Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Sights of Rome

Today's photos:


1.     The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI.


2.     The coat of arms of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.


3.     The entrance of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere displays the coat of arms of Benedict XVI and that of the titular cardinal.


Papal resignation and conclave - 3


Our previous post ended with a description of the meeting of Pope Benedict with the clergy of his diocese. Now that written accounts of this extraordinary audience have been published, I would like to relate, in the exact words of the pope, the anecdote he told about how he, a young priest-professor-theologian, became a part of the Second Vatican Council. He spoke, of course, in Italian to the priests of Rome, so here is my translation of his exact words. Keep in mind that this man is one of the few participants in Vatican II (begun just over fifty years ago) to be still alive today. His ad lib, personal account will surely become an important addition to the documentation relating to the Council. This is a small part of his 45 minute "chat".


Cardinal Frings of Cologne commissioned from me a text which he would read at a conference in Genoa, organized by Cardinal Siri. The title was: "The Council and the Mentality of the Modern World". Frings read it at the conference exactly as I had written it. A few days later, Pope John summoned him to Rome. The cardinal was filled with apprehension, thinking that perhaps he had said something wrong and was being called in for a reprimand. He feared that the pope might actually remove him from the College of Cardinals. So great was his fear that, as his secretary was helping him put on his purple robes for the meeting with the pope, he said: "This may be the last time I wear these robes." Then Frings goes in. Pope John comes up to him, embraces him and says: "Your Eminence, thank you! You said the things which I wanted to say but could not find the words." And so the cardinal invited me to go with him to the Council.


And judging from the following final words of the pope to his priests at the audience, I don't think we will be seeing much of Benedict XVI in the future: Now I am retiring, but in my prayers I will always be close to all of you. And I am sure that all of you will be close to me, even though for the world I will remain hidden. In another post we will talk about where he "will remain hidden".


One final remark about the audience. It officially ended with the pope and all those in attendance singing the Lord's Prayer . . . in Latin, of course!




Last Friday evening I attended a conference in Rome on the subject of papal resignation. I was particularly struck by one observation of the lecturer at the very outset of his presentation. He said that the pope's announcement caught most people by surprise and left them stunned, even shocked. They realize that this decision is a very important and rare occurrence, yes, but already, after only three days, people are beginning to be very blasé about it. "All right, it happened, it's unusual, the pope has resigned. Now let's get on with our lives." The professor wanted to assure us, and I agree with him 100 percent, that these few weeks which we are living now are not just a blip in the history of the world. This decision of Benedict XVI to resign the papacy will have a lasting effect and will be studied, discussed and digested by historians and others for decades and even centuries to come. We, alive today, are so close to what is happening that there is the danger that we may lose sight of the big picture and the lasting impact of this moment in history which is unfolding daily before our very eyes. I, for one, consider myself privileged to be in Rome at this particular moment in history.




What happens to Benedict's coat of arms after his resignation? Of course he will not be able to use his papal coat of arms any longer. However, nothing prevents him from reverting back to the coat of arms he used as a cardinal. In fact, the two are very similar, but with one major difference. The papal coat of arms displays the crossed keys and tiara (papal crown), symbols of the papacy. These symbols will disappear and be replaced by the galero (headdress), symbol of a cardinal. So Cardinal Ratzinger will probably return to the use of his cardinal's coat of arms.


In addition, after a new pope has been elected, the coat of arms of Benedict XVI will be removed from the entrance to the titular churches where it is displayed alongside the coat of arms of the titular cardinal of the church. This will happen in all the over 200 titular churches in Rome.


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