28 February 2013

The Interregnum: The First Phase - UPDATE

SECOND UPDATE -- The Press Office of the Holy See is reporting that it is unlikely that the decision on when the Conclave will begin will be decided on Monday.   Paragraph 13 of Universi domenici gregis indicates that the date for voting is set "[i]n one of the Congregations immediately following" the first General Congregation.  I had assumed that the unusual decision to have an afternoon session on Monday meant that it would be taken up then, expressing the Cardinals' desire to finish the voting as soon as possible.  Apparently, that will not be happening.  This makes March 11 an increasingly likely start-date, if they choose to start early.

UPDATE -- As I predicted, the first General Congregation will not occur today, as many expected.  Rather, the first meeting of all of the Cardinals will begin at 9:30am on Monday.  Per the rules governing these, they will not set the date and time of the Conclave at this first meeting. Rather, they will do that at their second meeting.  However, unlike in the past, their next meeting will not be the following day, but rather that afternoon.  I think we can expect the date and time of the voting process in the Conclave to be set by Monday afternoon.  Assuming they work through the "all Cardinals being present" issue, that probably means a start date for the Conclave around March 11, maybe as early as March 9.

John Allen has some good info at his blog.  (Although, I think he has misread Universi domenici gregis regarding some of the timing of things.) 

As of 8:00pm Rome Time, February 28, 2013, the See of Peter was made vacant.  Now the process begins to determine a new Supreme Pontiff of the Holy Catholic Church.  The development of the procedure to choose a Pope is an interesting one, and often tracks the controversies in the Church, especially its struggles against the State.  You can get a nice bullet summary from the EWTN website.  The use of Cardinals alone as electors goes back at least to the 8th century, although the forerunners of the Cardinals (the clerics of the major churches of Rome), goes back to the earliest centuries of the Church in Rome.

The idea of a "conclave" is much later.  A quick foray into linguistics helps here, bear with me.  Latin, like modern Italian, has no verb for "to lock".  So how do say something is locked in these languages?  You say that it is closed with the key.  In Latin the words "with the key" are "con clave", or as we render it in English, 'conclave'.  When Pope Celestine V resigned from the See of Peter after only 6 months back in 1294, which was preceded by a period of sede vacante (i.e., no Pope) for two years, while the Cardinals wrangled over the procedures, they decided to try something radical.  They would take the Cardinals and lock them in (close the doors con clave).  By locking them in, they hoped to get them to decide faster.  There were even rules that food and comforts were to be reduced the longer they were in there, until at one point they would be given only bread and water!  Those extreme measures did not last long, but the Conclave has.  Conclaves have been held in a number of places over the centuries, but eventually (and currently) the Sistine Chapel has become the location for the Conclave.

The current rules for the Conclave were re-codified by Bl. Pope John Paul II in 1996 in a document (an "Apostolic Constitution") called Universi domenici gregis.  (Church documents are often titled by the first few words of the text in Latin.  In this case it means "The Shepherd of the Lord's whole flock".)  That document was amended twice, both by Pope Benedict XVI.  The first one doesn't really matter anymore, because its changes were incorporated into the second.  The second amendment, the Apostolic Letter Normas Nonnullas, came out days before Benedict XVI's resignation came into effect.  I gave a description of it earlier on this blog.

So the rest of this entry, I mean to go through the current rules in place for the upcoming Conclave.  In other words, what happens now that the See is Vacant?

The first thing that must be realized is that just about every Cardinal, and everyone who acts in the name of the Supreme Pontiff, loses his authority.  The heads of all those various dicasteries act in the name of the Holy Father.  Without him, they have no legal authority to act.  There are some exceptions, especially regarding certain dispensations and confessional matter, but that's bit more than I want to get into.  In short, most of the Cardinals in Rome now have only one job, their duty sine-qua-non as Cardinals, which is to elect a Pope.

The College of Cardinals, as a body, is given the collective responsibility of governing the universal Church.  But this is only in regards the ordinary business of the Church and the carrying out of the election.  The "Administrator" of the Holy See during the vacancy is the Cardinal Camerlengo, currently Cardinal Bertone.  For this reason, during the interregnum period, the coat of arms of the Holy See changes from the Papal coat of Arms to the Coat of Arms of the office of the Camerlengo.

The first thing that will happen is that the Cardinal Camerlengo, together with the senior Cardinal of each Order of Cardinals (which are, I believe, Cardinal Sodano, Cardinal Arns, and Cardinal Tauran) will set the date for the first "General Congregation".  These are the meetings of all of the Cardinals, which are to be held daily.  All the Cardinals are required to attend these General Congregations. There are three exceptions.  First, those who do not enjoy the right of election (i.e., they are over 80 years old) are excused.  Also excused are those who are impeded by sickness and those impeded  by some other grave reason.  Only the College of Cardinals can determine whether or not a reason is grave enough to constitute an impediment.  You can read my early comment on this.

In addition to the "General Congregations" there is also a "Particular Congregations".  The Particular Congregations involve a smaller group of Cardinals, and they handle minor issues that need not be brought to the entire body.  (I suppose you might think of them as a kind of Steering Committee or Executive Committee.)  The Particular Congregations also help with the preparation of the Sistine Chapel for voting and they grant permission for any outside communication by the Cardinals.  These Particular Congregations are made up of the Cardinal Camerlengo and three Assistants, all Cardinals.  The Assistants are chosen by lot--one from each order of Cardinal (Cardinal-Bishop, Cardinal-Priest, and Cardinal-Deacon)--and they rotate every three days.

At the first General Congregation, all the Cardinals are given a copy of Universi domenici gregis and  Normas Nonnullas.  They then each take an oath to observe all the norms set forth in each, and to maintain the secrecy of the Conclave.  This takes up the business of the first General Congregation.

In the next General Congregation, presumably the next day, they get down to business.  The law lists many things for them to decide, but most of them have to do with the arrangements for the Pope's funeral, which obviously is not an issue.   That leaves __ things for them to do, as follows:

  1. They have to see to it that the residence Domus Sanctae Marthae is prepared for the arriving Cardinals.  This includes sweeping the place for electronic listening equipment.  One thing to note, is that some people have the impression that the Domus Sanctae Marthae is some residence that stays empty until it's needed for an election.  Not true.  Most of the time, people (all priests, I think) live there who work at the Holy See.  They are required to vacate their rooms, and most have moved out this past week.  Their belongs are put into a sealed cabinet in the rooms, and the rest of the room is given over to these use of the Cardinal who will stay there until after the election.
  2. They name two 'ecclesiastics' (usually another Cardinal) to provide meditations "on the problems facing the Church at the time and on the need for careful discernment in choosing the new Pope".  They also fix the dates and times of these meditations.
  3. They have to approve the payment of expenses incurred until the new Pope is elected.
  4. They have to destroy the implements of the Pope's Office -- the seal of the "Fisherman's Ring" and lead seal that marks Papal documents
  5. They assign rooms by lot in the Domus Sanctae Marthae by lot.
    And finally, and most importantly, they:
  6. Set the day and hour of the beginning of the voting process.

For the setting of the voting process, and the changes made by the Pope's most recent document, see my earlier blog post here.

One thing I want to emphasize is that, as should be clear, the Cardinals cannot begin voting tomorrow.  (In fact, the current rumor is that the General Congregation won't even be held on Friday, but that they will wait until perhaps Monday to begin).  Even if they decide to begin voting before the 15-day period, it is likely that the earliest they could start would be the 9th.

What we should hear first, from Cardinal Bertone, is the day of the first General Congregation.  Only after that, will they set the date.  In the meantime, they need to schedule the days of meditation and other preparation.  Only then may they begin voting.

I hope to do another blog piece on the process of voting in the next several days.

27 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's Final Wednesday Audience

It was a perfect Roman morning.  The weather started cool and a bit cloudy, but soon the sun came out, the clouds departed, and the day warmed nicely.  One could not have asked for a more picturesque day for our Holy Father's last Wednesday Audience.

I went to the audience with two Irish Dominicans.  We left very early in the morning.  We even had tickets, but didn't really ever need them.

Getting in was a bit rough.  One of the x-ray machines had broken down.  Of course, as I found out later, there were other entrances with no x-ray machines where people were being allowed it.  At one point at our entrance, it became clear that only part of the mob (Italian's don't line up, they mob), was moving.  It began a rather long back-and-forth between the Italians who felt slighted and the volunteer workers who didn't really care to do anything about it.  Wonderfully Roman.

Once we got in, a bit later than we had hoped, we decided to sit towards the back, because that way we could get a position right by the lane where the Popemobile would go through.  it ended up being a good choice.  While we were not close to where the Pope gave his address, we were right by where the Popemobile drove.

The crowd was a lot of fun.  It seemed to me mostly a younger crowd--lots of young people from all over the world: Italians (of course), American, Spanish, French, Mexican, Slovakian, Polish, etc., etc.  They crowd was in a good mood, with many singing or playing instruments before the audience.  But once the audience began, they were incredibly respectful.  Everyone sat down for the prayers and listened.  At points the crowd was almost silent.  All those people and such quiet.  That's the effect of this Pope, he casts an aura of reverential silence.

I was struck to by the unity of the crowd.  That came to the fore most especially in the singing of the Lord's Prayer.  We had listened to the Scriptures and the Pope's message in half a dozen languages.  But at the end, we sang the Our Father in Latin.  Not everyone sang, of course, but I was surprised by the number who did.  It was wonderfully universal, wonderfully catholic.   

I followed what I could of the audience in Italian.  (It is already available onlline)  A number of lines struck me, but more than anything else probably was when he said, "the Barque of the Church is not mine, it's not our's, it's His and he will not let it flounder."  Bl. Pope John Paul II made his Papacy very personal, which was wonderful.  Anytime you were at an event with JPII, you felt as if he were talking to you.  Benedict XVI reminds us that the Church transcends any single human person, even the Pope.  We need the Pope, but what we need is the Petrine ministry, the office.  It's not the men, but the Spirit working through them, that makes the Church.

A very memorable day, made all the more so by having lots of pictures.  Here are my pictures from the Audience today, Pope Benedict XVI's last:

26 February 2013

Weather for the Papal Audience

The forecast for 10:00am tomorrow it about 47F (8.4C) and sunny.  Should be a brisk but pleasant morning.   Meteo Roma di TEMPO ITALIA. Weather Roma

Benedict XVI's Last Audience

Tomorrow is Pope Benedict XVI's last audience.  I hope to be there and will tweet from there.  You may follow me at @PiusOP.  Now, in the U.S., at major events the cellphone companies set-up portable cell towers to handle the excess demand.  I don't think they do that in Italy.  So, that means I probably won't get much of a cellphone signal there, and the tweets will come only after people have dispersed.  I plan to post pictures and things when I get home later in the day tomorrow.

Stational Church of San Clemente - NAC Mass

During Lent, various Churches throughout Rome are designated, by ancient custom, stational churches.  San Clemente is the stational church of the Monday of the second week of Lent.  It has also become a custom for the Pontifical North American College (the American seminary in Rome) to celebrate Mass at each stational church.  A large collection of seminarians and other English-speakers in Rome filled out morning Mass at San Clemente.  Pictures from the Mass are below.

The official Stational Mass is held in the evening. It begins in the old 4th century church beneath the current Basilica. From there, the penitential procession begins, singing the litany of the saints. The Mass concludes with the traditional announcement of the church of the next day's Stational Mass and a solemn blessing with a relic of the true cross. Our celebrant and preacher this year was Fr. Michael Dunleavy of the Province of Ireland, and the former prior here. A nother particular feature of the stational Mass here at San Clemente is the use of bay leaves. Parts of the floor are covered with leaves, so that when you walk on them, the scent is released. The leaves are taken from one of the trees in our garden. As I was concelebrating I was not able to take pictures, however I did take some pictures of the leaves after Mass:

Normas Nonnullas: Changes to the Papal Conclave

On Monday, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, issued motu proprio an Apostolic Letter amending the guidelines for a Papal Conclave and Election.  As is custom, the name of the document is formed from the first few words of the text in Latin, in this case Normas nonnullas.  It amends the original norms issued by Bl. Pope John Paul II in 1996, Universi dominici gregis.  It also includes earlier changes that Pope Benedict XVI himself made in the Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio, Constitutione apostolica.  I have done a comparison of the changed paragraphs of Universi dominici gregis with Normas nonnullas.  Below is a brief descriptions of all of the changes in the election process, referencing the appropriate paragraph of Universi dominici gregis:
  •           № 35: A technical change to include a reference to para. 75, regarding the timing of the beginning of an election. 
  •           № 37: The phrasing of the timing was altered.  It now says that from the moment the Apostolic See is vacant, there should be a waiting period of 15 full days before the start of the Conclave.  It is left to the Cardinals to alter this in two ways.  First, if all of the Cardinal electors are present, they may begin earlier.  Second, for a very grave reason, they may delay it a few days.  The requirement that the Conclave begin no later than 20 following the vacancy remains.
  •           № 43: In managing the areas closed to the public, the Cardinal Camerlengo is now assisted by the Vice Camerlengo, as well as the Substitute of the Secretariat of State.  It also allows for the Cleric Prelates of the Apostolic Camera to assist in the efforts to ensure that the Cardinal electors are not approached along the route from their residence to the Vatican Palace.
  •           № 46: Allows for eight (rather than 2) Masters of Ceremonies to be made available to assist at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
  •           № 47:  Binds to the obligation of secrecy the technicians who sweep for sound recording equipment according to para. 55.
  •           № 48: Adds to those taking the oath of secrecy the technicians who sweep for sound recording equipment according to para. 55.  It also changes the wording of the oath of secrecy.  Most importantly, it recognizes that a penalty of excommunication latae sententiae is imposed on anyone who violates the oath.  That means, that the penalty is automatically imposed by the law.  It reserves to the Apostolic See alone the power to lift this excommunication.
  •           № 49: Cleans up the wording of this paragraph to conform the timing of the beginning of the Conclave to what was set out in para. 37. 
  •           № 50:  The following also participate in the procession from the Pauline Chapel to the Apostolic Palace when the election begins:  the Vice Cemerlengo, the Auditor General of the Apostolic Camera, and two members each of the Colleges of the Apostolic Prenotaries from the number of participants,  of the Auditor Prelates of the Roman Rota, and of the Cleric Prelates of the Apostolic Camera. 
  •           № 51:  Allows the Vice Camerlengo to assist in preparing the Sistine Chapel for the election.
  •           № 55:  Those who attempt to violate the secrecy of the Conclave by recording equipment are subject to excommunication latae sententiae (rather than just a “grave penalty”).
  •           № 62: Clarifies that the 2/3 vote required is taken from those present and voting (and not simply from those present).  Interestingly, it also seems to delete the language that says if the number of electors cannot be divided into three equal parts, you need a 2/3 vote +1.  That is to say, if there are, for example, 119 electors, a 2/3 vote would be 79 1/3.  You obviously can’t have a third of a vote, so you would need 80 votes.  Canon law already seems to assume this, so this deletion does not seem to change anything.
  •           № 64: It adds a reference that the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations are recalled to the election hall during the “pre-scrutiny” phase.
  •           № 70: Makes a technical clean-up change saying that at least 2/3 are necessary for election.  This clean-up probably explains the deletion of the language in para. 62.
  •           № 75:  This paragraph is significantly changed to conform to Pope Benedict’s earlier change to the voting procedures.  In effect, it now requires that of a Pope has not been elected after three days, they take a day for prayer, reflection and dialogue.  After that, the only two who may be elected (who have “passive voice”, to use the canonical term) are the two who received the highest number of votes in the last vote.  The person to be elected still needs at least a 2/3 vote to be validly elected, rather than the simple majority that Bl. Pope John Paul II has established.  The two who have “passive voice” (i.e., can be elected) do not have “active voice” (i.e., they may not vote, and their number does not count in determining the 2/3 majority).   
  •           № 87:  Adds the two Masters of Ceremonies to those who are summoned into the election hall after the valid election of a Pope.

25 February 2013

The Conclave: Setting the Date - UPDATED

UPDATE 2/26/13 - Renowned U.S. Canonist E. Peters offers some great commentary on the changes in Normas Nonnullas. As I did, he raises the question of how they can start early without all of the elector present. (For that reason I would suggest he amend his blog title from "Problem Solved" to "Problems Created"!)  He offers the following solution:
Well, I suggest that authorizing an earlier conclave under certain express conditions authorizes resort to reasonable means to determine whether those conditions have been met. Now Darmaatmadja and O’Brien have declared their intention not to enter the conclave. There is no reason not to think that those are free choices. So the opening date can be set without further notice of them
I think it is easier than that.  The law itself allows cardinals to be excused from voting.  They may be excused for illness, and Darmaatmadja is clearly covered by this.  By that alone, I think he would not count in determining whether they could permit early voting.  As I mention, the law also allows a cardinal to be absent for another grave reason.  But this can only be determined by the Cardinals.  The solution, it seems to me, for the case of O'Brien, would be for him to submit his intention not attend, citing his reason.  The other Cardinals could then vote to approve this as a sufficiently grave reason--if they truly believe that it is--and he would be excluded.  With that, and all other Cardinals present and accounted for, I believe they could begin.  Absent this, I do not believe the may begin early.

Original Post:

The Pope issued today a new motu proprio (Normas Nonnullasamending the Apostolic Constitution which governs Papal Conclaves.  A number of changes were made, many of them small or technical.  One of the most expected changes was the decision regarding when the Conclave could begin.  The document is currently not available in English, only Latin and Italian.  From the Italian version:

lascio peraltro al Collegio dei Cardinali la facoltà di anticipare l’inizio del Conclave se consta della presenza di tutti i Cardinali elettori
Essentially, that means that it is left to the Cardinals the faculty to begin the Conclave early, so long as all of them are present.  This is a key point.

For in addition to this, the document requires all cardinals to respond to the convoking of the Conclave. Only those who are unable to attend by reason of illness or other grave impediment are excused. Moreover, it is up to the Cardinals as a body to decide what that means.

To take a real example, Cardinal O’Brian of Scotland has declared his intention not to attend the Conclave. I presume he means that he suffers from some impediment preventing his attendance. But what if the Cardinal-Electors decide that is not a sufficiently grave reason? Then they have to wait for him to attend before they can set an earlier vote. In other words, before they can vote to begin the voting early, they first have to determine that all the Cardinal electors are present, except those legitimately impeded. A Cardinal can always refuse to attend, but unless excused the Cardinals may not vote before the lapse of the 15 days.

So, the question is, when will the Conclave start?  The answer now is, we don't know.  We will have to wait for the Cardinals to gather on March 1 and tell us.

[I am happy to see, as I hoped, that in issuing the new motu proprio, the Pope also waived the vacatio legis and declared it would be promulgated in L'Osservatore Romano.]

Cardinals and the Conclave

The news media has been swirling with stories on a few of the Cardinal-electors for the upcoming conclave.  As a result of criticism of his handling of child abuse allegations in his long reign as Archbishop of Los Angeles, many are saying that Roger Cardinal Mahoney should not come to the Conclave and should not vote.  Following the recent resignation of Keith Cardinal O'Brien, he has publicly stated he will not attend the conclave.  There is a sense among some that this refusal to vote is some grand act of humility.  To the contrary, it is an act of lawlessness.

The law that governs the Conclave of Cardinals called to elect the Pope, (Universi domenici gregis (UDG)) establishes guidelines about the convocation of the electors.  The law says quite clearly in paragraph 7:
All the Cardinals who are not legitimately impeded must attend the General Congregations, once they have been informed of the vacancy of the Apostolic See.
Notice the language, the Cardinal-electors "must attend".  This is not optional.  It does not say they can attend, unless they decide not to.  The only exception is for those who may be "legitimately impeded".  What exactly does this mean.  UDG clarifies this a bit later in the document:
38.  All the Cardinal electors, convoked for the election of the new Pope by the Cardinal Dean, or by another Cardinal in his name, are required, in virtue of holy obedience, to obey the announcement of convocation and to proceed to the place designated for this purpose, unless they are hindered by sickness or by some other grave impediment, which however must be recognized as such by the College of Cardinals.
In his statement following his resignation, Cardinal O'Brien gave this as his reason for failing to attend the conclave:
I will not join them for this conclave in person. I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me – but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his successor.
This is not a hindrance, nor is it particularly grave.  By grave hindrance means something like a Communist government threatening you if you go, or putting you in prison, or the like.  Moreover, the document is clear that the decision as to what is or what is not a "grave impediment" is not for the individual Cardinal to make.  He must submit himself to the judgment of his brother Cardinals, and they must decide whether not his proffered reason constitutes a grave impediment.

The fact of the matter is that the primary reason for the existence of the office of Cardinal is to elect a new Pope.  It is true that many enjoy other offices and functions in the Roman Curia, but the election is what defines them more than anything else.  None of the men in the conclave is perfect, and all have sinned.  But we must be guided by a commitment not to our own personal decisions, to an over-inflated sense of individualism, but to the law.  A civilized society is founded upon the rule of law, and we ought to strive to obey even when it is difficult.

I understand the impulse to want to protect others from the embarrassment of one's own mistake.  But in this case, this is not Cardinal O'Brien's decision to make.  I would argue, far from it being a laudable example of humility, it is instead an unfortunate act of lawlessness.

24 February 2013

Scenes from St. Peter's Square

I took some video of some of the people enjoying a mostly sunny, but slightly chilly, afternoon at St. Peter's Square.  The crowds were out in force for the Pope's final Angelus.  The mood in the Square was upbeat and joyful, and with a great amount of affection for our Holy Father.

The Pope's Final Angelus

Here are some pictures from the final Angelus prayers of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.  The Pope celebrates the Angelus every Sunday at noon from the window of his Papal apartments overlooking the Piazza of St. Peter's Basilica.  The text of the Pope's reflections before the Angelus may be found at the Vatican website.  There, you can also watch a video of the Pope's reflection and prayers.

Washington Examiner story on Dominican student brother

Great news story on one of the student brothers at the house of studies from the Washington Examiner.  Interview begins:

How did you decide to become a Dominican monk [sic - We're friars not monks!]?

I had met Dominicans, and it was that lived example that attracted me. Slowly I began to identify with that. It's not exactly what I planned on in life, but it was something that was authentic, that grew in time, and that also started to match hand-in-hand with the closeness to Christ that I wanted.
 Read the rest of the interview here:  Credo: Timothy Danaher finds rich rewards in austere monastic life | Mobile Washington Examiner

23 February 2013

The Final Week

This week is the final week of the Papacy of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.  There are two final public appearances this week.  The Holy Father will give the usual Angelus prayer and address from the Papal apartments at Noon on Sunday.  I have the 9:00am Mass here at the Basilica that day, but I should be there on time.  He will have his final public appearance with his Wednesday audience on February 27th at 10:00am.  I plan on attending that, too, with probably 100,000 other people.

I am considering using Twitter (@PiusOP) to send out pictures and news (assuming there is sufficient cellphone coverage) from each.  If not, I will try blogging the event from the square.  If you'd be interested in me doing that, just put in a comment to this post.

22 February 2013

Charity that Hurts

The Acton Institute, founded in 1990 to "promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles", has an office here in Rome.  They had an event the other night on one of their on-going projects.  They have developed a video series entitled "Charity that Hurts".  Their argument is that, although well-intentioned, many aid programs, government, international, and private, cause more harm than good.  That is, in handing out "free stuff" they often stifle the development of local industry and business.  They don't mean to criticize responses to emergencies--this often requires the mobilization of great amounts of resources to meet a sudden need.  What they mean is long-term development aid, the plans to reduce poverty.  At one point in the longer video, an African politician asks, how many third-world countries have moved to first-world status as a result of international aid.  In the half-century we've been doing this, I think the answer is, none.  Anyway, a very thought-provoking video:

18 February 2013

Italian Elections

Walking to class, I came upon this sign for the upcoming Italian parliamentary elections. (Rome has lots of spaces for these large posters (manifesti), often political in nature throughout the year, but sometimes advertising movies, shows, etc.). The top row lists the candidates for the 42 deputy positions and the bottom row for the 28 Senators. Keep in mind that these are not the candidates for the whole of Italy, just for the Lazio region (of which Italy is a part). Each of the symbols is a different political party. I rather prefer our 2 party system.

Location:Via dei Normanni,Rome,Italy

17 February 2013

Early Conclave?

There has been much discussion in the media about the Conclave.   Two pieces of information have struck me as being incorrect.  The first regards the question of changing the date of the Conclave to make it earlier. The second is the earliest date on which the Conclave can begin. Click on the "Read More" button below to continue.

16 February 2013


An earthquake hit Italy, about 60 miles east of Rome.  It was a 4.8 earthquake.  The building here shook a bit--but because of the excavations under the church, it often shakes.  It just shook a bit differently this time-more like a wobble.  Anyway, Rome is fine, not much impact here.  Pray for those near the epicenter.  A map showing about where the epicenter was is below.

UPDATE:  The news reports are saying that there was no reported damages or injuries to the quake, as it was relatively small and centered in a mostly rural area.

View Larger Map


Two of the Friars and I decided to take a day trip up to Florence. The fast train (frecciargenta - "the Silver Arrow") to Florence is about a 1.5 hour ride (it's about 4 hours by bus). It was a beautiful day -- sunny and about 50 degrees. A perfect day for walking around. We went to San Marco, which I had been to before, but it is always worth seeing again. San Marco was the heart of the reformed movement in the Order in the late Middle Ages. Among its most famous members were St. Antoninus, the former Bishop of Florence, Bl. Fra Angelico (John of Fiesole), the great painter, and Girolamo Savanarola, the preacher and civil reformer who was burned at the stake. All of them lived at our Priory of San Marco. During the unification of Italy in the 19th century, the Dominicans were forced to turn over their property. The Italian government eventually allowed the Order to move back into the Priory, but they kept that part that had Fra Angelico's frescoes. The stolen property is now a museum run by the Italian government. We also visited the Uffizi, the great art museum of Florence. It is perhaps the greatest collection of Western art in the world. We also visited the Cathedral, which is far more impressive on the outside than on the inside. Finally, we visited the other Dominican Church of Santa Maria Novella. It, too is a beautiful church. I had not had the opportunity to see that one the last time I was in Florence.


Feast of St. Cyril

Sts. Cyril and Methodius--the Apostles to the Slavic people--are patrons of Europe in the late 9th century.  As such, here in Europe their feast day (Feb. 14) is celebrated as a feast.  (St. Valentine is no longer celebrated as part of the universal calendar.  His feast is kept on Feb. 14 in the calendar of the extraordinary form.)  In addition, St. Cyril (and St. Methodius) was instrumental in the recovery of the relics of St. Clement, the patron of the Basilica here, and returning them to Rome.  When St. Cyril died in Rome the Pope refused to permit his relics to leave the city, and insisted he be given a funeral with all of the ceremony of a Pope.  He was aid to rest in the original Basilica di San Clemente (which is directly underneath the current 11th century church).  Each year, the Eastern Catholic seminaries celebrate the feast with a solemn Mass, rotating the organization among them.  This year, the Slovakian College here in Rome held the Mass.  The Presider was His Eminence Jozef Cardinal Tomko, the long-time prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (Propoganda Fide).

The Mass ended with a candlelight procession to the original tomb in the old 4th century church.  

13 February 2013

The Caelian Hill & Circus Maximus

It was a chill but sunny day earlier this week, so I made way way over the Caelian hill, at the south end of the Circus Maximus.  I had hoped to get to the ancient Roman baths of Caracalla, a huge structure built by the Emperor Caracalla in the 3rd century.  Unfortunately, however, I arrived too late and the ruins were closed.  Still I managed to grabbed some nice photos.

Just up the street from the baths is the Circus Maximus, now essentially a long, narrow field.  The shape is due to its primary use, which was a stadium for chariot racing.  There are some ruins at the south end, on which there is sporadic work done.  There is a spot over by the Aventine Hill from which one has a very nice view of the Circus and the ruins along the Palatine Hill. 

Below are some pictures from visiting both:

11 February 2013

The Pope Resigns - A Q&A on what happens now (UPDATED)

UPDATED -- 12 Feb. 2013

By now, most people know the news that Pope Benedict XVI has offered his resignation as Bishop of Rome (and therefore as Supreme Pontiff) effective 28 February 2013 at 20:00 (Rome Time).  I thought I'd offer a bit of Q&A on what his means.

If people have specific questions, just ask in the ComBox, and I will try to answer them.  If anyone is interested and request (in the Com Box), I can do a Q&A for the Conclave itself once it begins.

Click on the "Read More" button below for the Q&A.

08 February 2013

Washington, DC

After the Board Meeting, I went to Washington, DC, in part to assist at our Vocations Weekend in Washington. My sister came up to visit and we made a trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Most of the pictures are from there. Most people don't realize that the National Gallery does permit you to take pictures, but you are not allowed to use a tripod (without advance written permission). The last few photos are from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial just north of the Art Museum.

New Orleans

At the end of January, I traveled to New Orleans for a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation. Because I was coming from Rome, I got there a bit early to adjust to the time.  That gave me a little bit of time to explore the Big Easy, the best description of which is found in the movie Star Wars. (In a twist of irony, as I write this I am listening to HCjr's "O My Nola".)  Most of the pictures below are taken of the Cathedral in New Orleans, dedicated to St. Louis, King of France.  (If you've never read it, I strongly urge reading St. Louis's letter to his son)