VATICAN INSIDER VISITS THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS – THE STORY BEHIND THE HOLY DOOR OF ST. PETER’S BASILICA

Monday, November 21, the Vatican will publish an Apostolic Letter by Pope Francis on the occasion of the closing of the Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. The Letter’s title is “Mercy and Misery.”

VATICAN INSIDER VISITS THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS

This weekend, as the Church welcome 17 new cardinals, 13 of whom are under the age of 80 and will be among the 121 cardinal electors in a future conclave, I take you inside the College of Cardinals on “Vatican Insider.” What is a cardinal? How are they chosen? What are their duties? What does the College do as a whole? When was it founded? And so on….(photo: news.va 2015 consistory)

red-hats-at-2015-consistory

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider 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. If you live 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 9:00 am (Eastern time). 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 FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

THE STORY BEHIND THE HOLY DOOR OF ST. PETER’S BASILICA

As you know, Pope Francis will close the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica this Sunday, thus officially ending the Jubilee of Mercy that began last December 8th. This Holy Door is always the first to be opened and the last to be closed. This photo shows Francis opening that door last December:

st-peter-holy-door

St. Peter’s Holy Door was donated by Swiss Catholics to Pope Pius XII (1939-58) for the 1950 Holy Year. Designed by Siena artist Vico Consorti, and inaugurated on December 24, 1949, it has 16 panels, 15 of which depict scenes from the Old and New Testament. The last panel shows Pius XII opening this door.

Pilgrims entering the various Holy Doors are not really allowed ample time to explore the door itself, its symbolism and artistry or to touch part of it or even to say a prayer. Therefore, if you click here, you’ll be able to see those individual panels and read a brief explanation: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Interior/HolyDoor/Panels/HD-panels.htm

Here is a link to a piece by Vatican Radio’s Veronica Scarisbrick on the foundry that produced these panels. Veronica has just retired but Vatican Radio re-aired this story, noting that it was the grandson of the original foundry owner, Ferdinando Marinelli who invited her to visit the family foundry.

She met him in Florence, says the Vatican Radio account, at his window on the world, an enchanting gallery on the banks of the River Arno seething with a myriad of bronze statues from different eras. Among them the impressive ‘Giambologna Neptune’, who seems to greet you as you enter.

And it was by this towering statue that Ferdinando Marinelli greeted her, ready to drive across the Tuscan countryside to his foundry which lies on the way to Siena, Vico Consorti’s city.

She was eager to visit his foundry and aware it was not the one where the Holy Door was cast by his grandfather but another more recent one. She knew too that Ferdinando Marinelli was sure to treasure that age old rapport of his foundry with the Vatican despite the more modern outreach he now enjoys right across the world. No surprise as for centuries the Church and the world of art have enjoyed an extremely prolific love affair.

Click here to catch a glimpse of Veronica Scarisbrick’s tour at the foundry http://www.fonderiamarinelli.it/

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“COME UNTO ME, ALL YOU THAT LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST”

Every so often my friend Trip McKinney in Hawaii sends me homilies or letters or other missives written by Fr. George W. Rutler, pastor of St. Michael’s Church in New York City, and a prolific author. Trip usually sends a small group of people beautiful weekly reflections on the upcoming Gospel, along with carefully selected art work that further explains or amplifies the Gospel message and, on occasion, Fr. Rutler’s words..

I was especially struck by Fr. Rutler’s message for today, November 6, as it focuses on both the restoration of an important, beautiful and historic crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica and our election, and you will see how he links the two. In his email, Trip also included a link to the CNS story on the restoration and unveiling of this work of art and I offer that as well for your reflection.

If you do not know the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica, this is a must on your next visit. It is not on the “tourist” agenda for the basilica as it is a place reserved for quiet prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament that is exposed all day long, starting immediately after the 8:30 daily Mass. Heavy drapes are drawn across the doors to the chapel and only people intending to pray are allowed inside. Basilica staff sees to it that this carefully adhered to.

I might add here a piece of advice I give to visitors to Rome, advice that you can read in my book, “A Holy Year in Rome.” St. Peter’s opens in the morning at 7 am and is reserved for the next two hours for Masses in any and all of its chapels. If you want to see St. Peter’s Basilica before it is filled with throngs of tourists, go to the 8:30 Mass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and when you come out, you will see only the faithful who attended Mass, some priests as they exit the sacristy and altar servers as they end their morning and return to the Pius X School in the Vatican. The basilica is quiet and almost empty and very special – at least for a short while before the doors are opened to visitors at 9 am.

“COME UNTO ME, ALL YOU THAT LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST”

Today a long-forgotten crucifix will be placed once again in the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. It will hang in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel near Bernini’s great tabernacle. Bernini himself would have admired the work of the anonymous artist, for its mediaeval style anticipated the spirit of the more exuberant baroque.

The crucifix was carved seven hundred years ago and was the object of devotion in the original Constantinian basilica built in the fourth century. The torso and legs are seven feet long and are in one piece made from the trunk of a walnut tree. It was placed in the new basilica in 1626 and survived many vicissitudes, including the Sack of Rome when the invaders used the old basilica as a horse stable and mockingly vested the corpus in one of their uniforms.

Gradually, it was forgotten after it was removed to make room for Michelangelo’s Pietà and ended up in a remote and virtually unreachable chapel. High technology has restored it, as it suffered discoloration and termite damage. The sort of stereo microscopes used in microsurgery identified the many layers of paint and varnish before they were meticulously removed.

The outstretched arms are six-and-a-half-feet wide. Even if the Lord had not been nailed to the cross, his arms would be open to all who approach him, as they were when he ascended into glory. “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Our nation is weary, and the ennui is especially taxing and belabored by a long election campaign. Events have forced us to examine the condition of our culture, and how much we have ignored Christ’s call to come to him. The degradation of our institutions, reflected tellingly even in the way people dress and speak, is palpable and has taken its toll on our schools and governments and even our churches. This is a time, rarely matched in our national annals, for choosing between conversion and tragedy. To choose the tragic path is to mock our Lord, and our demoralized culture is already well on its way to masquerading Christ Crucified in comic vestments.

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, to this very week, Bishop John Carroll penned a prayer for the new nation. As the first bishop in the United States, cousin of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and an esteemed friend of many Founding Fathers, he stood on a terrain high enough to survey the looming dangers and salutary prospects of the day, as he prayed for a government “encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality.” Our perspective is the same today, only with more souls both at risk and offered benevolent promise.

Here is the CNS story with photos on this restored crucifix:

http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/medieval-crucifix-st-peters-basilica-resurrected-from-obscurity.cfm

 

ST. PADRE PIO, “A SERVANT OF MERCY”

Enjoy another moment of the ever surprising Roman Pontiff! https://youtu.be/vGrYRJbmAcU

FYI: Pope Francis’ morning Masses in the Santa Marta residence will resume on February 22. Tomorrow, in St. Peter’s Basilica, he will celebrate Mass for Franciscans who came to Rome to venerate Saints Pio and Leopold.

I have a good story to tell about TSA. There have been negative ones about this DHS (Department of Homeland Security) agency, but I’d like to tell you the good news about what happened to me last week.

My January 30 Delta flight from Rome to NYC (then to Chicago, and on to Houston the following morning) was a bit late arriving at JFK and we could not get off the plane until the paramedics boarded and accompanied a passenger who was ill off the plane. We deplaned at 5:30 and my flight to Chicago was 6:30 – but I still had to go through passport control, get my luggage, pass customs and go through security! Passport and luggage went rather smoothly and fairly quickly. Security was on the first floor but the lines were so long we were redirected to fourth floor security.

So up several escalators, get in line, place things in the bins etc. It is now 6:10. I asked an attendant if I’d make my 6:30 flight and he put me in front of several people. I had to remove my shoes and a sweater (technically my last birthday qualified me for leaving shoes and jackets on). I went through, hurriedly retrieved everything and then had to board a minibus to be taken to my gate! I arrive at Gate 48B at 6:25, ran to Gate 43B and and was told the plane had closed its door! However, one staff member said that catering was late, so perhaps the door was still open. She called the pilot – the door was open! I was taken outside, across a small tarmac (accompanied by several people) and climbed the dozen or so steps to the small plane.

Breathless, I sat down, took off my coat and realized I had left my very beautiful sweater jacket in security! I described it for the flight attendant, wrote down my name and US cell number, the pilot called 4th floor security and they said they had an item that resembled mine and I should call TSA when I got to Chicago.

TSA offices were closed when I got to Chicago but officials there gave me a few numbers, which I called the next morning and was given an email address and told that was the best and fastest way to communicate. TSA has a great website and I wrote several emails and when I heard nothing (a watched pot never boils) I contacted TSA’s media office. That got a response! I got an email asking me to identify the object, which I did, adding that I had a pin in the shape of an angel with a pearl on the right lapel. That was the kicker to identify the sweater. I always have my guardian angel when I travel!

TSA will get your item back to you within 7 days: you either have to go to a physical address they give you or set up a Fedex account and send that acount number and other information – such as to whom should the item be sent – back to TSA.

Those with whom I corresponded were very pleasant and enormously helpful. I cannot even fathom how many items must be left in security that they have to get back to people! Special procedures have to be followed if the missing item is a computer, however.

Almost the end of the tale: Two nights ago I had dinner with my friend Vivianna at La Vittoria. She came with a friend, a Delta flight attendant, Anita. I told Anita my story and she said she’d bring the sweater to me in Rome next weekend – just have TSA send it to her home!

Shakespeare said it best: “All’s well that ends well” (Maybe I should write that when I have sweater in hand!)

Speaking of miracles….the real ones….

PADRE PIO, “A SERVANT OF MERCY”

What an amazing weekend it was in Rome! Lots of news but the really big story was the arrival Friday in Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica of the relics – the actual remains – of Saints Padre Pio and Leopold Mandic, two Franciscans known for their extraordinary dedication to hearing confessions.

Saturday, before 80,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis greeted members of the numerous Padre Pio Prayer Groups that had come from throughout the world to venerate the relics of the revered Italian saint. In fact, a number of groups were on my flight back to Rome from Houston.

PADRE PIO PRAYER GROUPS

Saint Padre Pio was an Italian Capuchin friar and St. Leopold Mandic, also a tireless confessor, was from Croatia.

It was Padre Pio himself who, in the mid-20th century, founded these prayer groups that are now in every region of Italy as well as in many countries around the world. The Holy Father thanked those present in the square Saturday and had very beautiful words about man they love and venerate.

“We can say,” began Francis, “that Padre Pio was precisely a servant of mercy. He was full-time, serving sometimes to the point of exhaustion, ‘the apostleship of listening’. He became, through the ministry of Confession, the living caress of the Father, who heals the wounds of sin and revives the heart with peace. St. Padre Pio never tired of welcoming people and listening to them, spending time and energy in order to spread the perfume of the forgiveness of the Lord. He could do this because he was always connected to the source: he ceaselessly quenched his thirst with Jesus Crucified, and thus became a channel of mercy. He bore in his heart many people and many sufferings, uniting all to the love of Christ who gave himself ‘to the end’. He lived the great mystery of sorrow offered up for love. In this way his little drop became a great river of mercy, which brought water to the deserts of the heart and created oases of life in so many parts of the world.”

PADRE PIO

The Pope noted that St. Padre Pio called the prayer groups “’nurseries of the faith, cradles of love’; they were not just centers for happy gatherings of friends and for support, but cradles of divine love. This is what prayer groups are! Prayer, in fact, is a true and proper mission that bears the fire of love to the whole of humanity. Padre Pio said that prayer is a ‘force that moves the world’. Prayer is a force that moves the world! Do we believe this? Because it is! Try it! It spreads the smile and the blessing of God over every languor and weakness.”

VATICAN INSIDER AND A TULSA PASTOR – FRANCIS ASKS: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE WORD ‘LOVE’ MEANS? – EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT TO CHRISTIAN: WE WILL REBUILD YOUR TORCHED CHURCHES – AMBASSADOR LAYS WREATH AT TOMB OF STUARTS IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

There were no public engagements on Pope Francis’ agenda today but there are a number of interesting stories to report: a beautiful papal homily on the true meaning of love, a good news story from Egypt about Christians and a special moment for the British Ambassador to the Holy See and invited guests at a special wreath-laying ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica.

VATICAN INSIDER AND A TULSA PASTOR

In this week’s interview segment, you will meet Msgr. Dan Mueggenborg, pastor since 2011 at Christ the King parish in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We became friends during the six years that he was in Rome at the North American College as vice rector and director of admissions. Over the years we broke bread together many times, at NAC and at my home and recently we met serendipitously at a favorite restaurant when he arrived in Rome for a visit. I asked Msgr. Dan about life in a parish and the conversation was riveting and I asked him to tell his story. So be sure to tune in this week for an inspiring conversation.

DAN MUEGGENBORG

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live 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 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

FRANCIS ASKS: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE WORD ‘LOVE’ MEANS?

This morning, in his homily during morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel reading from the letter of John the Apostle, and meditated on the different meanings of the word ‘love’ , emphasizing that the two most important commandments for a Christian are to love God and our neighbor.

Vatican Radio records the morning papal homilies and transcribves them for the news.va website. Today’s was the second daily Mass since the end of the Christmas break on the January 6 feast of the Epiphany.

“This word ‘love’,” said the Holy Father, “is a word that is used so many times and when we use it we don’t know exactly what it means. What is love? Sometimes we can think of the love in the soap operas but that doesn’t appear to be love. Or else love can seem like having a crush on a person but then it fades away. Where does true love come from? Whoever loves has been created by God because God is love. Don’t say: ‘Every love is God,’ No, God is love.”

The Pope said the Apostle John underlines how God loves us first and there are many examples of this in the Gospel, such as during the multiplication of the loaves of bread by Jesus or in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

“When we have something on our mind and we want to ask God to forgive us, it’s He who is waiting for us – to forgive us.  This Jubilee Year of Mercy, to some extent, is also this: that we may know that our Lord is waiting for us, each one of us.  Why? To embrace us.  Nothing more.  To say to us: son, daughter, I love you. I let my Son be crucified for you: this is the price of my love, this is the gift of my love.”

Pope Francis went on to stress how “the Lord is waiting for me, the Lord wants me to open the door of my heart” and we must have this certainty that He will wait for us just as we are and not as we are told to be.

“We must go to the Lord and say: ‘You know, Lord, how much I love you.’ Or, if you don’t feel able to say it in that way: ‘You know, Lord, that I would like to love you but I am such a bad sinner.’ And He will do the same as he did with the prodigal son who squandered all his money on vices: he won’t let you finish your speech and with an embrace will silence you. The embrace of God’s love.”

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT TO CHRISTIAN: WE WILL REBUILD YOUR TORCHED CHURCHES

The following is a story I read in the daily bulletin I receive via email from AINA, the Assyrian International News Agency. If you are an avid follower of events in the Middle East, as I am, this is a fascinating news site. Many stories are written by local journalists while others are written by members of the international media and carried by AINA.

Finally, a good news story from Egypt:

We Will Rebuild Your Torched Churches, Egyptian President Tells Christians – By Ruth Gledhill (http://www.christiantoday.com)

EGYPT CHURCHES

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi greets Christians during Egypt’s Coptic Christmas eve mass led by Pope Tawadros II, the 118th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, at St Mark’s Cathedral, in Cairo, Egypt.The president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has pledged to rebuild every single one of the dozens of churches, Christian institutions and homes destroyed during the last two years of anti-Christian violence in his troubled nation.

President al-Sisi, a Muslim who has spoken in the past of the need to “revolutionise” Islam, was addressing Christians during a Coptic Christmas Eve mass yesterday at St Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya. Mass was celebrated by the head of the church, Pope Tawadros II. Orthodox churches, which follow the traditional Julian calendar, mark Christmas two weeks later than the Western Christian churches which follow the Gregorian calendar.

Extremist Islamic groups are still influential in Egypt in spite of the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. Shortly after former President Morsi was ousted, there was an increase in violence against Coptic Christians and at least 65 churches, Christian bookshops, schools and convents were burned down, looted or destroyed, according to Open Doors.

President al-Sisi, who last year became the first Egyptian President to attend a Christmas mass, greeted the Coptic Christian community and, while emphasising the diversity of Egyptians, said that the way to overcome hardships was to remain united as a nation.

“On this occasion, I want to exhort you all, let no one come between us. Nothing can harm us, not our economic conditions or political conditions. Unless we diverge, we can overcome anything.”

He continued: “God Has created us different, in religion, manner, colour, language, habit, tradition, and no one can make us the all same.”

He admitted the government should have acted sooner to help the Christians.

“We have taken too long to fix and renovate churches that were burned. This year everything will be fixed. Please accept our apologies for what happened. God willing, by next year there won’t be a single church or house that is not restored.

“We will never forget the stance you and the Pope took during this period…thank you all. Merry Christmas.”

AMBASSADOR LAYS WREATH AT TOMB OF STUARTS IN ST. PETER’S BASILICA

This afternoon, having received permission from Queen Elizabeth, the British Ambassador to the Holy See Nigel Baker laid a wreath at the tomb of James Francis Edward Stuart at St. Peter’s Basilica, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his State funeral.

STUART TOMB

James Francis Edward Stuart was the son of King James II of England and Ireland, VII of Scotland and Queen Mary of Modena, explains a note from the British embassy. He was also known as “the Old Pretender” and claimed the throne as “James III of England and Ireland, VIII of Scotland.” He died in exile in Rome on January 1, 1766 and was given the unprecedented honor of a State funeral by the Pope on January 8 in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he lies. The Pope recognized him as King, but did not extend that title to his sons in tacit, and later explicit recognition of the Hanoverian succession.

James Francis Edward Stewart was the father of “Bonnie” Prince Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict, Cardinal York. Born at St James’s Palace, London, on June 10, 1688, he was taken into exile in December 1688 following the deposition of James II. He lived in the Palazzo Muti in Rome from 1719 until his death.

The commemoration ceremony consisted of a simple wreath-laying by Ambassador Baker and the reading of the Rite of Commendation (in Latin) by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and the singing of the Antiphon In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli.

The Stuart tomb at St. Peter’s was restored in the 1940’s, including with money donated by Queen Elizabeth (wife of George VI). In 2012, the Duke of Gloucester unveiled a restored coat of arms of Cardinal York at the Pontifical Scots College, and viewed the original Stuart gravestones which were transferred there in the 1940s.

(FYI: http://stpetersbasilica.info/Grottoes/Stuarts/Tomb%20of%20the%20Stuarts.htm)

ST. PETER’S BASILICA TO BE DARK TONIGHT FOR “EARTH HOUR” – THE WHERE, WHAT AND WHY OF EARTH HOUR

ST. PETER’S BASILICA TO BE DARK TONIGHT FOR “EARTH HOUR”

(Vatican Radio) St Peter’s Basilica will go dark for one hour Saturday evening, joining once again the international “Earth Hour” effort to raise awareness about climate change.

The annual initiative, which began in 2007, invites cities around the world to turn off the lights on their national monuments and public buildings, as well as in offices, shops and homes, to help raise awareness about the need to adopt more environmentally sound practices.

Earth Hour is being observed 28 March in major cities across the world, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30, local time in each country. This year in Rome, the Great Synagogue and the Great Mosque will join the initiative for the first time.

THE WHERE, WHAT AND WHY OF EARTH HOUR

The Los Angeles Times gives this background on Earth Hour:

Earth Hour 2015 will happen at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, when landmarks, hotels, universities, buildings and individuals shut off their lights to raise awareness of climate change. It’s an

The World Wildlife Fund organizes the annual event, which started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. The organization reports that 7,000 cities, 1,200 landmarks and 172 countries and territories will go dark this year.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and Times Square in New York City are among the landmarks that plan to participate. You can stay home and turn out the lights or go to these events and places.

Las Vegas: Casinos and hotels on the Strip will power down their exterior lighting and marquees, leaving one of the world’s most famous roadways in darkness.

Los Angeles: The blue glow of Staples Center, Pacific Park’s Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier and the colorful pylons at Los Angeles International Airport will go dark.

San Francisco: Ghirardelli Square is dousing the lights and throwing a #GoDark Earth Hour Party from 6 to 9:30 p.m. It’s a dark chocolate (get it?) tasting party too. The Golden Gate Bridge and Transamerica Pyramid building will cut the lights too.

Ritz-Carlton and Hilton hotels: Some hotels around the world will switch off non-essential lights at all properties and organize events too. The Ritz-Carlton says in a statement that its hotel in Dubai’s International Financial Center will host “Stories by Candlelight” for kids while guests at the Istanbul Ritz-Carlton will be treated to a traditional Turkish shadow play in the lobby.

Hilton hotels are participating too. The Conrad Macao, Cotai Central will turn off external lights, dim indoor lights in restaurants and lounges, and create a 280-candle display of the Earth Hour logo in the lobby.

UNESCO sites: Thirty UNESCO World Heritage Sites will go dark, including the Acropolis in Athens, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Info: Find an event or location near you at http://www.earthhour.org/