Monday, February 27, 2006

This story caught my eye...

Blogging will be light, folks - I have much on my plate at the moment. (In the sense of being busy...) But I couldn't not post this curious tale from the Telegraph:
A San Francisco builder is attempting to usurp a British aristocrat as head of a family whose reputation for valour has been tainted by tragedy and scandal.
Paul FitzGerald claims he is the rightful Duke of Leinster, a title regarded as the premier dukedom of Ireland.
He says he should have inherited the dukedom from his grandfather, Desmond, the second of three sons of the 5th Duke of Leinster, who was thought to have been killed in the First World War while serving in the Irish Guards, but who, Mr FitzGerald claims, secretly emigrated to North America and lived there until his death in 1967.
The American construction manager, 39, told The Daily Telegraph that his father had told him stories about the family's aristocratic lineage and later took him to Ireland to research their roots.
"I heard stories of where my grandfather grew up," he said yesterday.
"There was a house with stables and my dad was just astounded when he was able to see everything for himself because his father had told him about it all in such detail."
He believes a collection of heirlooms and legal documents compiled by his grandfather for his father holds the key to proving his right to the dukedom.
The package was lodged in a government department, said the Californian, but had since been mislaid. "We know that my father's name was attached to the documents either in 1929 or 1930.
Paul FitzGerald's aunt, Theresa Caudhill, 80, who claims to be Desmond's daughter, has produced an affidavit giving an account of his life before and after he changed identity.
She claims her father joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood when he was a teenager and carried messages to the United States for the movement. This, she believes was the reason for him being spirited out of the trenches.
Desmond, she recalls, had two leather-bound Dickens novels stamped with a gold-coloured Leinster coat of arms, military medals and uniforms, and a strand of pearls said to have come from his grandmother.
She also remembers a trunk containing documents that he claimed proved his identity.
The current duke refused to comment.
Paul FitzGerald, who is married with two children, said of him: "I really don't know the guy but I don't believe he is the current duke."
He added that his quest to secure the title had nothing to do with wealth or power. "All the money's been burned up. It's basically about righting the wrong that should have been done in the 1970s.
"It's an adventure. Every person has something that they want to see through. This story is so amazing, but the truth is always stranger than fiction."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Disturbing news from India...

From the Telegraph:
Thousands of primary school teachers have been ordered to find two "volunteers" for sterilisation as part of a draconian solution to India's population explosion.

The order was issued to 6,400 teachers in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state (pop 170 million), where the teachers have been given until March 31 to meet the "sterilisation target" or face disciplinary action.
The plan, imposed by a district magistrate in the southern city of Allahabad, is a radical approach to dealing with India's population of almost 1.1 billion.
The nation's population, as displayed on a giant screen in the capital at noon yesterday, stood at 1,089,752,843. It is expected to overtake China (currently 1.3 billion) by 2020 as the world's most populous nation. It is estimated that 29 children are born in India every minute.
The magistrate, Amrit Abhijat, has remained unapologetic despite an outcry from religious groups and social activists. They say the scheme evokes memories of the forced sterilisation of the Indira Gandhi government of the 1970s, when nearly a million men and women, mostly from the lowest castes, were targeted. "The root cause of all evils is population explosion," Mr Abhijat said.
Experts disagree over whether the population will be a burden or a boon in the years ahead. Some economists predict India will benefit from the fact that China's economy is expected to slow by 2030 because of the ageing effects of its one-child policy.
India, by contrast, is one of the youngest countries in the world, with half the population now under 25, a fact that could give India a potential competitive edge over Europe where the population will soon be top-heavy with pensioners. Any advantage could depend on India's ability to educate its masses sufficiently to compete in the global economy.


I was in Santa Maria sopra Minerva a few days ago and snapped a picture of this tombstone.

I mentioned Wilberforce in this post back in 2004:
I am also working my way through the Gracewing/University of Notre Dame published ‘Birmingham Oratory Millennium’ edition of Newman’s ‘The Church of the Fathers’ which has a preface by Marist Francis McGrath FMS. In it he notes that when Newman re-issued the work as a Catholic in 1857 he added a dedication to the recently deceased Robert Isaac Wilberforce (1802-57), one of the most significant converts who crossed the Tiber under Newman’s influence. He was the son of prominent Evangelical social reformer William Wilberforce. (It’s worth noting that three of his sons converted to Catholicism, whilst one became an Anglican bishop.) Having converted in 1854, Wilberforce moved to Rome to study for the priesthood as a Dominican, but died a few weeks before ordination. His funerary stone can be found set into the pavement of S.Maria Sopra Minerva, about three-quarters of the way up the right hand side of the church. Newman’s dedication reads:
I also visited the Gesu (head Jesuit Church) recently. I had a little shock when I saw this in one of the side chapels:
My first thought was that it was a horrendous modern art exhibit - 'Crucified Christ Tanning Himself, with Plastic Bottles.' However, closer examination showed that the crucifix in question is being restored and the restorers are working in the side chapel.

Newman on Marriage...

Pardon the lack of posts of late... I find myself busier than normal. Anyway, searching for something else, I turned up the following passage from the Parochial and Plain Sermons:
I fear, indeed, that most men, though they profess and have a regard for religion, yet have very low and contracted notions of the dignity of their station as Christians. To be a Christian is one of the most wondrous and awful gifts in the world. It is, in one sense, to be higher than Angel or Archangel. If we have any portion of an enlightened faith, we shall understand that our state, as members of Christ's Church, is full of mystery. What so mysterious as to be born, as we are, under God's wrath? What so mysterious as to be redeemed by the death of the Son of God made flesh? What so mysterious as to receive the virtue of that death one by one through Sacraments? What so mysterious as to be able to teach and train each other in good or evil? When a man at all enters into such thoughts, how is his view changed about the birth of children! in what a different light do his duties, as a parent, break upon him! The notion entertained by most men seems to be, that it is a pleasant thing to have a home;—this is what would be called an innocent and praiseworthy reason for marrying;—that a wife and family are comforts. And the highest view a number of persons take is, that it is decent and respectable to be a married man; that it gives a man a station in society, and settles him. All this is true. Doubtless wife and children are blessings from God: and it is praiseworthy and right to be domestic, and to live in orderly and honourable habits. But a man who limits his view to these thoughts, who does not look at marriage and at the birth of children as something of a much higher and more heavenly nature than any thing we see, who does not discern in Holy Matrimony a divine ordinance, shadowing out the union between Christ and the Church, and does not associate the birth of children with the Ordinance of their new birth, such a one, I can only say, has very carnal views. It is well to go on labouring, year after year, for the bread that perisheth; and if we are well off in the world, to take interest and pleasure in our families rather than to seek amusements out of doors; it is very well, but it is not religion; and let us endeavour to make our feelings towards them more and more religious. Let us beware of aiming at nothing higher than their being educated well for this world, their forming respectable connections, succeeding in their callings, and settling well. Let us never think we have absolved ourselves from the responsibility of being their parents, till we have brought them to Christ, as in Baptism, so by religious training. Let us bear in mind ever to pray for their eternal salvation; let us "watch for their souls as those who must give account." Let us remember that salvation does not come as a matter of course; that Baptism, though administered to them once and long since, is never past, always lives in them as a blessing or as a burden: and that though we may cherish a joyful confidence that "He who hath begun a good work in them will perform it," then only have we a right to cherish it, when we are doing our part towards fulfilling it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In the Red...

Rocco at 'Whispers in the Loggia' has posted the list of Cardinals announced this morning:
Archbishop William Levada, Archbishop-emeritus of San Francisco, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Archbishop Franc Rode, C.M., Archbishop-emeritus of Ljubljana, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
Archbishop Agostino Vallini, Bishop-emeritus of Albano, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
Archbishop Jorge Liberato Urosa Savino of Caracas
Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales of Manila
Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux
Archbishop Antonio Canizares Lloveda of Toledo
Archbishop Nicholas Cheong Jin-Suk of Seoul
Archbishop Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap. of Boston
Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow
Archbishop Carlo Caffara of Bologna
Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B of Hong Kong
The Pope announced his intent to elevate three additional clerics who are above voting age to the College of Cardinals, in recognition of their service to the life of the church
Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza de Montezemolo, Archpriest of St. Paul's Outside the Walls
Archbishop-emeritus Peter Proeku Dery of Tamale, Ghana
Father Albert Vanhoye, S.J., former secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

It's an interesting list - the fact that the Holy Father has decided to limit the number of voting cardinals to 120 means that sees like Paris, Dublin and Barcelona remain without a red hat for the time being. Also, curialists like Comastri and Cordes who were tipped have been passed over.
The list of over-80s is curious too. One might have expected more theologians to receive this honour from Papa Ratzinger.
The Cardinal from Hong Kong is a surprise too. It is thought that he may have been JPII's last in pectore appointment. It will be interesting to see how the Chinese react to this.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


(ANSA) - Rome, February 20 - A priceless Caravaggio loaned by Rome to Milan for a major exhibition has not been vandalised, the Italian cultural heritage ministry said on Monday .
"Reports that someone poked a hole in the canvas with a pen are completely without foundation," the ministry said .
However, the ministry admitted the masterpiece had suffered "slight" damage during its stay in Milan .
"There has been slight flaking of the coating on a piece of canvas, less than one square centimetre," officials said .
The piece of canvas was covered with tissue paper, as a precaution, and the coating will now be glued back on, they said .
The Madonna, which was restored seven years ago, was "in good condition." The Madonna di Loreto returned to its home in a Rome church on Monday after its appearance as one of the star attractions in the Milan show, Caravaggio And Europe .
The Madonna di Loreto (in Italian, Madonna dei Pellegrini or pilgrims) is one of Caravaggio's most famous works, painted in 1604-1606 .
It hangs in the Cavalletti Chapel of the church of Sant'Agostino, near Rome's Piazza Navona. In the work, a barefoot Virgin and naked child appear to two peasants on a pilgrimage.
Also from ANSA:
(ANSA) - Bronte, February 20 - A Roman villa dating back to the III Century AD has been found near Catania in Sicily .
Digs began a few months ago after archaeologists found red potsherds scattered at the site, a stone's throw from a famous castle built by Admiral Horatio Nelson .
Italian police kept the discovery secret until Monday in order to keep tomb raiders away .
The Telegraph makes us wonder whether neckties are dangerous:
Until today, it was fairly safe to assume that a grubby tie was the sign of a slob, not an assassin.
How wrong we were. A liberally stained tie is not only the epitome of sloth, it is a lethal weapon, too, a germ warfare laboratory of terrifying capabilities.
Wear a dirty tie and you become a killer, was the suggestion yesterday from the British Medical Association, which is urging doctors to abandon neckwear.
The august body fears grubby ties could contribute to the spread of fatal superbugs, such as MRSA.
It sounds like a good argument could be made for the resurgence of the bow-tie amongst the medical profession.
Strangest Headline I've Read in a While: Hindu gods turn down plans for a Himalayan ski resort:
The Himalayan Ski Village, a luxury resort with a cable-car reaching up to 14,000ft, was billed as a ski destination to rival Europe and America.
However, the project encountered opposition from local interest groups who claimed it would destroy a pristine environment, pollute water courses and trample over sacred mountains.
A formal Jagati Puch (grand convention) of 175 local deities was called to decide whether the project was in the interests of local people. The conclave is made up of 175 oracles, or gurs - local elders and villagers, who represent the deities that rule the valley according to traditional belief.
Mr Ford and John Sims, the project's managing director, adopted the Hindu names of "Amrish" and "Abhiram" ahead of the ceremony, but the gods were not to be appeased.
Nine out of 10 gods who expressed a preference said the village would be inimical to the valley's interests.
As so often with religion, however, things were not as simple as they first appeared. Suspicious minds noted that Maheshwar Singh, the "king" of Kullu, is a former MP for the Hindu-nationalist BJP party, sections of which are against foreign intervention.
Mr Sims could barely conceal his irritation. "The gods were asked all the wrong questions," he said.
The Himalayan Ski Village has been rejected "as it is presented" to the gods.
As keen students of the Hindu religion, Mr Ford and Mr Sims will know that, when the correct offerings are made, the gods are often open to persuasion.
There's some satire in the Times:
Al-Jazeera News. Mark Seddon reporting . . .
These are the pictures of Our Lady’s Church in Shoreham, following the explosion in which 31 parishioners died, along with the suicide bomber, who is believed to belong to the majority Anglican community. This is the fourth such bomb attack on a Catholic church in the last two years.
(Read the whole thing for context)

Further info from my readers...

Following on yesterday's post which provided some more info about the burials of Bl. Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII, I've learned a little more. A Kenneth Lieblich informs me:
Apparently, San Lorenzo was Pius IX's favourite church and his will
specified that he be buried there. The mosaics on the wall of the chapel
where he lies (I've seen it too) depict the two dogmas that he solemnly
defined: Our Lady's Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility.
Incidentally, the mob that tried to fling his corpus into the Tiber were
And on the subject of Leo XIII, a seminarian from here in Rome tells me:
It is said that one of the reasons that Leo XIII asked to be buried to the left of the Apse in the Lateran is the fact that Innocent III is buried to the right of the Apse. Leo had a great admiration for Innocent who did much to increase the power and prestige of the Church.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Get Bach...

A simple but strangely pleasing visualization of Bach's Toccata and Fuge in D Minor (video link) via Google Video of the Day.

My most excellent readers...

... very kindly helped me answer the question posed here:
Random Question: Does anyone know why Bl. Pius IX and Leo XIII chose to be buried in S. Lorenzo and at the Lateran respectively? The Popes immediately beforehand and after are all buried in St Peter's and one would have thought that the political climate of the time would have made St Peter's the obvious choice.
(An attempt was made by a Roman mob to fling the body of Pius IX into the Tiber as it was transported to S. Lorenzo. It is said that an international group of seminarians fought off the mob and the Pope's remians safely made their way to their resting place.)
I received an e-mail from a Professor Adams who says:
In partial answer to your query about the tomb of Pius IX at S. Lorenzo:
In the mid-nineteenth century, there were two partially ruined small basilicas next to one another. Pius had them converted into one (hence the odd articulation between the nave and choir and the two styles). The western basilica became the nave with the narthex on the Piazza, and the eastern one, which lost its apse, no longer needed a narthex. Pius reserved the narthex space for the tomb that is the subject of your posting. He also had the column in the piazza erected.
There are medals commemorating these expensive undertakings. I have one of them in my collection, and it is on my web site:
The whole collection is at
Do check out that website - there are some wonderful images of Papal and Sede Vacante medals. Particularly of interest are these 2005 Sede Vacante issues. I regret to say that in my opinion the site also shows that for all his virtues, Paul VI had a poor sense of the aesthetic.
And in the comments box, Msgr. Edward Ryan notes:
Leo XIII, I believe, chose the Lateran Basilica as his final resting place because he had presided over the re-builing of the apse. Pius may have chosen St. Lawrence-Ottside-the Walls precisely to be out of the Vatican. In death, if not in later life, he would not be imprisoned. It was, I believe, several months after Pius' death that the attempt to transport his body was made in the dead of night. Even then the procession incited a riot. In accord with St. Lawrence, Pius XII left the Vatican to visit it when it was bombed during the War. Some say it was because his parents were buried in the cemetery adjacent to the basilica which was also bombed.
Msgr, I think you're quite right about Pius XII and IIRC his family tomb was destroyed in the San Lorenzo bombing. Pius XII's visit to San Lorenzo in the aftermath of the bombardment was greatly appreciated by the Roman people. The following monument to Pius XII is in the porch of San Lorenzo.
In the news...
This story from the Telegraph highlights the continuing absurdity of the Anglican compromise regarding women priests.
A senior figure in the Church of England yesterday defended a village that has refused to appoint a woman priest.
Barsham, in Suffolk, has vetoed the idea of a woman in the pulpit for the church in their joint parish of Bungay.
The parochial church council decided it did not want a woman and the vacancy is advertised for male priests only.
The Ven Geoffrey Arrand, the Archdeacon of Suffolk, defended the parish's right to take the decision, but said he did not necessarily agree with it.
"I understand why they are doing it, but that is not the same thing as saying I agree with them," he said.
"They are perfectly within their rights to take this decision because when it was decided that women could be ordained to priesthood in 1993 safeguards were put in place for those who could not accept this decision.
"This is either because in particular interpretations of the scripture, in various places, it is indicated that women should know their place.
"Others believe that the Church of England should wait until the whole Church has women priests and have no right to go ahead on their own.
"I would disagree with both these views, but that is where some people come at it from and therefore we have to safeguard their position."
He added: "The Church of England always tries to be a Church that is inclusive and welcomes as many people as possible."
I should make it clear the real absurdity of the situation is not that there are women priests. I think that adopting that position drags them even further away from the tradition and orthdox doctrine. However, as a protestant body it is quite understandable that they should interpret the rights of women as permitting female ordination. What is inexplicable is that they should permit what should seem to their lights (not mine!) little pockets of bigotry who can refuse the ministry of a woman priest. It smacks of a decided lack of conviction and commitment to the truth.
The Corriere has a great picture from the Indian Rural Olympic Games.
Additions to Blogroll
Hymnography Unbound
Argent by the Tiber

Saturday, February 18, 2006

About the city...

I had the pleasure of strolling around the city with the Roamin' Roman (no relation) last week. Fortunately she brings her camera everywhere and snapped some great shots...
The Tomb of SS. Lawrence, Stephen and Justin.
Detail of the Chapel of St Catherine in the Basilica of S.Sabina.
The stone the devil flung at St Dominic.
The Lateran Baptistry.
I snapped a couple of pics that day as well...
A Mosaic from the Benedictine Church of S. Anselmo.

The Tomb of Bl. Pius IX at S. Lorenzo.
Random Question: Does anyone know why Bl. Pius IX and Leo XIII chose to be buried in S. Lorenzo and at the Lateran respectively? The Popes immediately beforehand and after are all buried in St Peter's and one would have thought that the political climate of the time would have made St Peter's the obvious choice.
(An attempt was made by a Roman mob to fling the body of Pius IX into the Tiber as it was transported to S. Lorenzo. It is said that an international group of seminarians fought off the mob and the Pope's remians safely made their way to their resting place.)

Newsy bits and pieces...

From ANSA:
(ANSA) - Florence, February 17 - Italians restorers have managed to rescue a Gentile da Fabriano masterpiece that had long been believed lost because of severe fire damage .
The work, a rare five-pannelled altarpiece called a polyptych, had been gathering dust in the basement of Palazzo Pitti since a fire in 1897 .
It was taken out for the first time a few years ago and experts decided to try to recover it .
The two-year restoration has largely restored the vivid colours and splashes of gold the pre-Renaissance master (1370-1427) is famous for .
The restorers used infra-red scanners to pick out figures under the charred surface of the picture .
A classic religious motif, the Intercession of Mary, forms the centre-piece of the complex work, which also features the Resurrection of Lazarus and a number of saints including St.Bernard holding a devil on a leash .
The Corriere has a photo of the polyptych.
Also from ANSA:
(ANSA) - Milan, February 17 - An ancient bundle of designs, sketches, notes and ideas by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci will shortly open to the public at Milan's Sforza Castle .
The exhibition of the Codex Trivulzianus, normally accessible only to scholars, has been timed to coincide with the fifth centenary of Leonardo's return to Milan .
Although originally from Tuscany, Leonardo spent a great deal of his life in Milan, residing there from 1482 to 1499 and again from 1506 until 1513 .
The precious manuscript, usually stored in the private Trivulziana Library in the Sforza Castle, last went on public display in 1998 .

Il Papa seems to be talking about his last fishing trip.
Ooooookay... It's not quite as awful as Archbishop Niederauer's vestments but Cardinal Lehman's outfit is pretty bizarre.

Have you ever noticed...

That Madonna's Papa Don't Preach is more or less an updated version of Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


From the Telegraph:
Italian police have foiled a plot to kidnap a wealthy countess in Piemonte by having a male officer dress up as the target - and fooling the gang.
For four days police lay in wait for the kidnappers at the luxury villa of Countess Anna Maria Fantuzzi, 57 and her husband Count Luigi Bottazzi, 59, in the village of Stazzano.
The police were alerted to the plot to hold her for ransom by phone taps used in another investigation, which was into lorry theft.
Although the countess was never mentioned by name, the would-be kidnappers spoke of her swimming pool, the couple's wealth and the Volkswagen Touareg that the countess drove, which led police to deduce her identity.
Officers even heard how the gang - two Italians and two Bosnians - would attempt to lure the mother of four away from her home by pretending that they worked for the post office.
They then planned to hold her for several days in a camper van parked near the gates of her villa. The two men who were to carry out the kidnapping would wear carnival masks bearing the faces of Felix the Cat and Captain Hook, in a set-up that the gang hoped would lead her husband to pay up a ransom of £137,300.
But in the event it was the police who proved to be the masters of disguise.
The phone call came at 8.45 this Tuesday morning. "Signora Anna, come to the post office. There is a parcel waiting for you," a voice on the line said.
But instead of the countess going in person, one of the policemen went out, dressed in a lady's camel coat and a blonde wig.
The gang pounced on what they thought was their prey. But so did the police, who were hiding in the bushes, and the gang were arrested.
This story annoys me because it confuses the concepts of 'capital'/'lump sum' and 'income.
People retiring this year were warned yesterday that they will need an average total income of at least £130,000 plus state benefits to support themselves until they die.
A study published yesterday said increased life expectancy meant pensioners' money had to last longer. The report found that those retiring over the next 15 years will need even more money as the proportion of state benefits, as part of pensioner income, declines and longevity continues to increase.
Today's 65-year-old man can expect to reach 82 while women retiring at 60 should live until at least 85. But with state benefits accounting for almost half of average pensioner incomes of £12,500 a year, they need around £6,250 from other sources such as private pensions or savings to make up the difference.
That means the average man needs a total income of £106,250 to last until 82, while the average woman needs £156,250 to survive until 85 - an average of about £130,000.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Curous story from ANSA

Panther panic in Rome:
ANSA) - Rome, February 15 - Italy has been hit by one of its periodic bouts of panther panic with a full-scale 'big game hunt' in Rome .
Recurrent reports of a panther on the loose in the capital on Wednesday spurred police to put out an all-points bulletin for the big cat .
It was Italy's sixth panther alert in just over a decade .
An early Wednesday morning sweep only smoked out a domestic cat but then the hunt began in earnest. A beast was reportedly tracked to a building site on the city's outskirts but managed to slip through the dragnet, snubbing its nose at police, veterinarians and wildlife experts .
Undeterred, the hunters began combing the underbrush around a well-known shrine but again turned up nothing .
Rome city council played down the panther fears Wednesday evening, saying the animal was probably a big black dog foraging for food .
It voiced the hope the animal would soon be caught for the good of Romans' nerves .

Huzzah for the Alanders...

Overtones of Passport to Pimlico in this story from the Telegraph. The future of the (worrying) EU Treaty may be sealed by a little Finnish archipelago:
In the decade since they voted to join the European Union the islanders of the Aland archipelago in the Baltic Sea have been outvoted and overruled by Brussels, time and again.
Now Aland, a unique, autonomous region of Finland, is about to teach Brussels a lesson in democracy it may never forget.
Thanks to a quirk of early 20th-century history, Aland's 26,000 people are essentially sovereign co-rulers of their home nation of Finland. As such, they can veto any international treaty that Finland wants to enter, including EU treaties.
And the islanders are threatening to do just that when the European Commission attempts to revive the moribund EU constitution later this year.

Flight into Egypt?

Rocco makes a good catch. He predicted the dimantling of a Pontifical Council and it may be coming to pass.
This morning, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, heretofore president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, was named apostolic nuncio to Egypt.
Obviously, the buzz has been floating around for a bit. But the outbound transfer of a curial head for the first time in this pontificate does indicate that the reshuffle period has entered its open season.
Is the tsunami about to break?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No comment...

The first post in an occasional series - photos taken around the city of Rome capturing the randomness of life here, presented without commentary. (Click an image to enlarge it)

St Bernard on Wisdom

From yesterday's Office of Readings:
Clearly, you pour forth wisdom or understanding from your lips in three ways: if on your lips there is the admission of your own sinfulness, thanksgiving and the voice of praise, and words that encourage.

Italian Crown Jewels

From ANSA:
(ANSA) - Rome, February 14 - Priceless jewels which once belonged to Italy's royal family could soon emerge from the dusty vault where the Bank of Italy has kept them for nearly 60 years .
The 'Savoy Treasure' consists of regal jewelry encrusted with thousands of pearls, diamonds and other precious stones, some of which date back to the early 19th century. It includes a double string of diamonds which contains 1,859 diamonds and forms the Savoy House's ancient knot symbol. There is also a ten-string pearl necklace containing 684 pearls given by King Umberto I (1878-1900) to his consort Queen Margherita and a famous pink diamond which once belonged to a Sicilian ally of Napoleon .
Central bank governor Mario Draghi said the 'treasure' of the House of Savoy could be brought out and perhaps put on display as soon as a few unresolved legal problems were attended to .
Draghi suggested that the Culture Ministry and the premier's office look at the question in order to overcome what he called the "legal limitations weighing on the deposit" .
The chestful of jewels was placed in the Bank of Italy in 1946 when Italy's last king, Umberto II, left the country in the wake of a referendum which abolished the monarchy. The dethroned monarch entrusted the treasure to the bank along with a note saying "To be returned to the rightful owner." There has been debate over whether he meant his own family or the Italian people .
The legal questions to which Draghi referred reportdly concerned the right of the Bank to do anything at all with goods which had once been entrusted to it .
The central banker's thoughts came in response to a letter from centre-right MP Raffaele Costa, who had asked for the jewels to be dug out and put on show in Turin during the current Winter Olympics .
A first green light came from Rome prosecutors in 2002, when they said there was no longer any reason in national law why the jewels should remain buried in the Bank of Italy vaults .
Although the Italian constitution was recently changed to allow male Savoy heirs back into Italy, the section which put the family's belongings in the hands of the Republic remains in force .
Costa urged the Bank of Italy and the government to work quickly to overcome the lingering legal technicalities .
"It is vital to continue this initiative," he said, urging the Culture Ministry and the Premier's office to study "how the bank can respond to the request to bring the treasure of the Crown back into the light of day." Maria Gabriella di Savoia, one of the daughters of the last Italian king, apparently had no desire for the jewels to be returned to her family which is now based in Geneva .
She was quoted in Corriere della Sera on Tuesday as saying they should become the centre-piece of a permanent exhibition, along the lines of the Crown Jewels in London, because they were a "piece of Italian history" .

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fra Angelico Restoration...

From ANSA:
(ANSA) - Florence, February 13 - A renowned altarpiece by the Renaissance genius and patron saint of artists Fra Angelico is set for a full makeover that will restore it to its original beauty .
The project to restore the Linaioli Tabernacle, to be carried out by the OPD conservation institute, will take two years and cost over 55,000 euros .
I wish that were the POD conservation institute.
The Linaioli Tabernacle comprises a central painting with two wings and the predella, a series of paintings running along the bottom of the frame .
The central work depicts a Madonna sitting on a throne with a baby Jesus standing on a cushion on her lap. Gold curtains behind the pair open out onto a blue background with a dove representing the Holy Spirit .
The two wings of the altarpiece show St John the Baptist and St Mark against a gold backdrop, while the three predella pictures are of the Predicament of St Peter, the Adoration of the Magi and the Martyrdom of St Mark .
The altarpiece is surrounded by a massive marble frame, already restored by the OPD two years ago, which was designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1432 .
Art historians believe it was Fra Angelico's only public commission, executed at the request of Florentine "Arte dei Linaioli" (Guild of Flaxmakers) .
Despite its age, the tabernacle, which stands in the San Marco convent where Fra Angelico lived for many years, has remained in remarkably good shape, according to Ciatti .
The restoration will principally focus on structural weaknesses - such as fractures in the wood - and aesthetic touch-ups, including removing the dirt and layers of varnish that have discoloured the once-brilliant hues .
Picture of the Altarpiece can be seen here.
Also on ANSA it seems that there may be changes afoot at the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI):
(ANSA) - Vatican City, February 13 - In a clear break with tradition, the pope has ordered a secret vote among Italian bishops to choose the next head of the Catholic Church in Italy .
In the past it has always been the pontiff to name the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference. This reflected the traditionally intertwined relationship between the Vatican and the Italian Church .
That relationship now appears to be loosening as Benedict moves to bring the procedures into line with those of other countries, where it is always the bishops that decide who will lead them .
Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who has headed the bishops' conference since 1991, is shortly to step down in line with the tradition that sees prelates relinquish important posts when they reach 75 .
In recent days Italy's 226 bishops have received letters asking them to send their choice of successor to the pope's representative in Italy, Monsignor Paolo Romeo .
And who'd have thunk it? The Corriere della Sera informs us that Valentine's Day falls within the mating period of elephants.

Silvio, have you learned nothing from John Lennon?

In the Telegraph:
Silvio Berlusconi talked himself into another controversy at the weekend by comparing himself to Jesus Christ.
The Italian prime minister's comments, made at the start of official campaigning for April's general election, prompted the scorn of his political opponents and the wrath of the Catholic Church.
"I am the Jesus Christ of politics," Mr Berlusconi told supporters at a party rally on Saturday. "I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."
Marco Rizzo, a communist parliamentarian, called it a "grotesque comparison".
"Silvio Berlusconi has as usual with his usual limited sense compared himself to Jesus Christ," said Giuseppe Giulietti, an opposition Left MP.
"According to information that I have, God the Father and the rest of Jesus's family did not take this very well."
A senior Catholic Church official said: "The Vatican and the Italian government have always had good relations but such a comment from the Italian prime minister is quite extraordinary.
"I know he will say he was speaking in jest but such things should not be spoken of in jest."

Also in the Telegraph, a Jack Vettriano story:
The British public loves Jack Vettriano, snapping up more than a million prints and posters of The Singing Butler, but the self-taught Scottish painter is shunned by the art establishment.
Major museums in London and Edinburgh have refused to acquire his work and the only Vettriano paintings on public view are two pictures in the small art gallery in his home town of Kirkcaldy, Fife.
Now Vettriano and his art dealer, Tom Hewlett, have decided to bypass the museum system and set up their own permanent exhibition of his work, which opens in London today.
Ten of his early works, from the 1990s, will go on show in a non-selling exhibition at Mr Hewlett's Portland Gallery in St James's. They include Welcome to My World, a typically sexually charged work, The Picnic Party, and Winter Light and Lavender, depicting a glamorous woman seated in front of a window. The exhibition, which will be changed every few months, has been made possible by the Portland Gallery's move from its previous cramped premises to a much larger space.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

SS Quattro Coronati...

One of the most overlooked churches in Rome is that of SS. Quattro Coronati. This is strange given its location - it's just a few minutes walk from the Lateran Basilica on the way to the Colosseum and a few steps from the deservedly touristed San Clemente. Perhaps the slightly dingy exterior with its Carolingian tower over the gate (the only one of its type in Rome and a relative rarity outside Germany) and double courtyard are somewhat off-putting for the casual tourist.
This view from outside gives a clue as to its significance - it was reconstructed after the Norman Sack of Rome to be the only fortified abbey within the city walls. Its vicinity to the Lateran meant that the Pope could hole up there in times of crisis and indeed it was here that Innocent III received St Francis of Assisi. However, its history dates back to early post-Constantinian Christianity. It seems to have been one of the larger and grander churches (tituli) which sprung up after the legalization of Chrsitianity. It was a large private dwelling with an apsed reception room which was converted into a substantial Church and (probably) clergy residence with administration facilities attached.
It is currently occupied by enclosed Augustinian nuns (noted for their fine singing) and a new French congregation The Little Sisters of the Lamb who are part of the Dominican Order. The former occupy the church itself and most of the attaching monastery, the latter occupy the section of the monastery overlooking the outer courtyard. The Little Sisters also sing beautifully and are outstanding in their joyful witness to Christ and the austerity of their life.
Inside, the Church is quite small - much smaller than it was before the Norman Sack of Rome. However, it boasts a wonderful cloister, the head of St Sebastian (over a side altar on the left of the Church) and this astonishing 17th Century apse painting. (Click to enlarge.)
Off the courtyard, one can (by requesting the key from one of the nuns) visit the Chapel of St Sylvester with its 13th century frescos. They tell the Legend of Constantine. This one, for example, has a judgement scene, and beneath it three scenes from the Legend. At the bottom left we see the leprous Constantine about to slaughter 300 babies so that he might bathe in their blood and cure his disease. Fortunately, he is moved by the tears of the mothers and refrains from so doing. In the centre, SS Peter and Paul appear to him in a dream and tell him to approach Pope St Sylvester for help. The third scene is of him riding out to find Sylvester.

The Legend goes on to recound Constantine's baptism at Sylvester's hands and his miraculous cure. This final snap shows the Emperor leading the Pope's horse about the City of Rome.
Edited to add: For those who are wondering, the Titular of the church is Roger Cardinal Mahoney.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Ansa has a story questioning whether the famous Leonardo da Vinci self portrait is really the man himself.
Professor Pietro Marani, who teaches art history at Milan's Polytechnic University and has written several books on the artist, says Leonardo almost certainly looked quite different .
"Studies of the drawing style date it to about 1490, when he would have been 48," said Marani, who spent 15 years overseeing the restoration of Leonardo's famous fresco The Last Supper in Milan .
The face depicted on the yellowed paper is not that of a 48-year-old, he argues, pointing out that contemporaries described Leonardo as a handsome, energetic figure, not an old man .
"I don't question the fact that it was done by him. But I'm convinced the features aren't his. It's more likely to be a study for the head of one of the apostles in The Last Supper," he said .
A quick look at The Last Supper in the Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie reveals in fact that the head of the penultimate apostle on the right, Simon, bears a striking resemblance to the Leonardo 'self-portrait' .
As for the inscription on the back of the drawing, which was written about a century later, Marani argued it was wholly inconclusive. The only legible word was 'Leonardo' while the rest was too smudged to read. The professor noted that doubts have been raised before over the identity of the subject, by eminent figures such as Carlo Pedretti, the world's top Leonardo expert .
Legendary art historian Ernst Gombrich noted that features such as the wide, wrinkled forehead, the aquiline nose and the protruding lower lip often appear in the artist's work .
"The Turin head," wrote Gombrich, an authority on the Renaissance, "could be the personification of one of Leonardo's favourite human types." Prof. Marani noted that the common conviction that the drawing showed Leonardo himself arose soon after it reached public notice in the early 19th century .

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Pope is going to Turkey...

On the eve of Don Andrea Santoro's funeral at the Lateran, it has been announced that Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting Turkey this November.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gates, lift high your heads!

From ANSA:
A new entrance with bronze doors has been built in the huge walls that have surrounded the Vatican City for centuries, isolating it from the hubbub of central Rome .
The gateway, which is on the north side of the Vatican, near the museums, will provide a fifth way in and out of the world's smallest state. The doors will swing open on Friday .
Vatican authorities ordered a fresh breach to be made in the walls in order to lessen the volume of traffic using one of the other gates, Porta Sant'Anna .
The older gate, manned by the colourfully dressed Swiss Guards, often becomes congested at the start and end of the working day as the underground carpark just inside the walls fills up or empties .
The new gate is actually an old one which was built in 1929 and then closed up again soon after .
Officials said the recently completed entrance will also help matters during papal ceremonies when crowds and security arrangements often make the two main gates difficult to use .
The sculpted bronze doors bear the Vatican coat of arms and the insignia of the current pope, Benedict XVI. Above the entrance, carved into the stone, is the Latin inscription: Benedictus XVI Pont.Max. Anno Domini MMV Pont.1, meaning that the gate was built under Benedict, in the first year of his pontificate .
Cool! I'll have to pop over and snap a photo.
BTW, worth a look is this site with pictures of the Gates of Rome. Of particular interest is the Porta Pia (site of the last Papal military resistence to the unification of Italy) .

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Servant of God, Frank Parater

The Cnytr had me mark his 86th Anniversary on her 'blog.
Chiara pays a particularly touching tribute on her 'blog.

Pope St Gregory the Great and more...

Gregorius Magnus
I'm sure most of my regular readers have seen this before, but if you haven't you need to pop over to the New Liturgical Movement to see Matt Alderman's drawing of Pope St Gregory the Great and the attaching commentary. Matt, is of course, one of the notorious Whapsters.
Bread and Circuses
Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis is one of the most insightful folks in the Catholic blogosphere and her reflections on the recent gameshow fatalities in Manila deserve reading.
I could read Enbrethiliel's prose all day, and I could say the same thing about Romy's. Here she has an interesting piece about her rainboots. (And it must be admitted, those are some funky boots.)
What purpose do you serve?
Fr Philip Powell OP blogs last Sunday's homily. It's on one of my favourite topics - the importance of finding a meaning in one's life and how that relates to the call of Christ.

One for the Classics buffs...

The Telegraph reports on a German group who rap in Latin:
A German hip hop band which raps in Latin is reforming after a sudden rise in interest in its songs.
The band, Ista, was formed by a group of bored Classics pupils at a school in Wilhelmshaven a decade ago.
Uninspired by their school Latin, Lars Janssen and his friends decided to spice up class by putting a song into Latin.
Their teacher, Edgar Barwig, himself not much older than the 17-year-olds in his charge, approved of their new-found enthusiasm and encouraged them to form a band.
The original seven members, which included Mr Barwig, who checked that the grammar was right, are now living scattered across Germany, having since grown up and become architects, teachers, a nurse and parents.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Worrying news from Turkey...

An Italian Priest has been shot there:
ANKARA - A teenage boy shot and killed the Italian Roman Catholic priest of a church in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon on Sunday, shouting ''God is great'' as he escaped, according to police and witnesses.
Officers were searching for the boy of around 14 or 15 years of age, according to police.
Police would not say if the attack might be linked to the printing in European newspapers of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, which has caused anger in Muslim countries. Earlier Sunday, hundreds of Turks protested in Istanbul against the cartoons.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. May perpertual light shine upon him.

Consistories and rumours of consistories...

How long, o Lord, how long?
Rome is buzzing with rumours that the next consistory will be on the 25th of March next. The non-occurance of the widely expected announcement of a consistory for the 22nd of February (Feast of the Chair of St. Peter) has led many to speculate that His Holiness might wait until the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul (29th June). However, the Italian paper Il Giornale is saying that after almost a year of reflection and prayer, the Bavarian Pope will let loose his Curial Tsunami and unleash a tidal wave of 'Roman Purple' on the feast of the Annunciation. If this is so, we should expect an announcement within the next week or two.
Il Giornale quotes the Pope (shortly after his election) saying that he planned on moving slowly, 'because there are already plenty of Cardinals.' And who are to receive the famous red hats? Il Giornale offers the following suggestions:
Angelo Comastri - Archpriest of St Peter's and Vicar for the Vatican City
Agostino Vallini - Head of the Signatura (The Church's highest court)
William Leveda - Head of the CDF
Franc Rodè - Head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity
Paul Cordes - Head of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum'
Carlo Caffarra - Archbishop of Bologna (and close to Ratzinger)
André Vingt-Trois - Archbishop of Paris
Pierre Richard - Archbishop of Bordeaux
Stanislaw Dziwisz - Archbishop of Krakow
Sean O'Malley - Archbishop of Boston
Diarmuid Martin - Archbishop of Dublin
and amonst the over-80s...
Luigi De Magistris - former Apostolic Penitentiary

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Further hiatus...

Folks, due to many and varied commitments, I'm taking a little hiatus. Don't expect any new posts for the next couple of weeks.