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VATICAN CITY — Whether you plan on following tomorrow’s Prayer for Peace vigil on TV, online or in person in St. Peter’s Square, a schedule of Saturday’s events will come in handy. As well as the official liturgical booklet.
Here is a breakdown of what will be happening and when:
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Brothers and sisters, good evening!
You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one… but here we are… I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome now has its Bishop. Thank you! And first of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him.
And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity. It is my hope for you that this journey of the Church, which we start today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar, here present, will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this most beautiful city.
And now I would like to give the blessing, but first – first I ask a favour of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.
Now I will give the Blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.
Brothers and sisters, I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and until we meet again. We will see each other soon. Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome. Good night and sleep well!
The only problem with being in Piazza San Pietro for the announcement and presentation of the new bishop of Rome is that the cell networks and internet access all jam. Maybe I can reconstruct the impressions and my perspective from Rome tonight, as they came as pithily as possible:
[c.18:30] – just finished giving a conversational English lesson. Pretty sure there will be black smoke in half an hour. Maybe I should run over there anyway? Nah… I’ll just miss the smoke, it’s wet, and I’ve got work to do.
[c.18:50] – hm. I think Philippa Hitchen is on Vatican Radio, they should have the chimney on livecam. At least I can say I saw the black smoke ‘from a distance’ tonight if anyone asks. Heh heh.
[18:52] – a seagull on the chimney, says Msgr. Mark Langham on Facebook. Kinda reminds me of that ND game where the squirrel took to the field sophomore year…
[19:06] – working on editing a friend’s article. Smoke! Hm… looks pretty dark grey. Really dark… e’ nero? E’ bianco? E’ nero. Maybe go back to editing… ok, one last look. Still grey… hey, is that bell moving? [commentator: “looks pretty grey, but wait, the bells!”]. Elected on the fifth ballot?? I thought it would be tomorrow at the earliest! This is only one more than Ratzinger.
[19:07] – knocking on doors. “Habemus papam!” start ringing our bell.
[19:08] – I’m going down there, now. Anyone wants to join me, I’m taking a taxi.
[c.19:20] – five of us went, after waiting forever (five minutes) for some people to change. Halfway to the cab stand, three jumped on the 81. Alex and I got in a cab. At about 19.40, near Chiesa Nuova, we see a group from the Russicum walking by, and we decided to ditch the traffic and join them.
[c.19:50] – arrive in Piazza San Pietro, someone in the group knows one of the security guys and we get into the square, all the way up to the obelisk. I’m wedged between U.S. college students from New York, an Italian sister with a robust singing voice, three Eastern Catholics and a prolific contributor to the New Liturgical Movement.
[time ceases to have meaning]
Cardinal Protodeacon Tauran: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus Papam!
People of God: wild cheering and applause
Cardinal Tauran: Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum dominum, dominum Georgium
Me: Giorgio? George… maybe George Alencherry, the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop?
Cardinal Tauran: Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum.
People of God: Huh? Who? – polite applause, much checking of smart phones –
Me: Bergoglio? Which one was he? Italian? Pope Francis? Assisi or Xavier? or both? Can I be cautiously optimistic?
Overheard nearby: Francis? *shudder* That’s not good: All innovation is BAD.
Pope Francis appears a short time later, my impressions:
Hm. Almost nobody seems to recognize him. I remember being told the second election of 1978 was like this, the piazza was almost silent. Nobody knew Wojtyla, and they do not know Bergoglio, apparently. From Argentina, according to someone with web-access…
He reminds me of Papa Luciani, John Paul I, for some reason. Someone nearby says he looks like Pius XI. Simple, severe maybe, but simple. Am I smiling?
“Buona Serra”? Simple, good start…
“bishop emeritus of Rome Benedict…” how much better that sounds than Pontifex emeritus! Could we have an ecclesiologist pope?
His inclusive language seems to offend the more traditional minded among us…
That’s “bishop of Rome” at least three times now. Not pope, not pontificate, but bishop, bishop of Rome. Be still, my ecclesiologist’s beating heart! I think I really am smiling!
He seems so… humble. Almost awkward, these pregnant pauses, but I get the feeling he really did not expect to be there. Not an actor, not a professor… a pastor? A reformer? An introvert? Not sure what it means.
You know… Marini has not looked up from his shoes this entire time. In fact, he looks a little, um, how do I put this…
“He looks like he’s updating his CV, A.J., that’s what he looks like…”
I think he just said, “before a bishop blesses the people, the people should bless – that is, pray for – the bishop. so, I invite you to pray for me, as we start this journey together.”
“Buona notte!” – I cannot get over how refreshing his simplicity is, his somewhat akward honesty, and I do keep being reminded of Luciani. Francis, indeed. 😀
As we began to leave the Piazza, I ran into a Jesuit friend who supplied some details and reflections of his own: He’s Jesuit! He’s from Buones Aires. He said some very promising things tonight – his choice of name, the ecclesiological awareness of focus on the “bishop of Rome” rather than “universal pastor” or “supreme pontiff”, etc. But, a hesitation: “he brought some division to the Jesuits in Argentina; some see him as too conservative. Personally austere, yes, simple, yes, but we shall see”…
So, in summary: First Francis. First Jesuit. First from the Western Hemisphere. First non-European bishop of Rome in almost 1300 years (Gregory III from Syria). Chose a casual, informal greeting. Asked for the blessing of the assembly before he offered his own, and bowed to receive it from us. Clearly knows the pope is first and fundamentally the “bishop of Rome” (and the pope emeritus is really the bishop emeritus of Rome). He chose the simplest of the vestment options in which to appear (no lace, wooden pectoral cross) He will spend his first day visiting a shrine of Our Lady. He took his name in honor of Francis of Assisi, perhaps the most universally accessible saint we have, known for humility, care of creation and the poor, dialogue with Islam, and “rebuilding” a corrupt and failing Church. I think as we left the Piazza, most people still had no idea who had been elected – or perhaps they were just in a sort of joyful shock, the kind you get when something you have wanted for so long seems to be coming true, but you are not sure whether to believe it or not.
And, well, one of the guys I was with posted this when he got home tonight:
“Re, Sandri, Hummes and Kasper [sic] were on the balcony with him as he winged his way through the appearance. Traddies, get ready to bury your cassocks and black covered liturgical books in the yard.”
This morning I have already begun to hear stories of people’s experience here in Rome for the beatification, from one being interviewed by CNN in the middle of Piazza San Pietro, to others who gave up trying to get within a kilometer of the Vatican, and still others who deliberately skipped town to avoid the chaos and the crowd.
The Beatification Mass began at 10:00am Sunday, with an hour-long rosary and divine mercy chaplet planed ahead of time.
Vatican security had cleared the Piazza at 7:00pm Saturday night, though people had already staked places and laid out sleeping pads on the cobblestones around the square. They were moved back beyond a large perimeter. We saw nearly every law enforcement agency available in the city – Policia Municipale, Guarda di Finanza, Carabinieri, Corpo Forestale, Polizia di Stato, et al.
One friend was at the perimeter by 1:00am Sunday, and she made it no closer to the altar than the obelisk in the centre of the piazza. Others arrived at 4:00am and were never able to get into the square. The gates officially opened at 5:30am, allowing people into Piazza San Pietro and Via della Conciliazione. By 6:15am, people were packed up to Castel Sant’Angelo. We followed a group of bishops into the crowd, only to be turned back on the close side of the castle – even the bishops could not get through.
Even in lateral directions the area around the Vatican was packed – I have not yet seen an aerial photo that was able to capture the whole scene of people-packed streets, I do not know if any of the helicopters were high enough to get that wide a view.
Some people decided to bail, and go somewhere they could be less crowded and watch it on a jumbotron – the city had a dozen such locations set up, including the Cathedral of San Giovanni in Laterano and the Circo Massimo. Others continued to push in, but never made it close. We found shade and refreshment under the umbrellas of a café’s outdoor seating area, with an oblique view of a jumbotron at Piazza Risorgimento, with no audio but a pilgrims radio tuned to a station translating the whole thing into Polish.
We spent almost two hours in a line to get a cappuccino and cornetto, and then go to the bathroom, once it was decided there was no where better to go unless we wanted to bail and watch at one of the other centers around the city. We got out just in time for mass to start, and stood (thankfully in the shade with tables to put our things on), for the entire 3 hour liturgy and angelus address. Even the English reading was translated into polish on the radio, so I could only relay the parts of the mass as I saw from the partial view of the screen and from the singing in Latin.
I am glad I was here for an historic event, grateful to be in a place with shade and with a friend, but sorry that, given the exhaustion of staying up all night after the vigil that we did not get closer than we did. But, I never thought I would get as close as we did, either. For his canonization, which I expect this time next year, I think the view from San Giovanni in Laterano sounds pretty good – especially for a pope who repeatedly said his role as bishop of Rome, along with Servant of the Servants of God, was the most important responsibility of the pope.