Weekly English edition of L’Osservatore Romano newspaper: ING_2021_009_2602.pdf (osservatoreromano.va)
VATICAN INSIDER: BEHIND THE SCENES OF A PAPAL TRIP
In view of Pope Francis’ March 5 to 8 apostolic trip to Iraq, this weekend I offer you a special on the behind the scenes aspects of a papal trip, the preparations, the minutiae, all that goes into planning such a huge undertaking – ground transportation, where the Pope will stay and eat and pray and sleep, where liturgical events will be held and how they are prepared – everything from selecting vestments in Rome, getting them to the airport and unloading them in the country of the visit – scores of things you might never have thought about.
Here is the papal logo for that trip:
Click here for a brief summary of the itinerary: Pope Francis’ programme for Apostolic Visit to Iraq announced – Vatican News
To be honest I know most of the places Pope Francis will visit and know some of the people from my previous two visits to Iraq – trips whose memories of people and places and events remain seared in my mind and heart. Am I a bit jealous of those who will cover the Pope? Yes, indeed! Just re-reading the blogs I wrote during those trips and looking at my hundreds of photos bring back terrific and indelible memories. I was blessed to have three live radio shows every day with EWTN, morning, afternoon and evening, so I could tell a wonderful story as it was happening or minutes afterwards.
As I looked at some photos, I had to stop and ask myself: where are these darling youngsters today? We were at a kindergarten run by the Catholic Church but most of the children were Muslim, a typical story in Iraq. The parents knew that if their children went to a Christian school, they would get a very good education and important values. I have a wonderful video of the children singing but cannot seems to retrieve it from my iPad. Will work on that. Pictured in several of the photos are Archbishop Amel Nona, then archbishop of Mosul, and Fr. Bashar Warda, now Bishop Warda of Erbil.
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FIRST LITURGICAL COMMEMORATION OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAREK
(From the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) – Following the Decree of the His Holiness Pope Francis to inscribe February 27 as the liturgical commemoration of Saint Gregory of Narek, Abbot and Doctor of the Church, in the General Roman Calendar, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have organized a celebration in Vatican City this Saturday 27 February, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, will celebrate Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 10.30 am, which will be followed by an Ecumenical Prayer at the statue of St. Gregory of Narek blessed by Pope Francis in the Vatican Gardens in 2018.
Concelebrating with Cardinal Sandri will be Archbishop Lévon Bogos Zékyian, Archbishop of Istanbul for the Armenian Catholic faithful and Pontifical Delegate for the Mekhitarist Congregation, and Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Ecumenical Prayer will be presided by His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Representative of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Rome, in the presence of His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
LENTEN STATION CHURCHES: WEEK ONE- FRIDAY: SANTI XII APOSTOLI
Passing through the Piazza Ss. Apostoli, one is hard pressed to imagine the raucous activities that took place here half a millennium ago, when the Colonna family, one of the most powerful in Rome during the Renaissance, lived in the palace to the right of the church. Not only lavish parties with fountains of wine and gleaming gold and silver decorations, but also more popular festivities, such as the throwing of barnyard fowl from the palace loggia to the crowd below, as well as battles between the different families in the city, all took place here, where today tourists sip coffee and motorbikes pass by.
The earliest record of a basilica of the Holy Apostles relates to one built under Julius I in the mid-fourth century near Trajan’s Forum (in which stands his famous column). A successor to this first church was begun by Pope Pelagius I in the mid sixth century on the present site, being dedicated by Pope John III around 570. At this time the relics of the apostles Sts. Philip and James the Lesser were placed beneath the high altar. While little is known about the lives of these two saints outside of what is given in the Gospels, Philip is believed to have preached in Hieropolis, where he was crucified. James, possibly identifiable with the first bishop of Jerusalem who also presided over the council there as recorded in Acts, was condemned to death by the Sanhedrin and beaten to death with a club.
This first basilica reflected Byzantine architectural styles, as Rome was at that time under the control of the Emperor Justinian in Constantinople. His emissary Narses is recorded as contributing to the erection of the new basilica. Following this the basilica seems to have had a peaceful existence until an earthquake in 1348, which heavily damaged it. Martin V undertook a restoration in 1421, followed by a more extensive one undet Sixtus IV and his nephew, the future Julius II, from 1471 to 1484.
The Franciscan Order, which staffs the basilica through the present day, arrived here in 1463. A major rebuilding of the church in the early years of the 18th century provided them with an opportunity to commemorate their order in the decoration of the church, as we shall shortly see. The façade was completed over a century later, in 1827. Some decades later, the relics of Ss. Philip and James were rediscovered under the high altar in 1873. These are placed in a confessio beneath the sanctuary, built between 1871 and 1879 as a place of prayer for their remains and those of several martyrs brought here from the catacombs (Address: Piazza dei Santi Apostoli)