The Rome Tome: Dispatch #3
By John Soltes / Editor in Chief
ROME, Italy (Sept. 8, 2010) — Hello from the Eternal City. It’s now approaching midnight, so in deference to my closing eyelids, I’ll make this dispatch a little more succinct (but just a little, because there is so much to write).
On Wednesdays during most weeks of the year, Catholics are able to attend an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The frenzy to attain tickets (which are free), to pass through security, to secure a seat and to sneak a decent view of the pontiff could be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that many of these pilgrims have waited their entire life to see the successor of St. Peter in person.
In a very personal way, the pope tries to acknowledge the many groups that flock to his presence every single Wednesday. But because of the enormity of the crowds (tens of thousands), usually the faithful are blessed with a quick mention of the countries, universities or parishes the Catholics have traveled from. This simple acknowledgment, said in the native tongue of the pilgrims, usually elicits an enthusiastic response of applause, screaming and sometimes singing and dancing. Crying is a big feature at papal audiences, too.
Pope Benedict XVI, to my surprise, made special mention of the journalists attending “The Church Up Close” seminar. Being that there are only a few of us, the acknowledgment felt extremely gratifying. The pontiff said he would pray for us. Although not personally, I thanked him.
Seeing the pope is a very real experience conducted in real time. He enters, he reads, he prays, he blesses, he acknowledges and then he eventually leaves. For a more historical experience, one need only to travel to the underground of the Vatican and its ancient crypts (known as the “scavi”). This tour, which visitors need to book months in advance, highlights the pagan and early Christian burial grounds that predate today’s St. Peter’s Basilica. The ultimate feature of the visit is a look at the exact spot where St. Peter is believed to have been buried after his crucifixion. For believers, it is likely one of the holiest relics in the Catholic Church’s history — and it is quite amazing that the Vatican lets one come within feet of the box that holds the supposed bones of the saint.
The formal seminar for today involved another discussion on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, promoter of justice for the Vatican department. The topic of canon law and what happens to those clergy who break from the church’s teachings were enlightening. The monsignor spoke candidly about the sex abuse scandals that have plagued the church, plus the forms of judgment and penalties that are levied against those who are found guilty by the congregation.
It was a serious discussion about a serious issue. It left me informed, engaged and saddened by the obvious need to address such an uncomfortable reality.
To process the lengthy day that left us all tired and professionally (perhaps personally) enthralled, a group of journalists headed for some delectable food, enjoyable conversation and tasty limoncello for dinner.
LESSON OF THE DAY: Stay positive on trips; don’t waste time on fretting over something that doesn’t go exactly as planned.
TIP OF THE DAY: View St. Peter’s Basilica both close up and from afar at various times throughout the day.
SIGHT OF THE DAY: The scavi
FOOD FIND OF THE DAY: Limoncello
John Soltes / Roma, Italia / Sept. 8, 2010