VIA DELLA CONCILIAZIONE TO GET NEW LIGHTING FOR JUBILEE – FRANCIS: PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS, FOR MY TRIP TO AFRICA – ROME AND THE VATICAN, THE JUBILEE AND SECURITY – HEIGHTENED SECURIY MEASURES IN PLACE IN ROME, AT THE VATICAN

So much bad news these days – growing security concerns in Europe and around the world, terrorism rearing its ugly head day after day, violence and conflict in a nation soon to be visited by Pope Francis. With that in mind, I thought I’d start this column with a good news story, an illuminating one, to say the least”

VIA DELLA CONCILIAZIONE TO GET NEW LIGHTING FOR JUBILEE

ACEA, one of the companies in Rome that furnishes electricity and gas, has taken on an important assignment for the Jubilee of Mercy: replacing the current lighting on the 28 obelisk-like street lights on Via della Conciliazione, the broad avenue leading from the Tiber river to St. Peter’s Square.

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The new lamps will feature LED lighting, such as that revealed last December on the facade and dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and on the dome of St. Mary Major, illuminated just before the January 6 Epiphany. The intention is to improve visibility, reduce energetic consumption and costs and to underline the beauty of this entire monumental and historical area. All new fixtures are expected to be up by the end of November.

Neighborhood storekeepers and residents were initially worried when they saw the beautiful lamp tops being removed (seen in the first photo) and replaced by what they described as “rather ugly” street lights that “ruined the aesthetic look of the entire neighborhood.”  (second photo)

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Not to worry folks! The original lights will soon be back, more beautiful than ever with improved lighting!

FRANCIS: PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS, FOR MY TRIP TO AFRICA

Sunday, amid massive security, including police cars circling St. Peter’s Square, uniformed officers, plainclothesmen and additional airport-style security machines, Pope Francis presided at the Angelus from his study overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. Pope Francis noted that, “The kingdoms of this world sometimes build themselves on arrogance, rivalry, oppression, and conytrasted that to the kingdom of Christ which is, he said, is ‘a kingdom of justice, love and peace’. … To reign as Christ does means serving God and our brethren.”

The Holy Father called for all the faithful everywhere to pray for persecuted Christians, highlighting Saturday’s beatification in Barcelona of 26 including priests, friars awaiting ordination, and Franciscan lay brothers who were martyred during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, The Pope said, “let us entrust to their intercession our many brothers and sisters who, sadly still today, in many different parts of the world, are persecuted because of their faith in Christ.”

Pope Francis also asked the faithful to pray for the success of his visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, starting Wednesday. He sent a video message to the faithful of Kenya and Uganda, and a separate one to the Central African Republic in which he noted how this country “has for too long been affected by a violent situation and by insecurity of which many of you have been innocent victims.” He said he hopes to bring “consolation and hope” and that his visit “may contribute, in one way or another, to alleviate wounds and to favor conditions for a better, more serene future for Central Africa.”

Closely studying the situation in the CAR, Vatican security officials will decide the night before Francis’ scheduled departure for Central Africa if the trip will go as planned.

ROME AND THE VATICAN, THE JUBILEE AND SECURITY

(Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said on Monday he has “utmost confidence” in the Italian authorities to ensure the safety of Rome and St. Peter’s Square during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy.

“On the part of the Vatican, there was not a specific demand to increase security measures during the Jubilee,” Fr. Lombardi said. “It depends on the Italian authorities, and how they rate the situation.” He was speaking at a press conference at the headquarters of the Province of Rome, explaining the “InfoJubilee” initiative, a collaboration of Vatican Radio, Roma Servizi per la Mobilità, ACI Infomobility and the Italian State Railway.

The collaborative initiative will include radio programs, announcements at train stations, online services tracking street traffic, and other services helping pilgrims make their way around the city.

Also attending the press conference was the prefect of Rome, Franco Gabrielli, who said Italian authorities had already been putting measures in place to increase security for the Jubilee before the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13.

“The difference is not made by the numbers of military and police officers put into the field, but by the ability to arrange them so you can control the territory, and for activities of prevention,” Gabrielli said. “The things you see are not the most important,” he added. “The most important activities are invisible, such as intelligence.”

Gabrielli said measures will be decided based upon the events taking place, with the most difficult period being the Spring, beginning with the Easter celebrations.

“The Spring season is the time of year in Rome which brings in the most tourists, with school children on field trips and pilgrims, which will be even more numerous in the Jubilee,” he said. Gabrielli said during this period the police presence will be especially visible, but added care was being taken to not infringe on the rights of citizens.

Father Lombardi also took the opportunity to say the Jubilee will not “succeed or fail” based on the number of pilgrims who come to Rome.

“The spirit of the Jubilee extends throughout the world,” Fr. Lombardi said. “You do not have to come to Rome to access the spiritual benefits of the Jubilee… Everyone can celebrate in their (home diocesan) cathedral. There will be many Holy Doors opened, and anyone who wants to receive the fruits of the Jubilee Holy Door can do so in their own city, and with the same spiritual benefits.”

Father Lombardi added, “this is not to say do not come to Rome.” “For those who are comfortable coming, come if you like to, and be happy to see the Pope. There is total freedom in living the Jubilee.”

The Holy Year begins on December 8, 2015, and ends November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.

HEIGHTENED SECURIY MEASURES IN PLACE IN ROME, AT THE VATICAN

ANSA news agency reports that over 2,000 security agents are to be deployed in Rome as part of tougher security measures for the upcoming Jubilee made necessary after last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Rome police commissioner Nicolò D’Angelo said Friday. The new measures will come into effect on Monday, two weeks ahead of the start of the Holy Year on December 8.

The security plan provides for police patrols on local buses and Rome’s video surveillance system will be beefed up. There will also be more police patrols in outlying areas of the capital, D’Angelo said. The services aim to “increase the perception of our presence,” he explained.

Rome will be divided into “three important areas: from the outlying area to the one where security is highest” D’Angelo continued. “All the pilgrim routes will be strengthened with further additional services,” he added. The police commissioner also said Rome’s Olympic stadium – the location of football matches – was “obviously” a potential target and that security would be tightened there with additional, stricter controls.

In related news over the weekend, ANSA reported that Muslims on their way out of Rome’s Great Mosque after Friday prayers had harsh words for the Islamic terrorists who murdered 130 people last Friday in Paris. “They must be taken out, because they use the name of Allah in order to kill,” said one.

“I’m afraid because they can hurt me if I say the wrong thing,” said one woman. “But I want to speak my mind anyway, because I’m ashamed of being a Muslim”. “Those who go against peace are not Muslims,” said one young man in broken Italian.

“Italy has given me a lot,” said an older man. “I’ve lived here 37 years, I’ve had work and peace. Now I hope what happened won’t damage the image of Islam, which is always against violence.”

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