Monday, April 15, 2013

A day in the life of Rome (part III)....

As the start of the Conclave was getting nearer on March 12th, 2013 (the Conclave is when the 115 cardinals choose St. Peter’s successor inside the magnificent Sistine Chapel.  The term comes from the Latin “cum clave”, under key.  It appears to come from the town of Viterbo, located some 100 kms/62 miles from Rome. From the 8th to the 14th centuries it had become the residence of the Popes. During one election in the 1200s, the cardinals spent a whopping 33 months before they finally came up with a winner. So exasperated were the townspeople that they forced the cardinals “with key” and apparently also destroyed the roof over their heads as a way of forcing them to the ballot boxes!) things were busily getting underway at the Vatican.  One of the major events was the holy mass for the election of the Roman Pontifice.  

This involved the 155 cardinals to be present at St. Peter’s for a morning mass which would be lead by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s veteran secretary of foreign affairs.  I had my NBC accreditation and thought that it would be interesting to take it in.  

As I made my way towards the imposing alter which is held up by Bernini’s four bronze columns, I saw that other photographers were already in place, so it would have been virtually impossible for me to climb on top of the small stand.

I made my way back to one of the side entrances of the Basilica, right next to a large curtain.  And what luck too as right behind the curtain all 115 cardinals were lined up and ready to enter the Basilica for the mass!  Canada’s Ouellet went by me (a strong candidate), as did America’s Dolan and O’Malley (ditto), including also Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State under Ratzinger.  Whether I saw Argentina’s Cardinal Beroglio remains to be seen because up until that mass, who had ever heard of him (the Conclave would elect him the following day on Wednesday as Tuesday afternoon saw the start of the election right after the morning mass)? 

Who did go by me at the door as he came in was Monsignor Georg Ganswein who had been Ratzinger’s personal assistant.  On the long way back from the alter all the cardinals went back to the closed curtain area. I waited around for a bit as the Basilica started emptying and managed to see that Michelangelo’s “Pieta’” was right behind that very same curtain, and the cardinals had lined up there just a few feet away from that stupendous statue.  


The Swiss Guards were also on their best as were the Vatican’s gendarme.  Quite the event to see so many cardinals in just one place!