LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, HOLY WEEK, WEDNESDAY: SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE

Today is the final day for our six-week pilgrimage to Rome’s Lenten Station churches that began on Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina. I brought you most of these churches, although rarely on weekends, so you’ll have to pardon me that omission. If I can locate my “Joan’s Rome” video on today’s magnificent station church of St. Mary Major, I will add that to this post.

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, HOLY WEEK, WEDNESDAY: SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE

(pnac.org) According to legend, a wealthy Roman had a dream on 4 August 352 in which he was directed by the Blessed Virgin Mary to construct a basilica on a site which she would reveal to him.  The following night, a snowfall took place on the Esquiline Hill, a truly miraculous event as anyone who has experienced a Roman August would know.

Pope Liberius (r. 352-356), a friend who had the same dream, initiated the construction of the first basilica, which stood in a location about one block in front of the present one.  Although it is unclear if this first basilica was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin from its foundation, the definition of our Lady as the Mother of God at the Council of Ephesus in 431 brought about a new flowering of devotion to her.

In this atmosphere, Sixtus III began to build a new basilica in her honor in a slightly different location.  It is this building that, while much modified, comes down to us today.  The basilica began to be known as St. Mary Major, the principal church in Rome dedicated to our Lady, in the seventh century, the same period in which the relics believed to be from the manger of Christ at Bethlehem were enshrined here.

Here are some photos I took on a visit to the sacristy at St. Mary Major:

Various minor changes took place over the next few centuries.  One of the more interesting of these concerns the decision of St. Paschal I in the early ninth century to raise the episcopal throne in the apse because, given its nearness to the then women’s area in the church, his private conversations could be overheard by them!  Later in that century a more serious event transpired when Adrian II approved Ss. Cyril and Methodius’ translation of the liturgy into Slavonic in this church.

The medieval period saw several changes here.  In 1291, a new chapel was created for the relics of the manger, known as the Chapel ad Praesepe.  Four years later, the rear wall and apse were demolished and a transept and new apse were built.  At the same time the new apse and the façade of the basilica were decorated with mosaics in the style of the day.

The late fourteenth century saw the addition of the campanile, the tallest in Rome, with the following century seeing the construction of several small chapels off of the aisles.  Pope Alexander VI, archpriest of the basilica before his election to the papacy, installed a new ceiling at the end of the fifteenth century.  St. Charles Borromeo was archpriest here from 1564 to 1572 and undertook some renovations in the choir.  In 1587, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, also known as the Sistine Chapel because of its patron, Sixtus V, was completed.  Into it was also put the Praesepe Chapel, set into the floor beneath the altar.

On the other side of the basilica the Our Lady Chapel was completed in 1611 under Pope Paul V of the Borghese family, whose name is also found on the façade of St. Peter’s.  In 1673 the exterior of the apse was decorated in the Baroque style, with the other exterior surfaces of the basilica receiving a similar treatment under Pope Benedict XIV about seventy years later.  Thankfully, these preserved much of the mosaic work on the façade.  The confessio before the high altar was built between 1861 and 1864 to house the relics of the manger.  Despite this long history of renovations and renewals, the interior of the basilica still preserves its original spirit.

Standing in the square before the basilica today, a couple of things draw our interest before we enter the church itself.  The first of these is the Marian Column in the center of the square.  The column is originally from the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum.  This is the inspiration for the many Marian columns that can be found in various cities throughout Europe.

The second point of interest here are the mosaics on the old façade of the basilica, currently protected behind the columns of the eighteenth century loggia.  They depict Christ attended by angels, in the heavenly liturgy, and scenes from the legend of the basilica’s foundation.  These mosaics served as the apse for liturgies celebrated in the piazza. (Address: Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore)

 

VATICAN INSIDER EXPLORES THE HOLY SHROUD OF TURIN – PAPAL CATECHESIS ON HOLY TRIDUUM, EASTER SUNDAY – VACCINES ADMINISTERED IN VATICAN TO POOR, HOMELESS

Holy Thursday and Good Fridays are days off for EWTN staff so that we may participate in Triduum and Easter weekend liturgies. I’ll be in and out but check in to this page and to my Facebook page (facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420) in coming days.

VATICAN INSIDER EXPLORES THE HOLY SHROUD OF TURIN

On Vatican Insider this Easter weekend, in what is normally the interview segment, I offer Part II of a Special I’ve prepared called “Who is the Man of the Shroud?” This is a reference, of course, to the celebrated Shroud housed in Turin, Italy that bears the image of a crucified man and has been venerated for centuries as Christ’s burial cloth.

I look at the history of this linen cloth, its provenance and travels and how it arrived in Turin from the Holy Land. I speak of the first photographic image of this cloth, a reverse negative, and I look at all the scientific studies done over a century to study the fabric and the image on it and to date it. Is it from the time of Jesus? Is Jesus the Man of the Shroud?

ALERT: On Holy Saturday the Shroud of Turin will be exposed for veneration on social media and websites according to Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. He will preside over a liturgy that will be live-streamed from the chapel of the Turin cathedral where the Shroud is kept in a climate-controlled vault. The shroud was previously displayed over the Internet on Holy Saturday 2020 during Italy’s national lockdown. That event is scheduled to last one hour and will start at 5 pm, Italy time (11 am East Coast, US).

You can follow that on EWTN television. Vaticannews will offer live streaming on its news portal.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.

PAPAL CATECHESIS ON HOLY TRIDUUM, EASTER SUNDAY

At today’s live-streamed general audience, Pope Francis focused his catechesis on Holy Week, the central days of the Liturgical year.

He said, “tomorrow, we begin the Easter Triduum and our celebration of the saving mystery of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. On Holy Thursday, in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we commemorate Christ’s washing the disciples’ feet, his new commandment of love, and his institution of the Eucharist as the abiding memorial of the sacrifice of his body and blood for the salvation of all.

“On Good Friday,” continued the Holy Father, “we celebrate Jesus’ redemptive sufferings and death through the solemn reading of the Passion, the Universal Prayer offered for the needs of the Church and the world, and the veneration of the wood of the cross. In this way, we bring before the crucified Lord our suffering brothers and sisters, and all victims of war, violence and injustice.

Francis explained that, “on Holy Saturday, a day of profound silence, we join Mary in her sorrow at her Son’s death, and her trusting expectation of the fulfilment of God’s promises.

“At the Easter Vigil,” concluded the Pope, “the light of the paschal candle and solemn chant of the Alleluia joyfully announce Christ’s victory over sin and death. In this time of pandemic, may our celebration of the paschal mystery proclaim the cross of Christ as a light shining in the darkness and an enduring sign of hope in God’s promise of new life.”

VACCINES ADMINISTERED IN VATICAN TO POOR, HOMELESS

If you recall, last Friday, March 26, Vaticannews reported that, “as the world continues to adopt measures to combat the ongoing health emergency, the Office of Papal Charities, in response to Pope Francis’s numerous appeals that no one be excluded from receiving the Covid-19 vaccines, is taking action to accompany the most vulnerable. Thus, during Holy Week, 1200 of the poorest and most marginalized people will have the opportunity of getting vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – the same vaccine administered to the Pope and the employees of the Holy See.

“The vaccines will be administered in a specially designed facility inside the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. The medical doctors and health workers involved in the process include volunteers who work in the “Madre di Misericordia” mobile health clinic located under the Bernini colonnade, employees of the Vatican’s Directorate of Health and Hygiene, as well as volunteers from the Medicina Solidale Institute and Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital.”

Today, the Holy See Press Office said, “This afternoon the first dose of the vaccine was administered to a group of more than 100 people housed in the dormitory of the Missionaries of Charity of San Gregorio al Celio and residing in other Roman structures. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, was present to welcome them in the Paul VI Hall. In the next few days, other groups of people will receive the vaccination, accompanied by volunteers from the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Roman Caritas, the Missionaries of Charity and other associations.”

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

And now, for one of my favorite stories, an annual post on this page….

PALM SUNDAY: THE STORY OF A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

It is time once again to tell you the marvelous story of how a sailor from Liguria saved an obelisk from falling and extracted a papal promise for an honor for his native city.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V, wanting to complete the design of St. Peter’s Square, ordered architect Domenico Fontana to place in the center of the square a giant Egyptian obelisk that had been brought to Rome in 39 A.D. by Emperor Caligula. For centuries it has been in the emperor’s circus in what today is Vatican City, and moving the obelisk from that point to the center of St. Peter’s Square would be a Herculean task.

The obelisk had been in the Vatican gardens, near the first Constantinian basilica (dedicated in 326), and had lain there, forgotten, for many years under layers of mud and stagnant water. Giacomo della Porta was asked by Sixtus V to recover the obelisk and, struck by its majestic beauty, the Pope asked that engineers study a project to raise the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square.

On September 10, the day the 85-foot high, 350-ton obelisk was transported by 900 workers, 140 horses and 44 winches, Benedetto Bresca, a ship’s captain from the Italian Riviera area of San Remo-Bordighera, was in the square. (photo: romewise.com)

The head engineer had told Pope Sixtus that total silence was needed to raise the obelisk, once it was in the square. Thus, the Pope announced to the huge crowd that had assembled to watch the manoeuver that anyone who spoke during the delicate and risky operation would face very severe penalties (some stories say excommunication was a penalty!).

As work was underway, the ropes used to raise the obelisk gave signs of fraying and weakening and the obelisk itself began to sway. However, Benedetto, as a sailor, knew what the problem was and how to solve it and so, notwithstanding the pontiff’s ultimatum, he shouted “water on the cords, water on the cords.” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the cords were watered, they became taut and strong and the obelisk was raised, without further danger to anyone.

Instead of punishing the audacious sailor, Pope Sixtus rewarded Benedetto by giving him and his descendants the privilege of providing the Vatican with the famous Ligurian palms used for Holy Week ceremonies in the Vatican. And so it has been for over four centuries, with only a few brief interruptions. (photos riviera24.it)

Known as parmureli, the leaves from date palm trees in San Remo and Bordighera are woven and braided into intricate sculptures, some only inches high, while others are perhaps two meters high. Some years, more than 200 of the six-foot high parmureli are sent to the Vatican from Liguria for Palm Sunday – for the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, etc. (vaticannews.va)

 

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, HOLY WEEK MONDAY: SANTA PRASSEDE – LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, HOLY WEEK, TUESDAY: SANTA PRISCA

I spent so much time on yesterday’s story about Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica that I did forget to post the station church of the day so now I am doing double duty, station churches of Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week. Tomorrow, Wednesday is the final Rome Lenten Station church because the next day, Thursday we enter the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, HOLY WEEK MONDAY: SANTA PRASSEDE

(pnac.org) – Traditionally held to be the sister of St. Pudenziana, St. Praxedes joined her in collecting the mortal remains of the martyrs after their sufferings.  It is believed that both she and her sister faced martyrdom as well, although details are scant.  A titulis named after her is recorded in the late fifth century, although this likely existed even earlier.

The titulis was first based in an apartment block in a nearby location.  In the early ninth century, Pope St. Paschal I replaced this with the current church, in order to provide a more fitting place for worship.  Continuing the devotion to the martyrs shown by the patroness of this church, the same pope brought the relics of 2,300 martyrs from the catacombs to be laid to rest here.

In about the year 1080, an altar was built in the crypt.  In a side chapel there is a column said to have been brought here in 1223 from Constantinople during the Latin occupation of that city.  It is traditionally believed to be the column on which the flagellation of Christ took place.  Around the turn of the fourteenth century, structural problems in the church necessitated the construction of three large arches across the nave as means of strengthening the building.  The church was restored under Pope Nicholas IV in the mid-fifteenth century,

St. Charles Borromeo, the cardinal titular here in the late sixteenth century, undertook a great deal of work.  The great archbishop of Milan not only took care to improve the physical structure of the church, but also to minister to the people of the area, going so far as to invite the poor to eat at his table.  His works to the church structure included blocking off the transept and creating a new area for the choir in its place.  The baroque renovations continued under the next titular, Alessandro Medici, later Pope Leo XI, who also commissioned the frescoes in the nave.

In 1730, a new ciborium and high altar were installed, and the crypt was renovated.  Since then there have been no major changes to the structure, although the façade of the church was restored to its medieval appearance in 1937. (Address: via Santa Prassede, 9A)

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, HOLY WEEK, TUESDAY: SANTA PRISCA

(pnac.org) – Today we ascend the Aventine hill by the same road trod almost forty days ago as we now approach one of the final Lenten stations.  Down a small road stands the little church of St. Prisca, as unpretentious in its appearance as it is rich in its history.  The Prisca of the dedication is traditionally held to have been the Prisca greeted along with Aquila by St. Paul in Romans 16:3.

A tradition also relates that St. Peter stayed here for a time.  Support for this tradition may be found in archeological discoveries that show members of the Pudens family living nearby, possibly indicating a link to the Pudens of St. Pudentiana.  The church structure, particularly at the sanctuary end, incorporates some Roman structures dating from as far back as the second century after Christ.

The first mention of a titulis here comes from the fifth century, at which time it already bore the name of Prisca.  Not much is known about the development of this church in the first millenium, other than it’s being a relatively small oratory for at least the later part of that period.

In 1104-1105, Walo, the bishop of Paris, sponsored the building of a larger structure to replace this.  In 1455, Pope Callistus III initiated needed repairs after a fire, even replacing one of the walls.  In the early 17th century the church was remodeled, including shortening the nave and rebuilding the current façade.  A century later, the interior was renovated in a more contemporary style.

When the French occupation of the city began in 1798, the church was abandoned, but restored in the 1820s.  In 1938, excavations began beneath the church that discovered a Mithraic temple from the second century. (Address: via Santa Prisca, 11) (photo tertullian.org)

 

A FAREWELL TO TRADITION: THE BAN ON MASSES IN ST. PETER’S

A FAREWELL TO TRADITION: THE BAN ON MASSES IN ST. PETER’S

Today, after 17 days of silence, the Vatican, via the Holy See Press Office, finally spoke on the March 12 ruling from the Secretariat of State that, among other things, banned the celebration by priests of individual Masses, that is, without faithful present, at all but two of the 47 altars in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The two altars in the main body of the basilica where priests – but only with other priests and/or faithful – may celebrate Mass are the Altar of the Chair and the altar of the Chapel of the Choir. Both altars allow the celebrant to face the faithful. The altars of other side chapels do not allow this.

Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite may only be celebrated in restricted morning hours in one chapel in the grottoes of the basilica: the Clementine Chapel. This is the most requested of all grotto area or crypt chapels but also the smallest.

Of the four Masses celebrated daily at the Altar of St. Joseph, only two remain, the 10 and 11 am Masses.

Here are some photos that Ed Pentin posted on his twitter account of a basilica that seems more a museum than a church:

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Here is today’s terse press release, although we still have absolutely no idea why the enormous restrictions were issued or who is behind them, who issued them and who signed off on them:

“With the promulgation of the Statute of the Reverend Fabbrica di San Pietro, the assignment of both His Excellency Mons. Mario Giordana, Nunzio Apostolic,as Extraordinary Commissioner of the Fabbrica, and the Commission that assisted him in this task ends. In these nine months, in addition to preparing the new rules, they dedicated themselves to the reorganization of the administrative offices and Fabbrica technicians. The application of the new Statute will be up to His Eminence Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, who will begin his office as Archpriest of the Basilica starting this Holy Week.”

Several things:

I have a feeling that Cardinal Gambetti might wish he was back in Umbria! Cardinal Gambetti, a Friar Minor Conventual, was the custos of the Convent of St. Francis of Assiss from 2013 to late 2020. In that period, the bishop of Assisi also put him in charge of the pastoral care of the basilica of St. Francis.

The “Fabbica” of St. Peter’s is an institution that is responsible for the care and maintenance of the basilica. Centuries ago, as the basilica was being constructed, fabbrica referred to the central site where tools and materials were stored, where designs were made and where the workmen met to discuss the building plans.

I did a search on both the Vatican News portal (vaticannews.va) and Google to find “promulgation of the Statute of the Reverend Fabbrica di San Pietro,”and could not find this, unless it refers to the edict issued on March 12. In fact, the March 12 document is nowhere to be seen on the Vatican news website. If I’ve missed it, let me know.

Here is my first piece on the March 12 decree on Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica: 14 | March | 2021 | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com)

In that March 14 Joan’s Rome column, you read about the objections to the March 12 ban on individual Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica expressed by Cardinals Gerhard Mueller and Raymond Burke.

Here us what retired Cardinal Brandmueller has to say on the matter: Third cardinal publicly opposes Vatican letter banning private Masses at St. Peter’s basilica | Blogs | LifeSite (lifesitenews.com)   And another link to his thoughts: Cardinal Brandmüller: Mass Ban In St Peter VOID – gloria.tv

Now, read what Cardinal Sarah, just retired head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, says on this question! Exclusive. Cardinal Sarah Asks the Pope to Lift the Ban on “Individual” Masses at St. Peter’s – Settimo Cielo – Blog – L’Espresso (repubblica.it)

I am enormously saddened by this entire matter! I am sad for the scores and scores (far more than that, actually) of priests whom I know who celebrated such Masses and remember them only as joyous moments in their priesthood, and they’ll never have that joy again.

I am mostly saddened because this came as a thunderbolt out of the blue. No reasons given. No explanations. No questions answered.

Will the myriad of  “dubia” raised since March 12 go unanswered? Past cases of unanswered dubia are not encouraging.

MOTHER ANGELICA, A WORKER OF TRUTH IN THE VINEYARD OF THE LORD

Yesterday afternoon, March 27, the fifth anniversary of the death of Mother Angelica on Easter Sunday in 2016, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, celebrated Mass for EWTN’s Rome bureau staff in the Chapel of the Choir of St. Peter’s Basilica. Below is his wonderful homily as well as photos taken by EWTN staff.

MOTHER ANGELICA, A WORKER OF TRUTH IN THE VINEYARD OF THE LORD

It was Easter Sunday (March 27, 2016), when Mother Angelica was ending her journey among us. Today, we are recalling her on the fifth anniversary of her death through our prayers and through this Eucharistic celebration; we do this with affection and esteem.

Mother Angelica’s tomb at the shrine in Hanceville, Alabama:

She crossed the whole 20th century facing poverties and sufferings, which were constant friends in her life until the end; at the same time, she experienced the consolation of Jesus and the constant help of Divine Providence; she could not do what she did alone. In a thick and, sometimes, black «wood» of our world, the finger of God was guiding her: “I knew that God knew me and loved me and he was interested to me. All I would like to do – she said after a serious sickness – was to donate myself to Jesus”.

She understood her vocation during a time of prayer, it was an evening of 1944, and became a nun. For more than 60 years, she was Mother Angelica of the Annunciation. I do not know whether, assuming the name of «Annunciation», she had the perception of her future mission in the communications field. The Archangel Gabriel was an «annunciator» and the Good News came into our humanity; so let us think about a certain analogy.

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Becoming rich in many experiences, in contemplative life, in missionary accomplishments and pastoral initiatives, Mother Angelica, with her extraordinary creative capacities, generates the non-profit society EWTN, a broadcasting group linked to civil and religious life. Spreading the Gospel in our society was the high finality of EWTN, with style and adherence to the truth: “The truth will set you free” (Jo 8: 32); the «Truth» is Jesus: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jo 14:6). These words were always clear in Mother Angelica’s mind and heart.

Mother Angelica was close to Pope John Paul II; she got the high esteem of Benedict XVI and the consideration of Pope Francis; the more and more she got, the gratitude of the whole Church and especially of the affectionate audience that maintains a link with EWTN.

If we could consider EWTN Mother Angelica’s first ‘daughter’, it has not been the only offspring of the ‘family’, enriched by the National Catholic Register, Catholic News Agency and so on.

What is very important to you, dear friends, is the confidence of your listeners, readers and viewers: please, always have high respect for them; you can generate life, hope, confidence, love.   “No one ever spoke like this man” (Jo 7: 46), were the words of the followers of Jesus and his adversaries. Let me think about EWTN in the same way.   These words could be a vision, a program and an aim in your activities! You have a mission: to bring to the families a good word of fidelity and mercy into the families. Ezekiel, the prophet of hope, gave us in today first Reading this beautiful thought: “Then the nations will know that I the Lord sanctifies them, when my sanctuary is among them forever” (Ez 37, 28).

It is necessary to build the sanctuary of the Lord among the peoples, in the families, in society, and nobody can do it better than a broadcasting network, able to enter beyond every door, many times closed; a sanctuary not made by material bricks, but by truth and love.

Remembering today Mother Angelica, we like to find a dart of fidelity to Christ, “the Light of nations” (LG 1), and to his Church, being “like a sacrament or a sign and instrument” (ib.) of God among us.

Finally, let us be reminded here of a few words of Pope Benedict the XVI when he started his pontificate: It is sufficient for me to be a simple worker in the vineyard of the Lord!

This is my wish to you, at the vigil of the Holy Week: Be good workers in the vineyard of the Lord!

Thank you for your generous and appreciated work for the Church.

Mother Angelica, I am sure, she is happy.

 

VATICAN INSIDER: WHO IS THE MAN OF THE SHROUD? – VATICAN TO VACCINATE 1200 POOR, HOMELESS DURING HOLY WEEK – LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, FRIDAY: SANTI XII APOSTOLI

Weekly edition in English of L’Osservatore Romano: ING_2021_013_2603.pdf (osservatoreromano.va)

The following photos have nothing to do with the Shroud of Turin, my Special on Vatican Insider this weekend as you’ll read below, but rather were taken in a sadly-now-defunct wine bar in Turin, La Revolucion, on Pza. della Repubblica that Teresa Tomeo and I and a few friends visited one evening during our 2010 pilgrimage to Turin to see the Shroud. I’ve seen walk-in closets in the US that were bigger but La Revolucion was warm and welcoming and, as you’ll see, a bit like being in a chapel. I went online and see that today there is a Mexican-owned restaurant (I believe it is the same family of the wine bar) called Revolucion but in a different part of the city. I’d open such a place in Rome in a New York minute! (post-Covid, natch)!

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VATICAN INSIDER: WHO IS THE MAN OF THE SHROUD?

On “Vatican Insider” this Palm Sunday weekend and next, in what is normally the interview segment, I offer a Special called “Who is the Man of the Shroud?” This is, of course, the celebrated Shroud housed in Turin, Italy that bears the image of a crucified man and has been venerated for centuries as Christ’s burial cloth. I look at the history of this linen cloth, its provenance and travels and how it arrived in Turin from the Holy Land. I speak of the first photographic image of this cloth, a reverse negative, and I look at all the scientific studies done over a century to study the fabric and the image on it and to date it. IsS it from the time of Jesus? Is Jesus the Man of the Shroud?

Here are some of the photos I took at both the 2010 and the 2015 Shroud exhibit in Turin:

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On Holy Saturday the Shroud of Turin will be exposed for veneration on social media and websites according to Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia of Turin. A diocesan communiqué notes that he will preside over a liturgy that will be live-streamed from the chapel of the Turin cathedral where the Shroud is kept in a climate-controlled vault. Young adults from Turin will present reflections on the theme of hope. The communiqué explained that this is the second time that the Shroud of Turin has been exhibited over the internet, following its display on Holy Saturday 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic and Italy’s national lockdown.

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to https://www.ewtn.com/radio/audio-archive and write the name of the guest for whom you are serarching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.

VATICAN TO VACCINATE 1200 POOR, HOMELESS DURING HOLY WEEK

The Office of Papal Charities, headed by Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, announced today that 1200 of Rome’s poor, homeless and marginalized will be vaccinated during Holy Week. The communiqué said this was being done “in order to reinforce the Holy Father’s numerous appeals to ensure that no one be excluded from the anti Covid-19 vaccine.”

Thus, “during Holy Week, as Easter approaches, doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, purchased by the Holy See and offered by the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital through the Vatican Covid-19 Commission, will be used to vaccinate 1,200 of the poorest and most marginalized people who, because of their situation, are the most exposed to the virus.”

The faithful may participate in this gesture as we read in the communiqué: “In order to continue to share the wonder of charity towards our poorest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters, and to give them the opportunity to access treatment and vaccination, it will be possible to pay for the vaccine for a person in need by giving ‘alms’ with an online donation through the Holy Father’s charity account, managed by the Office of Papal Charities (A vaccine for the poor | Elemosineria Apostolica).

The Office of Papal Charities noted that “Pope Francis has repeatedly encouraged people to get vaccinated, for it is a way of exercising responsibility for one’s neighbour and the collective well[1]being; he has strongly reiterated that everyone must have access to the vaccine, with no one being excluded because of poverty.

“Last January, when the anti-Covid19 vaccination campaign began in the Vatican, Pope Francis requested that fifty needy people, mostly homeless, who live around St. Peter’s and who are assisted and sheltered daily by the assistance and residence facilities of the Office of Papal Charities, would be among the first to be vaccinated.”

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, FRIDAY: SANTI XII APOSTOLI

Passing through the Piazza Santissimi 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 and was 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 by 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 eighteenth 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 Sts. 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)

POPE FRANCIS CELEBRATES DANTE: PROPHET OF HOPE AND POET OF MERCY – LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, THURSDAY: SANT’APOLLINARE

Today is the solemnity of the Annunciation, a day of great joy and thanksgiving in the Church! Joy because the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would become the Mother of God, and immense thanksgiving because Mary said ‘yes’ to this seemingly mysterious news, and thus led the way to the birth of the Savior of the World.

There are two paintings I love that depict the Annunciation. I’m sure you know this one by Fra Angelico:

And a copy of this Annunciation painting by Renaissance master Antonello of Messina hangs in my dining room:

Last night, vigil of the Annunciation, I was re-reading “The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary” from the visions of Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich.   As I opened the book, I was stunned to note I was on Chapter VII, The Annunciation. I was stunned because the first line of the chapter notes it was written by Emmerich exactly 200 years ago today, March 25, 1821. This link will bring you to that Chapter (which this website calls Chapter VIII): The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (ecatholic2000.com)

POPE FRANCIS CELEBRATES DANTE: PROPHET OF HOPE AND POET OF MERCY

Pope Francis releases an Apostolic Letter entitled “Candor lucis aeternae” marking the 700th anniversary of the death of the great Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. In it he highlights the relevance, timelessness and depth of faith in Dante’s masterpiece: “The Divine Comedy”.

By Isabella Piro (vaticannews)

Seven hundred years from his death in 1321, when exiled in Ravenna from his beloved Florence, Dante still speaks to us. He speaks to the men and women of today, asking to be read and studied, but also to be listened to and imitated in his journey towards happiness, that is, the infinite and eternal Love of God.

Thus writes Pope Francis in his Apostolic Letter “Candor lucis aeternae – Splendour of Light Eternal,” published on March 25, Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The date is not accidental: the mystery of the Incarnation, stemming from Mary’s full and total acceptance of God’s plan, says the Pope, is “the true heart and inspiration of the entire poem” for it effected the prodigious exchange whereby God enters our history by becoming flesh, and humanity “is taken up into God, in whom it finds true happiness.”

The Popes and Dante
Divided into nine paragraphs, the Apostolic Letter begins with a brief excursus into the thoughts of various pontiffs regarding Dante. Pope Francis then dwells on Alighieri’s life, calling it a “paradigm of the human condition” and emphasizing the “perennial timeliness and importance” of his work. In fact, writes the Pope, it is “an integral part of our culture, taking us back to the Christian roots of Europe and the West.  It embodies that patrimony of ideals and values that the Church and civil society continue to propose” still today as “the basis of a humane social order in which all can and must see others as brothers and sisters.”

Innate desire for happiness
There are two main pillars in the “Divine Comedy,” explains the Pope, namely “an innate desire in the human heart” and “fulfilment in the happiness bestowed by the vision of the Love who is God.” This is why Dante is a “prophet of hope”: because with his work he urges humanity to free itself from the “dark forest” of sin to find “the right path” and thus reach “the fullness of life and time in history” and “eternal beatitude in God.”

The path indicated by Dante, a true “pilgrimage,” says Pope Francis, “is realistic and within the reach” of all, because “God’s mercy always offers the possibility of change and conversion.”

Dante’s women
The Apostolic Letter also gives prominence to three female figures of the “Divine Comedy”: Mary, the Mother of God, representing charity; Beatrice, representing hope; and Saint Lucy, representing faith. These three women, who represent the three theological virtues, accompany Dante at different stages of his pilgrimage, demonstrating that “we are not saved alone”, but that the help of those who “can support us and guide us with wisdom and prudence” is necessary. What moves Mary, Beatrice and Lucy, in fact, is always divine love, “the source of salvation and joy”, “to renewed life and thus to happiness.”

Dante and St. Francis of Assisi
The Pope then dedicates another paragraph to Saint Francis who, in Dante’s work, is depicted in the “white rose of the blessed”. He sees “much in common” between the Saint of Assisi and the Supreme Poet: both, in fact, addressed the people, the first “went out among the people”, the second choosing not to use Latin, but the vernacular, the language of all. Both, moreover, open themselves “to the beauty and worth” of Creation, a mirror of its Creator. A brilliant artist whose humanism “remains timely and relevant,” Alighieri is also “a forerunner of our multimedia culture, because in his work “word and image, symbol and sound, poetry and dance converge to convey a single message.”

A message for all
The Pope goes on to congratulate those teachers who “passionately communicate Dante’s message and introduce others to the cultural, religious and moral riches contained in his works.” He asks that this “heritage” not remain locked up in classrooms and universities, but be known and spread thanks to the commitment of Christian communities and cultural associations. He also calls upon artists to “to give voice, face and heart, form, colour and sound to Dante’s poetry by following the path of beauty which he so masterfully travelled,” so as to spread “a message of peace, freedom and fraternity.”

The Pope says this is a task that is as relevant as ever in this historical moment, “ clouded over by situations of profound inhumanity and a lack of confidence and prospects for the future.”

The Apostolic Letter concludes by noting that the Supreme Poet can therefore “help us to advance with serenity and courage on the pilgrimage of life and faith that each of us is called to make, until our hearts find true peace and true joy, until we arrive at the ultimate goal of all humanity: The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, THURSDAY: SANT’APOLLINARE

(pnac.org) St. Apollinaris, the founding bishop of the see of Ravenna, may have been born near Antioch in Syria, though this is uncertain.  He is recorded as having been the first bishop of Ravenna and as having persisted in his ministry there despite being physically beaten many times, sometimes almost to the point of death.  He finally died after one such attack in Classe, a suburb of Ravenna.  While the exact date of his death is unknown, some hypothesize that it took place under Septimus Severus, at the turn of the third century.

The first record of a church on this site is during the pontificate of Pope Adrian I ( 772-795), with general agreement that the church dates from the late seventh or early eighth century.  Previously, this was the site of the Baths of Nero and Alexander and the administration of the marble quarries during the imperial period.  The dedication to St. Apollinaris may come from the fact that Rome was under Byzantine control at the time, with the administration based in Ravenna.  It is thought that Basilian monks were the first in residence here.

The first church was demolished and replaced with the current one by Pope Benedict XIV, and was dedicated in 1748.  At the time it was attached to the German College.  This was run by the Jesuits, and after their suppression in 1773, the college building passed through the hands of several other organizations until recently renovated to house the University of the Holy Cross, run by the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei.  In 1990, the basilica came under the control of Opus Dei. (Address: Piazza Sant’Apollinare, 49)

 

POPE: MARY IS MOTHER OF GOD, OUR MOTHER, NOT CO-REDEEMER – VATICAN: SALARIES OF CARDINALS AND DEPARTMENT HEADS CUT DUE TO COVID CRISIS – LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, WEDNESDAY: SAN MARCELLO

Today’s general audience catechesis on prayer and Mary was very beautiful in many respects and interesting in one particular way.

Media accredited to the Holy See Press Office receive the language texts of the Wednesday general audience catechesis just before or at the audience start time and they are under embargo until the Pope speaks the entire text.

I read the entire English catechesis, but heard that something quite different had been said by the Pope in the Italian catechesis. None of the language versions we received had his new remarks, but they have now been added and the definitive language texts can be found at vatican.va I went to the video of the general audience to make sure that what I heard were indeed off the cuff remarks.

Pope Francis’ extemporaneous remarks were on “Christ being the only Redeemer, there are no co-Redeemers.” Why is this significant? You might want to read this: Could Mary be getting a new title this year? (catholicnewsagency.com)

Below is the papal catechesis text in English. I have put the papal off the cuff remarks that were later translated into other languages in italics.

POPE: MARY IS MOTHER OF GOD, OUR MOTHER, NOT CO-REDEEMER

Dear brothers and sister, good morning!

Today the catechesis is dedicated to prayer in communion with Mary. It occurs precisely on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation. We know that the main pathway of Christian prayer is the humanity of Jesus. In fact, the confidence typical of Christian prayer would be meaningless if the Word had not become incarnate, giving us in the Spirit His filial relationship with the Father.

Christ is the Mediator, the bridge that we cross to turn to the Father (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2674). Each prayer we raise to God is through Christ, with Christ and in Christ and is fulfilled thanks to his intercession. The Holy Spirit extends Christ’s mediation through every time and every place: there is no other name by which we can be saved (see Acts 4:12). (From Italian catechesis, off the cuff) Christ is the Mediator, the bridge we cross to turn to the Father (cf.Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2674). He is the only Redeemer: there are no co-redeemers with Christ. He is the Mediator par excellence, he is the Mediator. Every prayer we raise to God is for Christ, with Christ and in Christ and is fulfilled thanks to his intercession. The Holy Spirit extends Christ’s mediation to every time and place: there is no other name in which we can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ: the only Mediator between God and men.

Due to Christ’s mediation, other references Christians find for their prayer and devotion take on meaning, first among them being the Virgin Mary.

She occupies a privileged place in the lives of Christians, and therefore, in their prayer as well, because she is the Mother of Jesus. The Eastern Churches have often depicted her as the Odigitria, she who “shows the way”, that is, her Son, Jesus Christ. Her presence is everywhere in Christian iconography, sometimes very prominently, but always in relation to her Son and in connection with Him. Her hands, her eyes, her behavior are a living “catechism”, always indicating the hinge, the center: Jesus. Mary is completely directed toward Him (see CCC, 2674).

This is the role Mary fulfilled throughout her entire earthly life and which she forever retains: to be the humble handmaid of the Lord. At a certain point in the Gospels she almost seems to disappear; but then she reappears in the more crucial moments, such as at Cana, when her Son, thanks to her caring intervention, performs his first “sign” (see Jn 2:1-12), and then on Golgotha at the foot of the cross.

Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross. From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings.

(Italian catechesis, off the cuff) Jesus extended Mary’s motherhood to the whole Church when he entrusted his beloved disciple to her, shortly before dying on the cross. From that moment on, we are all placed under his mantle, as can be seen in certain medieval frescoes or paintings. Also the first Latin antiphon – Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix: the Madonna who, as the Mother to whom Jesus has entrusted us, envelops us all; but as Mother, not as goddess, not as co-redemptrix: as Mother. It is true that Christian piety always gives her beautiful titles, like a son to his mother: how many beautiful things a son says to his mother he loves! But let’s be careful: the beautiful things that the Church and the Saints say about Mary take nothing away from the redemptive uniqueness of Christ. He is the only Redeemer. They are expressions of love like a son to his mother – sometimes exaggerated. But love, we know, always makes us do exaggerated things, but with love.

And so, we began to pray to her using several expressions present in the Gospels directed to her: “full of grace”, “blessed are you among women” (cfr CCC, 2676f.). Sanctioned by the Council of Ephesus, the title “Theotokos”, “Mother of God”, was soon added to the Hail Mary. And, analogously as with the Our Father, after the praise we add the supplication: we ask that Mary pray for us sinners, that she might intercede with her tenderness, “now and at the hour of our death”. Now, in the concrete situations of life, and in the final moment, so that she might accompany us in our passage to eternal life.

Mary is always present at the bedside of her children when they depart this world. If someone is alone and abandoned, she is there, near, as she was next to her Son when everyone else abandoned him.

Mary was and is present in these days of the pandemic, near to the people who, unfortunately, concluded their earthly journey all alone, without the comfort of or the closeness of their loved ones. Mary is always there, with her maternal tenderness.

Prayers said to her are not in vain. The Woman who said “yes”, who promptly welcomed the Angel’s invitation, also responds to our supplications, she hears our voices, even those that remain closed in our hearts that haven’t the strength to be uttered but which God knows better that we ourselves do. Just like, and more than, every good mother, Mary defends us from danger, she is concerned about us even when we are concentrated on our own things and lose a sense of the way, and when we put not only our health in danger, but also our salvation. Mary is there, praying for us, praying for those who do not pray. Because she is our Mother.

VATICAN: SALARIES OF CARDINALS AND DEPARTMENT HEADS CUT DUE TO COVID CRISIS

The salaries of Cardinals will be reduced by 10%, department heads and secretaries by 8%, clergy and religious by 3%. A two-year freeze in automatic seniority increases will affect all employees from pay grade level 4 on up.

By Vatican News

“A sustainable economic future requires today, among other decisions, adopting measures that also concern employee salaries.”

These words open the motu proprio in which Pope Francis has decided to cut proportionally and indefinitely the salaries of Cardinals (10%), department heads and secretaries (8%), and all priests and religious in service at the Holy See (3%). All employees will have automatic seniority pay increases frozen until 2023, except for lay employees with pay grade levels one to three.

The Pope wants to ensure that employees not be laid off. However, as costs must be contained, he has decided to act “according to criteria of proportionality and progressivity” with some adjustments regarding especially clergy, religious, and those with higher pay grade levels. According to the motu proprio, the pope’s decision is motivated by “the deficit over the years affecting the financial management of the Holy See”, and above all the situation caused by the pandemic, “that has negatively influenced all sources of income for the Holy See and Vatican City State.” The provisions are intended to contribute, along with other measures, to assuring a sustainable financial future for the mission of the central offices of the Church.

Given this situation, beginning on 1 April 2021, the remuneration “given by the Holy See to Cardinals is reduced” by 10%. Salaries regulated by law with pay grade levels C and C1 – that is, department heads and secretaries of dicasteries – will be reduced by 8% and affect employees of the Holy See, Vatican City, and other associated institutions. The reduction of 3% applies to clergy and religious employees – that is all non-lay personnel – with pay grade level C2 up to first level. The reductions noted here will not be applied in exceptional cases where health expenses are involved.

Another measure touches all employees in service at the Holy See, Vatican City, and other associated institutions, as well as the superiors noted previously. Automatic biennial pay raises associated with seniority will be frozen from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023. However, this will only affect lay employees with pay grade level four and above, and not those with the lowest salaries.

These measures will be applied also by the Vicariate of Rome; the Chapters of the Papal Basilicas of Saint Peter, Saint John Lateran and Saint Mary Major; the Fabbrica di San Pietro; and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

The full text of the Motu proprio, in the original Italian, can be found in the Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office.

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, WEDNESDAY: SAN MARCELLO

(www.pnac.org) – As he lay dying in the stables to which he had been condemned to labor, the aged Pope Marcellus I would hardly have imagined that this church in his name would one day stand on this site.  Elected in 308, he was faced almost immediately with the issue of the re-admittance to communion of those who had denied the faith in the persecutions, to which issue he responded by upholding the traditional period of penance.

Arrested some months later, he was made to work in the imperial stables just off of the main road that is now the Via del Corso.  Some traditions say that this had been the location of an oratory consecrated by him, turned into stables by the Romans to humiliate him and the Church.  After suffering in the difficult labor, he would die shortly thereafter.

Another tradition relates that he was sent into exile after his arrest, dying there sometime later, although his relics were returned to Rome.  In the late fourth and early fifth century, the first church was built here in his honor as part of a program to replace house churches with larger structures.  This would soon enter into history for the dubious honor of being the seat of the antipope Boniface in 418, a role it would again serve in the early twelfth century when another antipope occupied the church.

A baptismal font, built sometime soon after the fifth century, was present here, whose remains were discovered in 1912.  This marks the church as being of some significance, since the ordinary place of baptism was still the Lateran.  Adrian I undertook repairs here in the late eighth century, and sometime in the early twelfth century the church was completely demolished and replaced with a new one.

However, a fire on May 23, 1519 would cut the life of this church short, with the most significant survivor of the disaster being a crucifix, now venerated in a side chapel.**  Beginning in 1525 and continuing for the next 70 years, the work of reconstruction took place, with the orientation of the church being reversed to that the façade faced the Via del Corso.  The later years of the seventeenth century would see some final modifications to the site, as the Romanesque campanile was demolished and the current façade, designed by Carlo Fontana, was constructed.  The interior was restored in the 1860s, and it is in this form that the building comes down to us today. (Address: Piazza San Marcello (via del Corso), 5)

**The celebrated crucifix is one you saw many times last year, especially in Holy Week and at Easter, for ceremonies and liturgies by Pope Francis.

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER AT THE VATICAN – POPE: SAINT ALPHONSUS, A TEACHER OF MERCY FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE LEAST – LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, TUESDAY: SANTA MARIA IN VIA LATA

In the event you missed this terrific EWTN report on the feast of St. Joseph, enjoy it now: (2) The Miracle at the Church of St. Joseph the Carpenter in Rome | EWTN News Nightly – YouTube

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER AT THE VATICAN

Holy See Press Office director Matteo Bruni announced Tuesday that Pope Francis has entrusted the preparation of the meditations for the Via Crucis on Good Friday, April 2, 2021 to the Agesci Scout Group Foligno I (Umbria) and to the Roman Parish of Santi Martiri in Uganda. The images that will accompany the different stations will be drawings made by children and youths of the “Mater Divini Amoris” Family Home and the “Tetto Casal Fattoria” Family Home.

The press office also noted that the celebration of World Youth Day at the diocesan level will not take place, as usual, on Palm Sunday but will take place on Sunday, November 21, 2021, Solemnity of Christ the King.

The Vatican Holy Week and Easter schedule indicated a Good Friday event to be celebrated in St. Peter’s Square, starting at 9pm Rome time, but had no specific information regarding the presence of faithful, etc. Updates will be posted as they arrive.

All of Italy will be on a zone red lockdown for three days, April 3,4 and 5.

Holy Week liturgies and Masses are scheduled to be held in St. Peter’s Basilica, including Palm Sunday Mass at 10:30 am (Rome time), Holy Thursday Chrism Mass (10 am), Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper (6pm, presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re), Good Friday celebration of the Passion (6 pm), Holy Saturday Easter vigil (7:30 pm) and Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing and greeting (10am).

The Easter vigil mass, as I write, is set to have a limited number of faithful and is scheduled for 7:30pm so that the faithful can be home by the curfew that starts at 10 pm.

The weekly general audiences of March 31 and April 7 will be live-streamed from the papal library, as will the Regina Coeli on Easter Monday, April 5.

THE POPE: SAINT ALPHONSUS, A TEACHER OF MERCY FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE LEAST

Pope Francis sends a message on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori as a Doctor of the Church.

By Vatican News staff reporter

In a message to the Rev. Fr. Michael Brehl, C.Ss.R., Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists) and Moderator General of the Alphonsian Academy, Pope Francis writes that 150 years on from this “joyous anniversary,” the example of Saint Alfonsus “vigorously indicates the main road to bring consciences closer to the welcoming face of the Father, because the salvation that God offers us is the work of his mercy.”

Advocate of the most vulnerable

The Pope notes that this Doctor of the Church was a “listener,” a teacher of mercy and a person who welcomed “the fragility of the most spiritually abandoned men and women.”

Allowing himself to be challenged by life itself, says the Pope, Saint Alphonsus was also an “advocate of the least, the fragile and those discarded by the society of his time.”

The path this Saint chose to tread, writes Pope Francis, led him to placing himself at the service of consciences that seek the way of goodness because of a faithful response to the call to God’s holiness.

Moral Theologians

Following the example of Alphonsus, the Pope invites moral theologians, missionaries and confessors to enter into a living relationship with God’s people and to look at life from their perspective “in order to understand the real difficulties they encounter and to help heal their wounds.”

Looking again at the example of Saint Alphonsus, the renewer of moral theology, the Pope emphasizes that it is necessary to “accompany and support those most deprived of spiritual help on the path to redemption.”

vangelical radicalism should not be set against human weakness,” he stresses, adding that  “it is always necessary to find a way that does not alienate, but brings hearts closer to God, just as Alphonsus did with his spiritual and moral teaching.”

Promoting a moral maturity

Like this great Saint, writes the Pope, “we are called to go out to meet people as an apostolic community that follows the Redeemer among the abandoned.”

He goes on to say that this “going out to meet those who lack spiritual assistance, helps to overcome individualistic ethics and to promote a moral maturity capable of choosing true good.”

By forming responsible and merciful consciences, he says, “we will have an adult Church capable of responding constructively to social fragilities, in view of the kingdom of heaven.”

Challenges in society today

n the message, Pope Francis highlights the innumerable challenges society faces including the pandemic and work in the post-Covid world, the care to be provided to all, the defense of life, the input that come to us from artificial intelligence, the safeguarding of creation, the anti-democratic threat and the urgency of brotherhood.

“Woe to us if, in this evangelizing effort, we separate the “cry of the poor” from the “cry of the earth,” he writes.

Moral theological reflection and pastoral action

Concluding his message, Pope Francis issues an invitation “to go out to meet the fragile brothers and sisters of our society.”

“This involves the development of moral theological reflection and pastoral action”, he says, “capable of committing oneself to the common good, which has its root in the proclamation of the kerygma, which has a firm word in defense of life, towards creation and towards brotherhood.”

LENTEN STATION CHURCHES, WEEK FIVE, TUESDAY: SANTA MARIA IN VIA LATA

(pnac.org) If we had stood in front of this church two millennia ago looking out on the Via del Corso, a parade of history would have passed before us: not only Caesar coming into the city after crossing the Rubicon and Constantine after his victory as Milvian Bridge, but also a continuous stream of ordinary folk, among whom may well have been the great Apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul.  Tradition holds that he stayed here for part of his time in Rome.

Archeologists have found remains dating back to the first century A.D. beneath the church, possibly being part of the actual house in which St. Paul stayed.  In the third century, a large outdoor portico with several small shops was built on this site, running from here up as far as Piazza Venezia.  At some point after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, some of this structure was converted into a diaconia, part of which was a small oratory.  This transformation happened possibly as early as the late fifth or sixth century.  Some rooms from this oratory remain underneath the present church, and in these are fragments of frescoes depicting various Christian scenes, including some of the imprisonment of St. Paul.

Some centuries later the diaconia was replaced by a church, consecrated in 1049.  This church had the opposite orientation as the current one, with the sanctuary being closer to the Via del Corso, also known as the Via Lata or “wide street” because this was one of the largest streets in the city at the time.  Around this time, this church became used for the stational Mass of today, as the assigned station, St. Cyricaus, had by then fallen into ruin.

At the end of the fifteenth century, this church was in turn replaced with the current one. Demolition began in 1491 and the new church, with the orientation changed so that it faced the Via del Corso, was dedicated in 1506.  At this time the Triumphal Arch of Diocletian was also demolished, which once stood near the current location of the front doors of the church.

The present church owes most of its appearance to the mid-seventeenth century.  Beginning in 1636 and continuing over the next 15 years, the interior was renovated, beginning with the apse and sanctuary and continuing with the nave.  The current façade, complementing the surrounding palace of the Doria-Pamphilij family, was built between 1658 and 1662, with the lower church, including some of the remains of the old diaconia, being restored at the same time.  Decoration continued into the early eighteenth century, giving us the current appearance.   (Address: via del Corso, 306). Santa Maria In Via Lata – Musei Gallerie Siti Archeologici Roma (romartguide.it)