VATICAN INSIDER: ELIYO, AN ASSYRIAN VOICE FOR THE PERSECUTED – FRANCIS IS FIRST POPE TO VISIT A STATE-RUN UNIVERSITY – SANTA MARIA IN COSMEDIN

Pope Francis tweeted today: A youthful heart does not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference.

VATICAN INSIDER: ELIYO, AN ASSYRIAN VOICE FOR THE PERSECUTED

Last December I attended an ecumenical Christmas concert in the Vatican in support of Christian refugees from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The guest of honor was Eliyo – the professional name of Sarah Ego, an Assyrian Orthodox singer who was born in Augsburg, Germany. Sarah sang traditional German Christian chorals, several songs in Aramaic, Schubert’s Ave Maria in Latin and several Christmas carols in English. Sarah speaks Aramaic, in fact, at home, as you will hear her explain in this conversation we had when she returned to Rome recently for a quick visit. We talk about her background, her origins, her grasp of five languages, and her aspirations. So stay tuned ….

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In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml   For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

FRANCIS IS FIRST POPE TO VISIT A STATE-RUN UNIVERSITY

This morning, Pope Francis visited Università Roma Tre, a state-run university, the first Pope ever to do so. The 25-year old university has a reputation for its teaching and research, but is also known for its so called “third mission,” that is, attention to the social problems of Italy’s capital city. Pope Francis principally spoke off the cuff and answered questions from students. He meeting was televised and carried by Vatican Radio. One student and her husband were brought to Italy from the island of Lesbos on the papal plane when Pope Francis made a one day visit last year to refugees on this Greek island.

The Vatican Radio summary of that talk is here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-to-university-students-keep-hope-aliv

SANTA MARIA IN COSMEDIN

My visit to this lovely, ancient and rather small basilica on February 14 was so impromptu that I did not think of going online to first research a bit of history. I remembered to bring my camera, of course, as you will see from the photos that follow, but knowing some history would have been helpful for the Facebook Live video that I did while visiting the chapel containing the head (skull) of St. Valentine was on a a whim as well.

I did go online today and present the following brief history, as well as my own photos of the basilica.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is the Byzantine Rite church for Melkite Catholics in Rome, as well as a minor basilica of the 9th century. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is located at Piazza della Bocca della Verità 18. It is no longer a parish church, and although officially titular it has not had a resident cardinal for some time.

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The name Cosmedin comes from the Greek word “kosmidion,” meaning ornamented, thanks to its beautifully decorated interior. Nowadays, the church is practically bare, although it still has some magnificent elements such as the floor mosaics, the bishop’s chair, the baldachin and the medieval choir enclosure.

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Another treasure worth discovering is the glass shrine with the skull of St Valentine, patron saint of love, located on the left side of the church.

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The restored Medieval façade has a portico with seven arches, in which visitors queue to place their hand in the mouth of the legendary Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth). Legend has it that if a person places his or her hand in the mouth of the statue and lies, the mouth will close and cut their hand off.

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Next to the church’s porch is an impressive Romanesque bell tower built during the twelfth century.

Crypt: The crypt, constructed in the eighth century, is located beneath the altar and was built to store the relics taken from the catacombs by Pope Adrian I. The crypt is shaped like a small basilica. The sidewalls have several niches, each with shelves made of marble, where the different relics are displayed.
https://www.rome.net/santa-maria-cosmedin

The marble-workers of Rome (marmorarii Romani) active in the 12th and 13th centuries produced, among other things, stunning floors in Roman basilicas (perhaps you noticed them if you’ve been to Rome). In fact, I mention the words cosmatesque and cosmati often in my book, A Holy Year in Rome, because these are the terms used to describe the characteristic use of polychrome marble and mosaic inlay by these Roman artists. Those terms, I have been told, refer to the Cosma family, the “first family” of marble cutters who invented this style of flooring. I learned from research that the Cosmatus (Cosma) was a Roman family, seven members of which, for four generations, were skilful architects, sculptors and workers in decorative geometric mosaic, mostly for church floors.

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With my visit Tuesday to Santa Maria in Cosmedin, I think I’ve found my favorite church for cosmatesque art, almost a kaleidoscope of colors, as you will see in my photos:

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