Sunday, December 31, 2006

Papal Tombs and Monuments (1800-2005) Part VII

Pope St Pius X
His Eminence Giuseppe Melchiorre Cardinal Sarto, Cardinal Priest of San Bernardo alle Terme, Patriarch of Venice. Elected Bishop of Rome on 4 August 1903 in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, taking the name Pius X.

Pope Pius X died on 20 August 1914 in Rome. He was buried on 23 August in the Grottoes of the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. He was beatified on 3 June 1951, and canonized on 29 May 1954 by Pope Pius XII. His mortal remains were transferred on 17 February 1952 to the altar of the Chapel of the Presentation of the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica.

The image above shows Pope St Pius X's original tomb in the Grottoes of the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. The image below shows the current tomb in the Presentation Chapel of the same Basilica. The face and hands are covered with silver.

The monument to Pope St. Pius X was planned by the architect Florestano Di Fausto and carved by the sculptor Pietro Astorri in 1923.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Papal Tombs and Monuments (1800-2005) Part VI

Pope Leo XIII
His Eminence Gioacchino Vincenzo Cardinal Pecci, Cardinal Priest of San Crisogono, Bishop of Perugia with the title of Archbishop ad personam, Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church. Elected Bishop of Rome on 20 February 1878 in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, taking the name Leo XIII.

Pope Leo XIII died on 20 July 1903 in Rome. He was buried on 25 July in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. On 22 October 1924 his mortal remains were transferred to the Patriarchal Lateran Basilica, where on 27 October he was buried.

The monument to Pope Leo XII is the work of Giulio Tadolini. It was funded by the Cardinals that Leo had created.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Papal Tombs and Monuments (1800-2005) Part V

Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX died on 7 February 1878 in Rome. He was buried on 13 February in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. His mortal remains were transferred on 13 July 1881 to the basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, Rome. He was beatified on 3 September 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
The image above shows the original tomb in San Lorenzo. The images below show how the tomb looks today, having being opened up following Pius IX's beatification in 2000.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Papal Tombs and Monuments (1800-2005) Part III

Pope Pius VIII

Pope Pius VIII died on 30 November 1830 in Rome. He was buried on 6 December in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. His remains were transferred on 5 June 1846 to the Grottoes of the same basilica.

The Monument to Pius VIII was created by Pietro Tenerani. It is in the Neoclassical style and shows the Pontiff kneeling; above him is the statue of Christ enthroned, and below, are the statues of Sts. Peter and Paul. On the base are the allegorical figures of Prudence and Justice. Through the door visible beneath the monuments is the entrance to the Basilica's Sacristy and Treasury Museum.

Urbi et Orbi 2006

Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be, may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Saviour of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Chrismas!

Papal Tombs and Monuments (1800-2005) Part II

Pope Leo XII

His Eminence Annibale Cardinal della Genga, Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere, former Bishop of Senigallia with the title of Archbishop ad personam, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Ecclesiastical Immunity, Vicar General of His Holiness for the City of Rome, Archpriest of the Patriarchal Liberian Basilica. Elected Bishop of Rome on 28 September 1823 in the Quirinal Apostolic Palace, taking the name Leo XII; crowned on 5 October.

Pope Leo XII died on 10 February 1829 in Rome. He was buried on 15 February in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. His remains were transferred on 5 December 1830 to the Grottoes of the same basilica to a location before the altar of St Leo the Great.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wishing you a Happy and Holy Christmas

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Nativity with Saints Francis and Lawrence
(Stolen from the Oratory of San Lorenzo, Palermo, in October 1969)

Papal Tombs and Monuments (1800-2005) Part I

Pope Pius VII

His Eminence Gregorio Barnaba Cardinal Chiaramonti, O.S.B.Cas., Cardinal Priest of San Callisto, Bishop of Imola, was elected Bishop of Rome on 14 March 1800 in Venice, taking the name Pius VII, and was crowned on 21 March.

Pius VII died on 20 August 1823 in Rome. He was buried on 25 August in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica. His monument in St Peter's is the work of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. It is the only sculpture in the Basilica that was executed by a Protestant.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


The third Sunday of Advent, so called from the first word of the Introit at Mass (Gaudete, i.e. Rejoice). The season of Advent originated as a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, commencing on the day after the feast of St. Martin (12 November), whence it was often called "St. Martin's Lent" - a name by which it was known as early as the fifth century. In the ninth century, the duration of Advent was reduced to four weeks, and by the twelfth century the fast had been replaced by simple abstinence. Notwithstanding all these modifications, however, Advent still preserved most of the characteristics of a penitential season, which made it a kind of counterpart to Lent, the middle (or third) Sunday corresponding with Laetare or Mid-Lent Sunday. On it, as on Laetare Sunday, rose-coloured vestments were allowed instead of purple (or black, as formerly).

(Adapted from The Catholic Encyclopedia).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Caption Competition III

You know, Piero, it's not all smoke and mirrors!
Your suggestions?
Come on, don't be shy!

Requiescat in Pace

The death occurred today of Salvatore Cardinal Pappalardo, former archbishop of Palermo. He was 88.

A Roman by birth, Pappalardo spent some time as a diplomat in Indonesia before being appointed President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the renowned training ground of most high level papal diplomats (a notable exception being the current Secretary of State!).

Pappalardo was translated to the see of Palermo in October 1970 and was appointed a Cardinal in March 1973, the same time as a certain Albino Luciani.

However it is for his strident opposition to the Mafia that Pappalardo will be best remembered. Speaking at the funeral of an assassinated police chief in 1982, the Cardinal famously suggested, borrowing his words from the Roman historian Sallust, "While in Rome they pondered what to do, the city of Saguntum was vanquished by enemies." He went on to add "Yet this time it is not Saguntum, but Palermo! Our poor Palermo!" The point was clear, the Italian government was not doing enough to root out the cancer of Cosa Nostra in Sicily.

Cardinals wear red as a symbol of their willingness to shed blood for the faith. While it never came to that point for Pappalardo he did have to endure police protection and armoured transport due to his outspokenness.

"His efforts against the Mafia, made amid risks and hostility ... were of deep value to the church and to all civil society," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi today told Italy's ANSA news agency.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Oh Dear!

A recent contribution by Joee Blogs which itself links to a posting by Fr Ray Blake says so much about what is wrong about the preoccupations of many of those who contribute to St Blog's Parish...and many others besides, I suggest.

Of course seeking the Truth is central to our earthly pilgrimage; but isn't there something written somewhere about the Truth and charity? Oh, yes, there is: in his Letter to the Ephesians, St Paul writes, “let us proclaim the truth in charity and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head” (4:15).

Look at these links and tell me where you can discover charity? For the life of me I can't.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lovers of Futility!

'O men, how long will your hearts be hardened, will you love what is futile and seek what is false?'

With apologies to Fr Tim Finigan!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Caption Competition II

After enduring a particularly long Wednesday Audience, His Holiness repairs to the Vatican's new portable convenience.

Now here's my challenge:

1. Post your own caption.
2. Can anyone tell me what that thing is?

(With thanks to The American Papist for the image!)

Michael Collins

A story on the BBC today refers to the production by an American-based company, of a whiskey named after the Irish republican leader Michael Collins. It seems that the tipple was launched on St Patrick's Day but the issue is only just coming to the fore. A group of local politicians in Collin's home county of Cork have condemned the decision to name the drink after Collins as being 'in poor taste'. Better the decision than the whiskey I suppose!

Anyway, I thought it was a good excuse the upload an image of Collins lying in state. This famous painting is by Belfast-born artist, Sir John Lavery, and is entitled Love of Ireland.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Emperor and the Pope

On this day in 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France. If you examine David's painting of this event you will notice the then Pope, Pius VII, sitting in the background. Some accounts indicate that the Pope was meant to crown Napoleon but at the appointed time the French general took the crown from the Pope's hands and crowned himself. More recently Frederick J Baumgartner suggests in his book, Behind Locked Doors, that the events that took place on that day were previously arranged. In any case, the Pope looks pretty glum!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Caption Competition

There are a few suggestions for a suitable caption for this image doing the rounds.

Mine is:

'Rowan, I thought we were both against same-sex civil unions!'

Any more suggestions?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cardinal Numbers

As any number of religious blogs will tell you, today William Cardinal Baum ceases to be a voting member of the College of Cardinals. What makes this event notable is that Baum was the last remaining voting member of the College to be appointed by Pope Paul VI (1963-1978). The only other Pauline appointee who remains under the age of 80 is the present Pontiff, Benedict XVI. As of today, of the 114 Cardinal Electors, 102 were appointed by Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) and 12 were appointed by Pope Benedict XVI (2005-).

Baum was elevated to the College of Cardinals in May 1976. That means he was a voting member of the College for about 30.5 years. That got me thinking about whether this makes him one of the longest serving twentieth century cardinals (in terms of being able to vote in a papal election).

Of course things were complicated a little by Pope Paul's November 1970 Motu Proprio, Ingravescentum aetatem. This stated that as of 1 January 1971 Cardinals who had reached the age of 80 would no longer be able to participate in conclaves.

So then, is Baum the longest-eligible papal voter of the last 100+ years? Actually, no; there are a number of other cardinals who were eligible to vote for longer than Baum's 30.5 years. These include Cardinal Landázuri Ricketts of Lima (31 years), Cardinal Léger of Montréal (31 years), Cardinal Rugambwa of Dar-es-Salaam (32 years), Cardinal Siri of Genoa (33 years), Cardinal Tisserant, a curial official (33 years) and Cardinal Liénart of Lille (40.5 years).

However the winner by a nose is Cardinal Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon. Elevated to the College of Cardinals at the age of 41 by Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) in 1929 (incidentally during the same Consistory that saw the elevation of a certain Eugenio Pacelli), Cerejeira was only relieved of his right to vote in a papal election by the implementation of Ingravescentum aetatem in January 1971, just over 41 years later. Cardinal Cerejeira died in August 1977 at the age of 88.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

San Pietro in Vaticano

Today, 18 November, is the feast day of the dedication of two of Rome's great basilicas, San Pietro in Vaticano and San Paolo fuori le Mura.

The current St Peter's is, of course, the second great church on that site. The original Constantinian basilica was dedicated by Pope Sylvester I on 18 November 326. This building survived until the papacy of Julius II who laid the foundation stone of a new basilica in 1506. Julius (he of the Sistine Chapel ceiling) envisaged a great church at the centre of which would stand his tomb. In the event the parts of his tomb that were completed (including Michelangelo's Moses) were located in the chuch of San Pietro in Vincoli (Julius' titular when he was plain old Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere) although Julius himself is buried, somewhat ironically, in an almost unmarked grave in St Peter's (the location of the tomb is currently marked by a simple plaque in the floor of St Peter's in front of the monument to Pope Clement X).

The building of the great basilica took well over a century, being dedicated - again on 18 November - in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII. It was under Urban's patronage that Gian Lorenzo Bernini completed some of his greatest masterpieces including the baldacchino which towers over the papal altar in St Peter's. Much of the bronze that makes up this creation is rumoured to have come from the Pantheon. This resulted in the emergence of the famous quote "Quod non fecerunt Barbari, fecerunt Barberini" ("What the barbarians didn't do, the barberini (Urban's family name)did").

The current St Paul's Basilica is of relatively recent origin despite its ancient basilical appearance. The original church was burnt down in 1823. With worldwide donations it was rebuilt on the same foundations and dedicated by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Hooray, I've finally had a comment - more than one indeed. I thought that I was wasting my time in writing this blog. Of course I'm under no illusions that anyone should read it, but it's nice to see someone is - at least occasionally.

Who's the reader? None other than the great Joee Blogs

More soon!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote Facts!

Fr Guy Selvester makes an excellent point in his latest posting on his erudite blog, Shouts in the Piazza.

In the context of the US mid-term elections, Fr Selvester is ruminating about the importance of each and every vote; he suggests - correctly - that “decisions are made by people who show up.”

To support the argument that he is making, Fr Selvester states that “President Hayes was elected by one vote” and adds that “In a most dramatic example, Hitler took democratic control of the Nazi Party in just one vote.”

While supporting the veracity of the points he makes, I’m not too sure that the two examples Fr Selvester uses are the most appropriate ones that he could have chosen.

Rutherford B Hayes did indeed win the 1876 Presidential Election by one vote; however it was one Electoral College vote and not one popularly cast ballot, which is a very different thing. Indeed to further undermine Fr Selvester’s argument I might add that Hayes’ Democratic opponent, Samuel J Tilden, received about 250,000 more popularly cast votes than Hayes. As a result Hayes became known as “Rutherfraud”!

So, a quarter of a million more people showed up for Tilden than for Hayes, but their votes didn’t count.

On 26 July 1921 Hitler was appointed Chairman of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. This appointment was not the result of a democratic vote, or indeed any vote. Instead it was a panicked reaction of the Party’s existing leadership to Hitler’s petulant resignation from the Party over its refusal to listen to his opposition to a planned merger with the DSP. Fearing that the Party would collapse without the influence of its most gifted member, the leadership capitulated and gave in to his demand to be appointed Chairman with dictatorial powers.

I’m not too sure if there were very many votes within the Nazi Party that could be described, even loosely, as “democratic”.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Three terms, or more?

On 5 November 1940 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was re-elected President of the United States. Nothing remarkable there you might say; there were many Presidents who were re-elected before FDR and there have been quite a few since. What made this event remarkable was that Roosevelt was the first man elected to the Presidency for a third term.

There was, at that stage, no Constitutional barrier to anyone serving a third term as President. There was, however, an unwritten convention that as George Washington had served only two terms, so too should his successors. Roosevelt's success in 1940 and his further re-election in 1944 turned this convention on its head.

However it has not happened since. The members of the post-war US Congress seemed concerned that there now existed the possibility of a President being re-elected continually and thus becoming what might be described as a benevolent dictator. To prevent this an amendment to the Constitution was proposed and by 1951 the requisite number of states had ratified what became the Twenty-Second Amendment. This stated that "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Papal Tombs

Earlier on this evening Pope Benedict XVI descended to the Grottoes beneath St Peter's Basilica to pray for those interred there and elsewhere in the Basilica, most of whom preceeded him as Pope.

However not all of those buried in the Basilica were the successors of St Peter. The great church also holds the tombs of a diverse range of people including members of Europe's royalty. Chief amongst these are two Queens - Charlotte of Cyprus and Christina of Sweden - the Emperor Otto II and a number of the descendants the last Stuart King of Great Britain, James II, who was deposed in 1688.

Of course most of those interred in St Peter's are clergymen. Notable amongst those who were not popes is Cardinal Raphael Merry del Val, who served as Secretary of State to Pope St Pius X. The Cardinal requested that he be buried close to his master and for some years his request was fulfilled until Pius' remains were relocated to the Presentation Chapel in the main basilica at the time of his canonisation in 1954.

Interesting also is the tomb of Monsignor Ludwig Kaas who served as a member of the Reichstag during the period of the Weimar Republic and who, as President of the Catholic Centre Party (Zentrum), was instrumental in supporting the passage of the March 1933 Enabling Act which gave the German Government (now headed by Adolf Hitler) the power to pass laws without the need for majority support in the Reichstag for four years.

Yet most visitors are drawn to the papal tombs. The basilica contains the tombs of all of the popes of what might be described as the modern period (1800-) except those of Pius IX, who is buried (properly, exposed in a glass altar) in the Basilica of St Lawrence outside the Walls and Leo XIII, who is buried in the Patriarchal Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral Church of the Bishop of Rome. Of most interest nowadays seem to be the tombs of John Paul II and John XXIII. John Paul II's resting place is in the same location as John XXIII's originally, except that the former is buried in the earth while the latter's remains were housed within a sarcophagus. A few months after his beatification in 2000, John XXIII's remains were rehoused in a new glass-fronted sarcophagus under the Altar of St Jerome in the main Basilica.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Michaelangelo's Masterpiece (One of them anyway!)

On this day in 1512 the Roman public got its first glance at the completed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Chapel itself is named after Pope Sixtus IV (Pope 1471-1484) and is best known, apart from its paintings, as the setting for recent papal elections (all those since the election of Pope Leo XIII in 1878).

Initially the vault was painted blue and decorated with golden stars. The walls received much better treatment, being covered in works by such luminaries as Perugino, Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. Then, in 1508, Pope Julius II - a nephew of the aforementioned Pope Sixtus IV (and buried with him in St Peter's Basilica)- commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling. The task took four years and at its completion the ceiling was populated by over 300 figures illustrating such seminal events as the Creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood.

It's almost impossible to get to see the Sistine Chapel without a heaving mass pressing around you and without the distraction of attendants constantly clapping for silence. Received wisdom states that the best way to get a bit of peace and quiet is to be at the start of the queue for the Vatican Museums and, once inside, to ignore everything else and head straight for the Chapel!

Monday, October 30, 2006

No Pope Here?

The BBC is reporting that there is some unionist opposition to the idea of Pope Benedict XVI making a pastoral visit to Northern Ireland.

Whether or not there are any plans for the Pontiff to visit the North, it is true that he was invited to visit Ireland by Archbishop Sean Brady at the culmination of the Irish Bishops' ad limina visit last Saturday when he stated that "on behalf of the priests, religious and lay faithful of Ireland we take this opportunity to invite you to come among us in the footsteps of St Patrick, and your venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II."

Commenting on the visit north of the border "spin" that has appeared in the local press (which sees Benedict doing a double-header with Queen Elizabeth II), East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, has dismissed the notion as "bizarre".

Evidence suggests that a visit to the city of Armagh, ecclesiatical capital of the island (and located within Northern Ireland) was planned during Pope John Paul II's visit in 1979. At the last minute this had to be cancelled, due to increased tensions in Northern Ireland following the assassination of the Queen's cousin, Earl Mountbatten (along with three others) and the murders of eighteen British soldiers just outside Newry, Co. Down. Both atrocities were carried out by the Provisional IRA.

The closest John Paul came to the border was his visit to Drogheda, Co. Louth. It was here that the Pontiff made his impassioned and fruitless plea (in a speech supposedly penned by Cahal Daly, then Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and later Bishop of Down and Connor and Archbishop of Armagh) for the IRA to end its campaign of violence.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Earlier I was reading Fr Michael Brown's new Blog, Forest Murmurs. Apart from some interesting material on his recent visit to the Eternal City, he was explaining the changes that he has made to the sanctuary of his church, St Mary's, Forest Hall.

Somewhat tongue in cheek I suggested that perhaps there is something of a contradiction between a focus on what might be described as the externals of liturgical celebration and what it must have been like at the Last Supper. Fr Michael responded that many of the key elements of our liturgy can be traced back to the early years of the Church.

I have no doubt that this is true; however I'm not sure that it answers fully the question that I was posing. The 'early years' are still later than the very beginning and neither at the Last Supper nor at Emmaus do we find ourselves distracted from the central mystery by questions of vestments, furnishings or rubrics.

I love the spectacle of Catholic liturgy, I am enthralled by it; however I cannot believe that its presence adds to nor its absence detracts from the central event of the Eucharist. Is the Mass a 'better' Mass if it is celebrated with sublime music and enriched by cloth of gold vestments? Yes, these things might help us feel that it is a 'better' Mass, but is this true? Is a Mass celebrated with none of these trappings a 'poorer' celebration? If it is, how is it?

What's it all about?

I must say that I enjoy reading most of the blogs that focus on the Catholic Church. Many I find enlightening, some I find entertaining, a few I find challenging. Occasionally I get annoyed at the sweeping generalisations I find and at times I become frustrated at the sheer inaccuracy of what is being said.

So then, I've decided to put my money where my mouth is and start a blog that will enable me to remind other members of St.Blog that sometimes there are more important things in life. No doubt there will be plenty of occasions to challenge what I post!