I know the couple in this wonderful story and knew they were married Saturday in Santo Stefano degli Abissini church inside Vatican City and I’ve seen some great photos of the ceremony taken by friends of the couple in attendance. What a lifetime of memories in just an hour!
I knew of it but did not tweet or do a FB post about it – hopefully that shows I am a better friend than a journalist!
It has been sweltering in Rome and was indeed the same inside the church on Saturday as there is no air conditioning in this centuries old church, the oldest in Vatican City State. The church is rather small and may have been hot due to the presence of the 50 or 60 people inside for the wedding. Usually, however, as many of you know who have been to Rome in the summer, if you want to stay cool on a hot and humid day, you enter a church!
St. Stephen of the Abyssinians, dedicated to Stephen the Protomartyr, is the national church of Ethiopia whose liturgy is celebrated according to the Alexandrian rite of the Ethiopian Catholic Church. In terms of architectural history, it is the oldest surviving church in the Vatican. (it’s obviously the little church on the left in this photo)
Tradition says the church was built by Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461) and named Santo Stefano Maggiore. It was rebuilt in 1159 under Pope Alexander III, who also built a monastery for Ethiopian monks next to it.
In 1479, Pope Sixtus IV restored the church and assigned it to the Coptic monks in the city. It was at this time that the name was changed to reflect that it was served by Ethiopians (Abyssinian). It was altered under Pope Gregory XI (1700–1721), and again in 1928.
In recent years the church has undergone restoration and today is used principally for weddings or celebrations of special importance for the clergy who work in the Vatican.
I have also attended several wakes for Vatican prelates in Santo Stefano, including the late Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli.
POPE SURPRISES COUPLE BY OFFICIATING THEIR MARRIAGE
A Swiss guard and his Brazilian wife-to-be were taken aback to see Pope Francis appearing unannounced in the church to bless their wedding.
By Robin Gomes (vaticanmedia)
Pope Francis on Saturday surprised a Swiss guard and his would-be Brazilian wife, by appearing un-announced in the sacristy just ahead of the wedding ceremony and decided to marry them.
Neither the couple nor the few attending the ceremony knew about the Pope’s surprise move, said Brazilian Father Renato dos Santos, one of those present. The priest entered the sacristy of the church of St. Stephen of the Abyssinians in Vatican City to prepare for the celebration when he was taken aback by a smiling pope seated there waiting for him. The Holy Father took charge and went ahead.
“Never in my life, never would I have thought of finding the Pope in a sacristy,” Fr. dos Santos told Vatican News. The Brazilian priest noted the people inside the church were so surprised they were wondering if it was really Pope Francis. “I saw him as a true parish priest who takes care for his own sheep in the parish,” Fr. dos Santos said. “He’s always done it this way.”
Three verbs – success to marriage
The Holy Father’s homily was on three verbs: ‘to begin’, ‘to stop’, ‘to resume the journey’ – which he explained are needed to be able to live their marriage in fullness. “The Pope showed how dear to his heart marriage is,” Fr. dos Santos pointed out. “The Pope has great love for this sacrament which helps start a family and which wants to put God at the center,” he added.