curious, the local and the pilgrim. There are still TV cameras everywhere and there are still workmen making the preparation for what will be an enormous funeral.
One thing that I didn't notice yesterday was the conversion of the bases of the obelisk and lampstands in the square into little shrines. There are burning candles, children are putting up drawings and people of all ages are leaving notes about (or even addressed to) our departed Holy Father. Poignantly some predate his passing. Stay with us a little longer one note from last Friday read. We love you very much said another accompanied by the drawings and signatures of an elementary school group. Papissima read one tribute whilst another said Ciao Papa Papa - a pun in Italian which means Goodbye Daddy Pope. There are hundreds of messages, all expressing loss, but also hope, the recognition that we may expect him to look down on us from above. Of course not all the notes express this faith - for some reason I was particularly touched by one which said I don't believe in God, I disagree profoundly with the message of your church, but even I saw in you one who fought for equality and taught the world how to love. Farewell Holy Father.
Apart from the Vatican and surrounding area, the rest of the city is a little quieter than normal. One notices the extra ambulances and police cars. Thousands of police (of all types - municipal, regional, state, prison and financial) and stewards are being drafted in. Preparations for water distribution and first aid matching those of the 2000 Jubilee are being made. The Catholic Paper Avvenire says Rome Already Invaded by Pilgrims in Homage to the Pope - The Sadness of All. 2,000,000 are expected. I shan't be surprised to discover that figure to be too conservative.
It is only when he is gone that we truly realise the magnitude of the man. The Papacy now seems like a huge mantle which has been laid aside. The office itself seems to have expanded to accomodate a man of gigantic proportions. I'm not sure what the Cardinals are going to do, who they are going to chose, but in our loss let's not forget to pray for them who have a difficult decision to make and for the poor unfortunate who will be called upon by the Holy Spirit to fill what one Italian paper is calling The Greatest Void in the World.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

In the city...

I've never seen the city like this. Everything is just strange. Exhausted from travelling across Europe to arrive back here just as the bells began to toll for the Pontiffs death, I eschewed heading to St Peter's Square last in favour of a (short) night's sleep and a visit to the Vatican after Mass this morning.
After I rose, I took coffee in a bar and stolled over to the Lateran Basilica. It was quite in that part of town. The basilica itself was virtually deserted, the only sign that something was wrong was the Vatican flag at half-mast over the gateway of the adjoining Lateran palace, now home to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome and his offices. Unusually and unneccesarily two representatives of the Italian 'Guardia di Finanzia' (Financial Police) stood guard outside. Were they expecting the Vicariate to be looted in the interregunm?
After a few brief prayers before the Blessed Sacrament and the heads of SS. Peter and Paul I headed for my regular Sunday Mass. On my way, I noticed that the area around the Lateran was exceptionally quiet except for knots of tearful nuns heading towards the Vatican.
After Mass I took the Metro to Ottoviano and walked to St Peter's Square. I was coming against the crowds streaming out of the Square after the Mass and midday Regina Coeli. There were a few camera crews interviewing passersby and the staff at the Osservatore Romano news-stand explained that they'd not have any more papers until 4.30pm this afternoon. Souvenir shops were selling huge numbers of postcards of John Paul II as people sought something to remember him and this day by. I squeezed past the crowds into the square and found it fuller than I expected. People were streaming into the basilica and looking up at the Apostolic palace. Hymns were sung, prayers were said and people wept. I've never seen so many tears in public. I like to think of myself as good with deaths, but John Paul was very special to me. An anecdote recounted, a glimpse of a TV screen and a lump rises in one's throat.
Having prayed for him in that square where I have seen and heard him so many times I headed to one of my favourite restaurants for lunch. I stopped on the way and bought a few newspapers. There was little other news inside. This is the story of stories. The most important man in the world has died and the world is amazed to find itself unexpectedly decapitated.
As I travelled to lunch on the Metro a young woman with a rosary bracelet meekly approached me. She saw that I had a newspaper, could she have a look? I gladly handed her a copy. She looked at the front cover and sniffed. A seat freed up, she sat down and began to read. Before long the tissues were out and she was dabbing her eyes. As she read she got progressively more and more upset. When I got to my stop I couldn't ask for my paper back. She spotted me leaving and offered it to me, but I told her to keep it. That, at least, brought a smile through the tears. It's been one of those days when strangers approach one another and little kindnesses are freely exchanged.
As I ate my pasta I was glued to the TV in the restaurant. There's nothing else on TV - the events in Rome today and John Paul's life and pontificate. A montage of images of this once sturdy man hiking, playing with children, encouraging the young and bringing a little kindness and light to some sick people in hospital, then shots of the lying in state in the Sala Clementina. I had intended making my way leisurely back to the Vatican to buy a copy of the Osservatore Romano, but unexpectedly received a summons to hail a taxi and go to the Vatican Press Office for a TV interview. I'm not famous or well-informed - rather it seems that any easily contactable Roman resident is being pestered to say a few words for the world's media. I got in the taxi and made my way to the Via della Conciliazione which leads into St Peter's Square. As I made my way to meet the journalist, I was stopped by another camera crew who wanted a few words - until they learned that I wasn't American. Having answered a few brief questions from the journalist I made my way to the news-stand. It was like a siege. Crowds pressed in on the stand and asked when the Osservatore Romano would arrive. 'Un mezz'ora' ('Half an hour') was the inevitiable response, one that was repeated every 5 minutes for an hour and a half. The crowd got bigger and bigger and the staff (surrounded by a mob 8 or 9 rows deep at this stage) got more and more jumpy looking. I'd never seen Vatican security and the Carabineri act as protection detail for a news stand before. The crowd was there so long that those in the front row were on first name terms with the staff and there were many exchanges of Roman wit in the local dialect between the harassed workers and the increasingly frustrated crowd. By dint of patience I managed to make my way to a good position and when the papers finally arrived I was able to secure a copy for myself and for a friend.
Then I stolled back along the Via della Conciliazione and it was unlike I had ever seen it - even during the Jubilee. There were first-aid stands, dozens of camera crews, portable bathroom facilities and crowds of people. It was sunny and plesant and but for the circumstances there would have been a party mood. Instead there is a very different athmosphere about the city. It seems every policeman, prison officer, fireman and customs officer has been drafted in to help with crowd control. Tourists and locals alike freely approach strangers with questions - 'Do you speak English? When will the funeral be? When can we see his body?' There is an air of sadness, but also that colouring of hope that the realisation that a man strong in faith has gone to meet his maker at a ripe old age. There is also an awareness that is is an important time - the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. There is a palpable awareness that history is in the making, that a great man has left us and that what happens over the next month will have greater consequences than we can entirely grasp. We have not had a conclave in 27 years and we don't know quite what to expect of the process itself and can't imagine who will emerge to fill the great man's shoes. Mostly however there is a sense of loss, of loneliness, of sorrow that one we care for more than we realised has gone away.

Sede Vacante

I was looking at the Vatican Website and see that they've replaced the front page design with the traditional Sede Vacante crest - the papal keys with an umbrella.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Nunc Dimmitis

As I returned to my residence in Rome this evening I heard the church bells of the city begin to toll at 10.15pm. There was no need to ask for an explaination - the caption on the television news said it all - 'The Death of John Paul II'. A friend asked me what next - I replied 'the nine days of mourning or novemdiales, then the conclave will follow a few days later and with it the election of the new Pope.' The new Pope. One might as well have said one's 'new grandfather' so large has this mighty figure loomed in my consciousness. I remember no other Pope. The words of the Eucharistic prayer will sound strange for some time. Most of my readers will simply pray for 'Our Bishop N.' but we in Rome won't even be saying that. We have been doubly orphaned, losing Universal Pastor and Local Shepherd.
Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine
Secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.