POPE FRANCIS TO VISIT L’AQUILA IN AUGUST: IS THERE A MESSAGE IN HIS TRIP?
The Vatican today, in what I saw as a stunning announcement, said that “Pope Francis will make a pastoral visit to L’Aquila on 28 August for the annual ‘Celebration of Forgiveness’, held in the city in the central Italian region of Abruzzo which was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2009.” *
Several important things: August 28 is supposed to be the first of two days of meetings with the entire College of Cardinals, meetings announced by Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli on May 29, along with the names of the 21 men who will become cardinals on August 27.
The impression given was that the cardinals and the Pope together would discuss Praedicate Evangelium, the constitution on the Roman Curia, that tomorrow, June 5, Pentecost, goes into full effect. For now, we can only presume the Pope will attend the afternoon session of the day he goes to L’Aquila.
There is a rather important – and very interesting – fact that the Vatican story failed to mention, as I write below: In 1294, Celestine was elected Pope in the Catholic Church’s last non-conclave papal election, ending a two year impasse. Among the only surviving edicts he issued as Pope, was the confirmation of the right of the Pope to abdicate.
In fact, Pope Celestine V reigned for only five months from July 5 to December 13, 1294 when he resigned. His tomb is in the Basilica of Santa Maria de Collemaggio in L’Aquila. Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at 10 am on August 28 on the forecourt of the basilica.
Only one Pope has resigned in the 719 years since 1294: Benedict XVI.
In fact, he announced on February 11, 2013 that he would resign the papacy just weeks later on February 28. He visited Celestine’s tomb in 2009 and left his pallium on the saint’s tomb. (see video below).
St. Celestine V, was born Pietro Angelerio. He was a monk and hermit who founded the Order of the Celestines. In 1294, he was elected Pope in the Catholic Church’s last non-conclave papal election, ending a two year impasse.** Among the only surviving edicts he issued as Pope, was the confirmation of the right of the Pope to abdicate. All of his other official acts were annulled by his successor, Pope Boniface VIII. Celestine resigned stating his desire to return to his humble, pre-papal life. On December 13, 1294, he announced his resignation. He was then imprisoned by Pope Boniface VIII, in the castle of Fumone in the Campagna region, where he died after nine months of being held prisoner. He was canonized in 1313, and no other Pope has taken the name “Celestine”. (Saint Celestine V | Newman Ministry)
On April 29, 2009, after the earthquake, Benedict XVI stopped off in L’Aquila, Italy, and visited the tomb of a medieval Pope named St. Celestine V (1215-1296). After a brief prayer, he left his pallium, the symbol of his own episcopal authority as Bishop of Rome, on top of Celestine’s tomb. (13) April 2009, symbolic gesture? Pope Benedict XVI leaving his pallium at the tomb of Pope Celestine V – YouTube
After a mere five months in office, Celestine V issued a solemn decree declaring it permissible for a pope to resign and then promptly did so himself, citing “the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life”.
Yesterday, the Vatican published the liturgical and travel agenda for Pope Francis for June and July: Saturday, June 25, at 5:15, Mass to conclude the World Meeting of Families in St. Peter’s Square: Wednesday, June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, at 9:30 in St. Peter’s Basilica, Mass and blessing of the palliums to be given to new metropolitan archbishops. The Pope will travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan July 2 to 7 and to Canada from July 24 to 30.
With his ongoing knee problem, one can only deduce that a number of alterations to the travel schedule will have to be made, given that the Pope has, for the past month, been confined to a wheel chair. He was first seen publicly in a wheel chair on May 5. No further word of medical treatment for that knee problem has been given by the press office.
Is there more we should know?
* Full details here: Pope to make brief visit to Italian city of L’Aquila in August – Vatican News
** elected (in Perugia 2 years and 3 months after the death of Nicholas IV)