Sunday, April 24, 2005

And I was there - Part 3 (The Inauguration)

I got up early this morning - it was still dark and I wanted to get the best place possible and so I walked across the city towards the Via della Conciliazione, stopping only to get an early morning coffee and cornetto to sustain me. As is normal on these occasions, it seemed that the entire city of Rome was populated by religious sisters. They got up even earlier than I did and travel in packs to the Vatican. As I neared the Vatican however, the profile of the crowd changed - there were seminarians and priests in their cassocks, scouting groups from Italy and German, the ubiquitous sisters and pilgrims from all over the world. Even though it was still well before 7am there were even families with small children, determined to pay their respects to the Pope and to give their youngsters the opportunity to tell their children 'I was there...' As I walked along the Via della Conciliazione I looked up at the windows of thw Pius IX Elementary School. The last time I took notice of those windows was when I went to pay my respects to the Holy Father. Then, the children had put out large banners bidding farewell to the Pope they loved so much. Today the banners were more festive and gave an warm welcome to the new Pope - they were decorated with hearts and said (in Italian and German) 'Holy Father, Our Little Hearts Love You.' (How cute!)
The crowd was held back until about 7.15, then access was allowed from the Via della Conciliazione to the side streets leading to the Piazza del Sant'Ufficio (to the left of the square) and from there one could access the square itself by passing through the metal detectors under the collonade. Of course it wasn't that simple. There was much pushing and crushing and so on - though in fairness, a special effort was made to let families with little ones through. And so it was that I had a fairly decent spot in the square at about 7.30. I had a clear (albeit distant) view of the altar, and could also see two of the big screens which are used to such good effect on these occasions. I could see various friends scattered about the place, but was sitting alone. Behind me and to my right was a group of Italian scouts, in front of me were Indian nuns in a habit resembling traditional Indian dress. To the left were a number of German school and scouting groups, and near the front of the seating area was a group of about 20 Germans - all dressed in white riding trousers, knee high boots, and elaborate multicoloured military dress jackets. They carried a variety of flags on long poles and looked like a cross between a high school band and a detachment of cavalrymen. (I never found out who they were.) Sitting in the square at that hour was chilly - there was a breeze and the sun had not yet warmed the Piazza. I took out my breviary and having said my office took out an article on moral theology. Every now and then I would go for a walk about and see the square quickly fill up.
At 9.15am the small bells of St Peter's began to ring - this was the signal for the various scouting and youth groups to begin their chants - the Italians shouting 'Benedetto... Benedetto...' while the Germans tried to outdo them by counting backwards from ten in German before shouting something incomprehensible to my lingutistically challeged ears. Then the Italian scouts took off their neck-scrves and began to twirl them above their heads - the Germans followed suit and before long the whole Piazza was alive with flags and scarfs and banners.
'Poland Semper Fidelis'
'Benedict XVI'
'We Love You Pope Benedict'
There were flags of every imaginable nation there, the one unusual feature being the large number of Bavarian flags and people in Bavarian costume.

The athmosphere in the crowd was strange - there was the same anticipation that goes with any Papal Mass of this scale, but there was an awareness of a particular dignity and historical importance. Perhaps it was the Germanic influence, but things seemed quieter and more intense. When the screens finally showed the inside of the Basilica (and didn't that look impressive!) there was a cheer and a round of applause, but when a group began chanting they were shhhshed into silence so that the choir could sing the litany and the crowd could follow what was going on.

I shan't give a blow-by-blow account of the liturgy - I'm sure you've all seen it. However, it was very moving to be there, and it seemed to be that the Holy Father looked as though he were about to be overcome by emotion as he received the pallium and Fisherman's ring.

Incidentally, note the new 'old' style of Pallium which is a reversion to the original 1st Millenium design.
Note too the Holy Father's vestments - I am informed that the mitre is actually one that Pope Benedict received as a Cardinal. Note the Cardinal's coat of arms (Ratzinger's or those of another Archbishop of Munich???)

Note that the Shell design of his Cardinal's crest is taken up in the chasuable he wore.

I understand that his papal arms are very similar to those he had as Cardinal. The shield will be divided into three with the crowned Moor's head, shell and bear carrying a pack retained on the shield. I presume he'll retain his motto 'co operatores veritatis'. (Excellent explaination of the symbolism here.)
The homily was impressive, though I though perhaps that there was material for two homilies there! It's interesting that the crowd reacted most strongly to the Pope's observation was 'young' and 'alive'. He also drew a laugh when he said that he wouldn't be laying out a 'programme of government.' (This is particularly funny given Berlusconi's political difficulties of the moment and Papa Ratzinger's reputation as being a man with an agenda. I think this is the first example of this man's legendary dry wit.)
Finally, and I apologise for my reflection on the Installation Mass being so poorly put together, it was great to see Fr Georg Ratzinger present.

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