I want to send greetings to Bishop Steven Lopes and all my friends in Texas who are members of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter as they celebrate their feast day tomorrow. Bishop Lopes, who worked years ago at the CDF, is the ordinary of this ordinariate. Auguri!
VATICAN INSIDER: BISHOP STEPHEN BERG OF PUEBLO
What a special guest I have for you this week, Bishop Stephen Berg of Pueblo. He has one of the more amazing stories of the many bishops I know and have interviewed. For starters, he is the oldest of 10 children! To learn what he has his Bachelor and Master’s degrees in will surprise you but you have to listen to the interview. What he did after teaching his beloved subject at a county college for a while will surprise you even more!
Bishop Berg entered the seminary in 1993 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, now the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.
He tells us about his education and degrees, his early years as a priest, the special projects in his diocese, and his ad limina visit to Rome with the bishops of Region XIII, that is, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Montana and Utah. Also some interesting comments (what he could tell us!) about the bishops’ audience with Pope Francis.
I was blessed to have Bishop Berg to my home for dinner with 4 members of his staff, as you can see in these photos. One of the pictures was taken at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls basilica when, after Mass, the bishops descended into the confessio to pray at the tomb of St. Paul.
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THE CHURCH MARKS THE FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF PETER
February 22 is the feast of the Chair of Peter and great honor is paid to the first Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica on this day every year.
I try to go to St. Peter’s Basilica every year on this day as I find this such a special feast and celebration. If you are in Rome tomorrow, try to go to the basilica to see our first Pope dressed in his feast day finery.
A number of years ago, while working for the Vatican Information Service, I wanted to do a story on the Chair of Peter. To learn the history and background of this celebration, I interviewed several people in the Vatican, one of whom, Msgr. Michele Maccarrone, was an expert on the Chair of Peter. In fact, he gave me one of the few remaining copies of a 1985 issue of the Italian periodical, “Rivista di Storia della Chiesa in Italia,” (Review of Church History in Italy) entirely dedicated to “The Chair of Peter, From Symbol to Relic.” He wrote part of that article and the footnotes make reference to his other works on the Chair of Peter.
What follows is from his story –
The special feast of the “cathedra” or Chair of St. Peter dates to the fourth century and honors and celebrates the primacy and authority of St. Peter. The word “cathedra” means seat or throne and is the root of the word cathedral, the church where a bishop has his seat from which he preaches and teaches.
A mixture of tradition, legend and belief held for many years that this was actually a double chair, parts of which dated back to the early days of Christianity and to St. Peter himself. This chair or cathedra has been studied over the centuries and the last time it was removed from its niche in the Bernini altar was a six-year period from 1968 to 1974 where studies pointed to a single chair whose oldest parts date to the sixth century. What appeared to be an outer or second chair was a covering that served both to protect the throne and to carry it in procession.
The Chair of St. Peter is actually a throne that Charles the Bald, the grandson of the Emperor Charlemagne, gave to Pope John VIII at the former’s coronation as emperor on Christmas Day 875. For many years the chair was used at liturgical events by Pope John and his successors: it was ensconced in Bernini’s Altar of the Chair in 1666.
Bernini’s masterful Altar of the Cathedra was executed between 1658 and 1666. A bronze throne, which encases the Chair of Peter, dominates the apse, above the marble altar. It is supported by four statues of bishops: two Fathers of the Latin Church, Sts. Ambrose and Augustine, and two from the Greek Church, Sts. Athanasius and John Chrysostom.
Above them, in the midst of gilt clouds, flights of angels and rays of sun is the Holy Spirit, illuminated by a stained glass window.
Notwithstanding its appearance of lightness and harmony, records show that more than 120 tons of bronze were used for this breathtaking monument. This altar is today still used for numerous liturgical celebrations.
What is so special about this feast day is that the Altar of the Chair is aglow for this one day a year with scores and scores of candles.
In addition, this is one of two days every year when the statue of a seated St. Peter, on the right side of the main aisle, is robed in ecclesiastical finery, including papal vestments, the triple tiara and a papal ring. The other day you may see St. Peter robes in this manner is June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, patrons of Rome.