A SAILOR, AN OBELISK AND A PAPAL PROMISE

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 of 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.

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.

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 ropes, water on the ropes.” The head engineer realized the sailor was right, the ropes 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 him by giving Benedetto 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.

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. (photos from Cosa sono i Parmureli? – Sanremofiorita)

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. (Vatican photo 2022)

Many years ago, when the parmureli arrived by sea, the ship that carried them placed one of the palm leaf sculptures on the mast that usually displayed a flag. The palm “flag” thus gave that vessel from San Remo-Bordighera precedence into the port over all other vessels.

This is one of my favorite stories to tell young children (have photos handy) and teens and everyone who visits Rome.

I also did a “Joan’s Rome” video with this story: Joan’s Rome – St. Peter’s Square Obelisk – YouTube

VATICAN INSIDER: TWO PRIESTS, TWO BROTHERS, TWO TALES OF PRIESTHOOD – CARDINAL PAROLIN: AVOID ESCALATION IN UKRAINE, BUCHA CIVILIAN MASSACRE “INEXPLICABLE” – FLORISTS, GARDENERS AND TECHNICAL WORKERS TO BEAUTIFY ST. PETER’S SQUARE FOR EASTER

VATICAN INSIDER: TWO PRIESTS, TWO BROTHERS, TWO TALES OF PRIESTHOOD

My guests this week in the interview segment of Vatican Insider are two of my dearest friends, two priests, two brothers, native Chicagoans, who are both in Rome at the same time: Msgr. Michael Boland, a consultant to Catholic Charities USA following 30 magnificent years as head of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese of Chicago, and his brother Fr. Jeremiah Boland, pastor of a parish I know and love, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glenview, Illinois. Fr. Jerry is in Rome on sabbatical at the North American College’s Institute of Continuing Theological Education.

They both recently celebrated anniversaries of their priesthood : Fr. Jerry 40 years, Msgr Michael, 35.

They are two of my most cherished friends and, as I note in our conversation, there are two things that bind us in friendship: celebration of the Eucharist, Mass, and meals! I know you will hear that friendship when we talk!

I forgot to take a photo while they were in my office but here we are, breaking bread, after I conducted the interview (Fr. Jerry on the left; Msgr. Michael on the right)

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 searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.

CARDINAL PAROLIN: AVOID ESCALATION IN UKRAINE; BUCHA CIVILIAN MASSACRE “INEXPLICABLE” 

On the sidelines of an event at Vatican Radio, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin comments on the recent revelations of the massacre of civilians in Bucha, and confirms the possibility of a papal trip to Kyiv and a separate meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. Parolin: Avoid escalation in Ukraine, Bucha civilian massacre ‘inexplicable’ – Vatican News

FLORISTS, GARDENERS AND TECHNICAL WORKERS TO BEAUTIFY ST. PETER’S SQUARE FOR EASTER

You may recall that, in January, I published a piece about Dutch Florists who, for the first time in 35 years, would not be able to embellish St. Peter’s Square for Easter with thousands of flowers, plants, palm trees and shrubs: 35-YEAR TRADITION OF DUTCH FLOWERS IN THE VATICAN AT EASTER TO END  | Joan’s Rome (wordpress.com)

Well, it seems from a press release today from the Governorate of Vatican City State that there will still be some Dutch participation:

Continuing the Holy Week tradition of decorating St. Peter’s Square with hundreds of floral compositions and decorations, workers from the Infrastructure and Services Service of the Governorate of Vatican City State will prepare the altar area of the square, working alongside those who have offered plants and flowers. In particular, on Palm Sunday, April 10, olive branches provided by the National Association of the City of Olio, by the mayors of the City of Olio and the Lazio Region, and by the Caputo family of Taranto in the Puglia Region will be distributed.

The supply of “Phoenix palms” ** will be handled by the Supreme Pontiff’s Office for Liturgical Celebrations. Parmureli from the city of Sanremo will also be present.

The Flora Olanda wholesale floriculture company in Rome will lend large olive trees to be placed near the statues of Saints Peter and Paul at the foot of the churchyard. The floral decorations in St. Peter’s Square on the occasion of Holy Easter will be made thanks to the generous contribution of the florists and the professors of floristry of biotechnology of Naklo in Slovenia, with the collaboration of the Vatican gardeners who will work throughout Good Friday to prepare and finish the decorations by the next day.

** Phoenix canariensis is a species of flowering plant in the palm family, native to the Canary Islands

2021 VATICAN NATIVITY SCENE HAILS FROM THE ANDES

The Vatican’s Nativity Scene was inaugurated on December 10 and the adjacent Christmas tree was illuminated as well, albeit under a pouring rain. The actually inauguration ceremony took place in the Paul VI Hall.

I visited the square yesterday, the second full day of sunshine we’ve had in weeks! It was a joy to be in the square, to take the photos you will see below and to hear people’s joyful and positive comments, especially given the generally negative reception given last year’s nativity scene (remember how some of the characters looked like astronauts and others defied description!). The word heard most often yesterday was “bellissima!” – “very beautiful!”

The text below comes from several vaticannews articles.

2021 VATICAN NATIVITY SCENE HAILS FROM THE ANDES

This year’s Nativity Scene in St. Peter Square’s is a gift from Peru and comes from the Chopcca Nation, comprised of several communities located in the Huancavelica region in the highlands of the Andes mountains. The scene comprises more than 30 life-sized figurines in typical Andean costumes, made of ceramic, maguey wood and fibreglass, and features alpacas, vicunas and the Andean condor, Peru’s national symbol.

The figurines were created by 5 different artists belonging to the Chopcca Nation. Their name refers to a character that represents a “common ancestor”, and oral sources and accounts date the First Nation to times prior to the arrival of the Incas.

Pope Francis had announced the Andean origin of the 2021 Nativity Scene in October after praying the Angelus when he greeted a group of Peruvian pilgrims who were celebrating the feast of Señor de Los Milagros.

A universal call to Salvation

With its representation of a cross-section of the life of the peoples of the Andes, a Holy See Press Office communiqué explained that the Nativity Scene also celebrates 200 years from the independence of Peru, and symbolizes the universal call to Salvation.

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The life-sized figurines representing the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Three Kings and the shepherds are made of ceramic, maguey wood and fiberglass, and will be wearing traditional Chopcca costumes.

Baby Jesus has the appearance of a “Hilipuska” child, so-called because he is wrapped in a typical Huancavelica blanket tied with a “chumpi” or woven belt. The Three Kings are carrying traditional foods such as potatoes, quinoa, and other indigenous cereals, and they are accompanied by llamas with the Peruvian flag on their backs. The birth of the Savior is announced by an angel playing the Wajrapuco, the traditional Andean wind instrument. Indigenous animals such as alpacas, vicunas, and the Andean condor, Peru’s national symbol, are also featured.

The realization of the Andean Nativity Scene was born from the collaboration between the Episcopal Conference of Peru, the Diocese of Huancavelica, the Regional Government, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Embassy of Peru to the Holy See.

 

IS THIS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE?

IS THIS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ST. PETER’S SQUARE?

This is one of the most fascinating and also credible summaries I have read of what happened New Year’s Eve in St. Peter’s Square when a woman grabbed Pope Francis hand, would not let go, he slapped her wrist and then walked away with a provoked expression on his face.

There were no eyewitnesses who clearly heard, saw and understood everything that night so news reports to this point have been lacking that major element. Conjecture has been the main ingredient thus far.

A friend made me aware of this Facebook post and I read it with bated breath, She sent this to me because of my various news stories and posts about China, knowing full well I am mystified about the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with China over the appointment of bishops and that I sympathize with Chinese Catholics of the so-called “underground” who feel they have been betrayed by Rome.

You will understand what I just wrote in the previous paragraph as soon as you click on and start reading this link. And you will understand why the Holy Father’s expression last December 31 was seemingly one of anger or deep frustration.

From the Thursday, January 9 blogspot Clay Testament: “Why destroy their faith?”: What the Asian woman said to Pope Francis before he slapped her –

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fclaytestament.blogspot.com%2F2020%2F01%2Fwhy-destroy-their-faith-what-asian.html%3Fm%3D1%26fbclid%3DIwAR22OCxP45pvLZvJFwUAHqohwDCbAcAKt6eFsfRFEMucZ70410gR326umVU&h=AT00lY24V84my9EyajcrVQFpLalTiExFlWL-sE-QApUafLvKZrOvQYUEjMeqhgV5XegKBMI3QuQcmVeG76GCUdHtDk-8IiYs75fsH1-ocHR0bJdjqvTwLLQuJapPA-ldbNUIpw