POST-PARIS SITUATION IN ITALY AND ROME – POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT GREAT SYNAGOGUE OF ROME JANUARY 17 – DECEMBER 8: JUBILEE OPENS, VATICAN CHRISTMAS TREE UNVEILED – ST. JOHN LATERAN PREPARES HOLY DOOR FOR JUBILEE

POST-PARIS SITUATION IN ITALY AND ROME

As I came back from a late afternoon television taping in a Vatican office on Via della Conciliazione, I walked down this broad avenue to and then through St. Peter’s Square. I saw a massive police presence in the small square at the end of Conciliazione, Piazza Pio XII, and around the larger, more famous square, and this was at 5 pm.

In fact, as I could tell by the usual barricades being set up for traffic flow tomorrow, St. Peter’s Square was being readied for Pope Francis’ general audience in the morning. I am guessing that the pilgrims intent on being there have been advised to get to the square fairly early for security checks. I also saw a number of new airport-style security machines that were placed among the colonnades, looking like they had just come out of the box.  I imagine many more of those will be arriving in coming days.

A friend told me today that there are military people stationed in the cars of the Rome metropolitana or subway and around the stations, all bearing machine guns. Two other friends, young men in a store I know, told me they were stopped by police near St. Peter’s Square and asked for ID. That will surely increase as the days go by, as people come for a general audience or the Sunday Angelus and as we near the December 8 start of the Jubilee Year.

When unusual and potentially dangerous situations arise in Italy or Europe, the U.S. embassies send notices to citizens who are registered with them. Here is the notice I got after the Paris attacks (I post this also for people who might be traveling or live in Rome who are not registered at an embassy):

“In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, the U.S. Mission in Italy reminds U.S. citizens in Italy to review the Worldwide Caution, which provides information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world, including Europe.

“Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.

“For further information:

“See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and France Country Specific Information.

“Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.”

In other developments in Italy (various news sources):

– Airspace over Rome will be closed-off to drones during the upcoming Catholic Holy Year, or Jubilee, over fears that the remote-controlled aircraft could be used by ISIS in a terror attack. As well as closing-off airspace over Rome to drones, security checkpoints will be set up at St Peter’s square.

– Italy has tightened security in the wake of the Paris attacks on Friday night. Some 700 extra troops have been deployed onto Rome’s streets to combat the threat of militants while security has been tightened at Italy’s borders and airports across the country.

Squares across Italy now bear impromptu memorials and messages of support for the French people but amid the display of solidarity, Italians are divided over how to confront the threat of Isis. In Rome, people came to the central square of Piazza del Popolo on Saturday night and lit candles, lay flowers and wrote touching messages in support of the French people. In the square in front of Palazzo Farnese – currently the seat of the French Embassy in Rome – a sea of flowers, candles and cards lined the ground by Sunday evening (as you saw in the photos I posted).

– On Saturday the Italian government raised its terror alert and warned that Rome could be a target for ISIS.

POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT GREAT SYNAGOGUE OF ROME JANUARY 17

Following the invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The visit will take the form of a personal encounter between the Pope and the representatives of Judaism and the members of the Community. A more detailed program of the visit will be published in due course

DECEMBER 8:  JUBILEE OPENS, VATICAN CHRISTMAS TREE UNVEILED

When the Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on December 8th, all eyes will be looking towards Rome. So the Governorate of Vatican City has decided to take advantage of the attention and unveil the St. Peters Square Christmas tree on the same day.

This year’s tree, says a Vatican Radio report, has been donated by the German region of Bavaria, and is a 32-neter high two-pointed Spruce. The tree arrives Wednesday, November 18 and is set to be erected overnight by the staff of the Vatican Gardens.

The 2015 Nativity scene of 24 life-sized figures will be donated by the archdiocese of Trento, in collaboration with the Friends of the Crib of Tesero group. Except for the Holy Family and Three Magi, the scene will depict rural buildings and typical Trentino clothing from the mid-twentieth century.

The Christmas tree will be especially unique this year. It was announced that the Vatican has joined forces with the Countess Lene Thun Foundation and recreated designs made by children suffering from cancer. This Foundation offers recreational therapy to children in oncology wards across Italy. The children were asked to come up with designs that represent their dreams and desires. Some of the children who designed the decorations will meet Pope Francis on December 8. They will present him with some of the decorations they made and accompany him to the unveiling of the tree.

The Christmas tree will be illuminated on December 18.

JOHN LATERAN PREPARES HOLY DOOR FOR JUBILEE

On Monday, the Holy Door of the papal basilica of St. John Lateran was freed from the brick wall that had hidden it since the year 2000. The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, said a prayer and then workers – seen in the photo – carefully tore down the wall that protects the Holy Door in between Jubilees.

HOLY DOOR - St John LAteran

Workers recovered a zinc box that contained the documents certifying the closure of the door at the end of the Year 2000 Jubilee. The box also contained 41 medals with the emblem of Pope John Paul II: A gold one minted in 2000; 23 silver ones representing the years of the pontificate of John Paul II at the time of the last Jubilee; and 17 bronze ones , one for each year since 1983, the year of the previous Jubilee.

Also present were the Cathedral Chapter of the Lateran; Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of liturgical ceremonies, and Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the council in charge of preparing and executing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

St John Lateran is the cathedral of the diocese of Rome, and the Holy Door will be officially opened by Pope Francis on December 13, the first Sunday of the Jubilee of Mercy. The Holy Year actually begins December 8 with the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica.

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