Assist us in furthering the appreciation of Catholic Faith, Culture and Art

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment
Assist us in furthering the appreciation of
Catholic Faith, Culture and Art

Funding Table

• Friend $1,000-$5,000
• Contributor $5,000-$10,000
• Supporter $10,000-$50,000
• Donor $50,000-$100,000
• Patron $100,000-$200,000
• Sponsor $200,000-$300,000
• Backer $300,000-$400,000
• Guarantor $400,000-$500,000
• Underwriter $500,000-$1,000,000
• Benefactor $1,000,000-$5,000,000
• Angel $5,000,000-$10,000,000
• Archangel $10,000,000 and over


How Your Contribution Helps

The Museum of Catholic Faith, Culture and Art is a New York State Corporation.

Every contribution to the Museum of Catholic Faith, Culture and Art is vital and urgent, and will be acknowledged in our list of sponsors. The monies will go to research, staffing, drivers, maintenance of offices, the library, and audio / video equipment. We have made arrangements by which individuals as well as businesses and corporations can make in-kind contributions to the Museum. (All such contributions will be acknowledged in the list of funders.) Moreover, every funder or company logo will be prominently featured on our website. All checks, grants and contributions should be made payable to Museum of Catholic Faith, Culture and Art.

Museum of Catholic Faith, Culture and Art operates under 501( c ) 3 regulations. All contributions, donations, pledges, in-kind donations and gifts are tax-deductible. All contributions and pledges can be in the form of cash, checks, and credit/debit cards: Amex, Visa, MasterCard and Discover/Novus. We thank you for all contribution and gifts.

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God made it possible for us to live with Him

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

God made it possible for us to live with Him

Falling in love is the start of a journey


To foster recognition of the religious question as the summit of human experience as such. To be a man is to be identified with the question about the meaning of life, about the infinite. Every man responds in some way to this question. That is why all men are companions on the way.


  1. “To think of the infinite”: openness to the infinite is inscribed in man´s experience of life. Life and reality “open” permanently man´s horizon.
  2. Life is this desire for the infinite (we call it the “religious question”): that is why the tradition of the Church speaks of man -of every man- as capax Dei.
  3. The desire for the infinite, which constitutes man´s heart, starts him on the way. Religions and the unavoidable temptation of idolatry state clearly that to seek an answer to the religious questions is inevitable.
  4. When mature, the desire for the infinite becomes a prayer to the infinite itself to manifest itself: we are unable to satisfy our thirst by ourselves, that is why we pray.
  5. In this path of desire and prayer, the Christian is a companion of all men.


1. “To think of the infinite”

“Have you never found in your life a woman who has bewitched you for a moment and then has disappeared? These women are like stars that pass swiftly in nights lulled by the summer. Did you once find in a health resort , in a station, in a store, in a tram, one of those women whose look is like a revelation, a sudden and powerful flowering that rises from the depth. of your soul (.) I have often felt these indefinable sadnesses´ When I was a boy; in the summer I often went to the capital of the province and sat for long hours in health resorts, near the sea. And then I saw, and have since seen, some mysterious, suggestive women that, like the blue sea that expanded before my eyes, made me think of the Infinite”.

Azorin´s (Spanish writter) literary genius expresses very effectively an elemental experience that every man lives. There are circumstances that open wide the heart. They open it in the sense that they make present its true horizon, its “capacity for the infinite”. There are circumstance that enable us to discover who we are, which break all the reduced images of our being men, that tell us that nothing suffices. They are circumstances or experiences that describe the real nature and stature of life, of our being men. They are circumstances that, above all, tell us “what we are lacking”. and make present the intuition of the eternal for which we are made. One “thinks of the infinite” because the reality before one opens one wide, tells one that there is something more and that it must last forever.

Undoubtedly to love is one of these experiences. Every man lives the experience of love: in his family, with his friends, finding the woman with whom he will share his life, in virginity … In the face of the woman we begin to love -falling in love is the start of a journey!- our desire of the infinite is concentrated, the intuition that we are made for the eternal. The sadness or anguish we can feel before the idea of losing the person we love, is also a sign of this openness to the infinite.

An openness that can be described as desire and nostalgia, and that is born from the truest experiences of our life: in love, but also in the perception of beauty, in the passion for our liberty, in rebellion in face of injustice, in the mystery of suffering and pain, in the humiliation of the evil one does, in the passionate search for truth, in the joy of goodness.

In the experience of his own life, man perceives the presence of the infinite. That same infinite that proclaims itself in the world. In the immensity and overwhelming beauty of creation: from the mountains and oceans to the DNA´s genetic chain! “Man and the world attest that they do not have in themselves either their first beginning or their ultimate end, but that they participate in Him who is Being itself, without beginning and without end”.

2. Life is this desire

All men, regardless of age, race or culture experience this desire/intuition of the infinite which coincides with the most “evident” truth of life. We cannot deny it, we are this desire, our most authentic being is “to think of the infinite”.

This desire coincides with life. It is not something that arises in the heart in spring or when one is particularly melancholic! It is simply and frankly “life”.

That is why, to desire the infinite is to desire the fullness of life: not a dimension of life, but of life with all its letters. Because that desire is the principal theme that gives unity to each instant, to each situation, to each circumstance of our life. It is the chain that enables us to intuit the unity that exists between the love of parents and one´s desire to build, between anger before injustice and compassion before pain, between loving and being loved and the call to be fruitful. Without the unity that this desire engenders, which goes through every cell of one´s being, life would be a simple series of deeds and events, an accumulation of experiments, of hesitations, incapable of edifying one´s person.

In common parlance this search for the infinite is called the “religious question”. When there is talk of religion there is talk in fact of this: of the search for the infinite on the part of all men.

Every man, by the mere fact of living, perceives this desire in himself, this religious question — whether or not he is capable of expressing it — because the religious question is the question about life and its meaning, That is why every man, regardless of the answer he gives to this question, is “religious”. He cannot be otherwise, he cannot extricate from his heart the “thought of the infinite.”

Christian tradition has described this reality speaking of man as “capax Dei”: man, created in the image and likeness of God, is capable of God, desires Him and can find Him. “The Holy Church, our Mother, holds and teaches that God, beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty, through the natural light of human reason, from created things” (Cc. Vatican I:

The Psalmist expressed it with great beauty using the image of thirst: “O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is” (Psalm 62).

3. On the way

A question, an intuition opens a way. Man, who thinks of the infinite, starts moving. The intuition of the infinite is the driving force of life, the reason why man loves and works.

The passionate adventure begins for man to seek the infinite, to know its face. It is an adventure in which all of us are involved. It is not something reserved for particularly “religious” temperaments.

It is possible to recognize the way of man in the search for the face of the infinite in two events that are within everyone´s reach.

The first is the verification of the existence of religions. Today, more than in the past, we are witnesses of the plurality of religious experiences lived by men. When everything seemed to proclaim a society without God, movements and religious sects, of a very different nature, have invaded the West and are beginning to share the social scene next to the established religions. They are concrete, historical expressions of the search for the infinite and, in this connection, they help man´s reason and liberty not to close his horizon, not to reduce himself to the burdensome space of the “finite”. Thus teaches Vatican Council II: “Men expect from the different religions the answer to the recondite enigmas of the human condition, which today as yesterday, profoundly move his heart. What is man, what is the meaning and end of his life, what is good and what is sin, what is the origin and the end of sorrow, the way to attain true happiness, what is death, judgment, the sanction after death? Finally, what is that ultimate and ineffable mystery that envelops our existence, from which we come and to which we are going?”.

To live with persons of other religions is the occasion to recognize the identity of the desire and of the questions that constitute their heart and ours. What at first glance might seem a difficulty, as the multiplicity of answers could engender confusion, is also an privileged occasion to recognize the unity between all men. The answers proffered are many, it is true, but the question is only one.

In the second place we can recognize our search for the infinite in an experience that we have all had: the identification of the infinite with something concrete. It can be one´s girlfriend, or professional career, or economic success, or the passion for power. How many times have we identified the infinite that we had intuited with something particular? What has been the result? Disappointment. In our search for the infinite a moment has come when we have paused and have thought that we could identify it with something to our measure.

It is called “idolatry” and it is a temptation that every man experiences personally. Instead of recognizing that the woman who has awakened in us the thought of the infinite, is a sign of the infinite, we expect from her that she will fulfill the desire awakened. When the sign is not recognized as such and it is confused with the fullness to which it refers, then it becomes an idol. But idols, we know from experience, let us down.
The Psalmist identified with great precision the tragedy of idolatry. It is the tragedy of an unfulfilled promise. It seems that they can respond, and yet they are incapable of everything: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men´s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak;eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them” (Psalm 13).

“The work of men´s hands”: with a few words the Psalmist identifies the root of the idols´ inability to respond to our desire for the infinite. An idol is the fruit of my hands; it has, so to speak, my own dimensions: it is finite. That is why it will never be able to respond adequately to the desire that constitutes my life.

The multiplicity of answers -the religions- to the only question and the inability of the idols when it comes to fulfilling the desire for the infinite, make manifest in a still more keen way the “need” for a definitive answer. A man who lives his life seriously, who does not censure the intuition of the infinite which describes who he is, cannot give up.

4. Comes to meet us

If to give up is to abandon the adventure of life, what should one do? How can man persevere in the way of desire? How can he not pause in insufficient answers? It is not possible to think that the image of our life is the myth of Sisyphus, always condemned to begin the task again without ever finding its fulfillment or rest.

Life is this desire and, yet, all our attempts to satisfy it seem vain — our attempts, not the possibility of fulfillment.

In fact, our desire would be vain, absurd, if it was destined to remain eternally unsatisfied. But this does not means that we are the ones who satisfy it. We are “capable” of being satisfied, but not of satisfying ourselves.

The thirst that dries out man´s throat says that he is capable of drinking, not that man himself is the fresh and crystalline source that can satiate him. Thus, man is capable of the infinite, capax Dei, because he can receive Him if He comes out to meet him, not because he can construct by himself the infinite for which he longs.

When man recognizes himself capax Dei, his desire, his nostalgia, his longing are embraced by his liberty and become a prayer. And in this prayer man acquires his true stature. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

The poverty of spirit that Jesus blesses in the Beatitudes, and whose most eloquent expression is petition, prayer, constitutes the fullness of human experience. It is the moment in which man´s heart says to the Infinite he has intuited: “Come, manifest yourself! Every fiber of man´s being hopes and desires, asks and prays that the infinite will come to meet him. He wants to know his face, and prays: “´Thy face, Lord, do I seek.´ Hide not thy face from me” (Psalm 26).

And God has not left man´s prayer un-answered. “Through natural reason, man can know God with certainty from his works. But there is another order of knowledge that man can in no way attain by his own forces, that of divine Revelation (cf. Cc. Vatican I: DS 3015). By an entirely free decision, God reveals himself and gives himself to man. He does so by revealing his mystery, his benevolent plan that he established from eternity in Christ in favor of all men. He revels fully his plan by sending his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit”.

The prayers of the Psalms, the texts of the Eucharist, the season of Advent, the whole liturgy of the Church is a permanent education to live, in a conscious way and every day more willingly, this prayer of the Lord.
In the morning, at the beginning of the day, in the prayer of Lauds, the first words that the Church makes us recite are: “My God, come to my aid. Lord, make haste to help me”. In this way she educates us and helps us to understand that the desire is called to become a prayer.

5. Companions on the way of all men

In this prayer all of us men see ourselves as companions on the way.

To recognize the desire for the infinite which constitutes the heart of every man allows us to realize the unity that exists between all of us.

The expressions of this desire can be very different. Some of them can even be hard, offensive and violent. And, even thus, they are expression of the same search that lives in our heart.

Whoever recognizes he is searching knows that he is close to every man: nothing and no one is a stranger to him. For the Church there are no “far off ones”: because all men live, and question themselves and desire. All search. That is why the Christian is not afraid to speak about his search with everyone, including those who laugh at him, who label him a dreamer or a visionary.

An immense attraction to everything human accompanies him daily. Art, literature, music -everything that expresses man´s genius is, for the one searching, an occasion to recognize again the desire that constitutes him.

If one tries to speak about this with one´s classmates, one will realize that it is true.

The presence of the Catholic Church in the United States reaches back to the founding days of our country through the leadership of Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States. His story, like other stories at the start of the chapters in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, gives us a glimpse into the lives of Catholics who lived out their faith throughout our country’s history. Each chapter in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults includes stories, doctrine, reflections, quotations, discussion questions, and prayers to lead the reader to a deepening faith. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is an excellent resource for preparation of catechumens in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and for ongoing catechesis of adults.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is an aid and a guide for individuals and small groups to deepen their faith. The online resources listed at the left provide suggestions on how to use the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults effectively in the home and parish.


•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(Legal Headquarter and Administrative Offices)

The grant to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem of the church and monastery of Sant’Onofrio on the Janiculum Hill is linked to some of the most important organisational changes that have taken place within our sodality. On 15 August 1948, Pius XII issued a motu proprio establishing that the Order’s headquarters should be transferred from Jerusalem to Rome, to the above-mentioned church, and that in future the Grand Master should be a Cardinal appointed by the Pope.

What is less well known, however, is that the particular favour shown by the Pontiff had a special significance for the Order. In fact, the church still contains reminders of Torquato Tasso, the author of Gerusalemme Liberata, the epic poem that retells the deeds of the crusaders who fought to regain possession of the Holy Sepulchre itself. After wandering all over Italy, the poet requested and obtained shelter at the monastery of Sant’Onofrio and spent the last years of his life there. So the literary heritage of the site and the chivalric nature of our sodality come together in perfect harmony in this location, which also houses a small museum containing a few of Tasso’s manuscripts.

Sant’Onofrio is therefore a place where history, culture and faith have been handed down through the centuries. The buildings date back to the 15th century but there was a hermitage in this spot even before that. Construction of the church began in 1439 and was completed in the 16th century. The sacred building was in the hands of the Society of St. Jerome until 1933, when Pope Pius XI dissolved the association.

The location is panoramic, situated close to the path over the Janiculum Hill, where the view of Michelangelo’s cupola on St. Peter’s dominating the surroundings and the boom of the midday cannon put the finishing touches to the evocative atmosphere. Climb the steps to the gate bearing the Order’s coat-of-arms and cross the lovely flowered garden that forms the churchyard. Even on the external walls of the church you can see important artworks attributed to Domenichino and to Sebastiano Strada.

Inside, the renaissance style retains something of the gothic; the body of the church is rectangular with cross-vaulting, a polygonal apse and five side chapels. The latter are dedicated to Saint Humphrey, to Our Lady of Loreto, to Jesus Christ Crucified, to Saint Pius X and to Saint Jerome. The first chapel contains the funeral monument to Torquato Tasso. The paintings in the apse attributed to Peruzzi and Pinturicchio are very beautiful, as are those in the sacristy. From the portico, walk through the short entryway to the 15th century cloisters to be filled with tranquillity and a feeling of complete peace. If you wish to visit the Tasso Museum you will find the door within the entryway itself.

This artistic jewel provides a source of enrichment and spiritual growth for anyone who goes there. How much more then for members of the Order?

Gran Magistero dell’O.E.S.S.G.
00120 – Città del Vaticano
Tel. 39 – 06 – 6828121
Fax 39 – 06 – 68802298


•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(Official reception rooms of the Order)

Today, this “palace” is often incorrectly called the “Palazzo dei Penitenzieri”, after the name of the previous owners, the Penitentiary Fathers of St. Peter’s. In the 15th century, however, it was the residence of Domenico della Rovere, a Cardinal from the Piedmont, who belonged to the inner circle surrounding Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere. Domenico della Rovere had a brilliant career in Rome, making his name in a number of important and highly remunerated ecclesiastical posts. The palazzo was built in the late 15th century, between 1480 and 1490; the Florentine architect, Baccio Pontelli, modelled it closely on  the architectural style of Palazzo Venezia, the most important building in 15th century Rome. In fact, in the 15th century, the Palazzo della Rovere was so greatly praised and admired that Emperor Charles VIII chose to stay here when he visited Rome in 1495.

The five halls of the piano nobile, are now the official reception rooms of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and one of them is home to an extremely important ceiling by the artist Pinturicchio and his atelier. The Hall of the Grand Master is lavishly decorated with trompe l’œil architectural features depicting a terrace looking out onto a landscape. The Hall of the Seasons retains fragments of a very rare kind of portrayal of the months of the year, each month represented by the myth that gave rise to its zodiacal sign; the scenes which have been best preserved relate to June, with a peasant making hay and the myth of Hercules and the Hydra – the origin of the sign of Cancer; October, with the bird-catcher of Byzantine legend and the myth of Orion – the origin of the sign, Scorpio; and March, with soldiers ready to set off to war.

The next hall has fine lunettes enclosing images of the prophets delivering their words of wisdom and apostles accompanied by verses from the Creed; the frieze around the exquisite gold and blue ceiling features portraits of Roman Emperors.

The most sumptuous and best preserved ceiling is in the Hall of the Demigods. This astonishing composition of 63 panels painted on board and enclosed in wooden caissons is full of creatures from mediaeval bestiaries flanked by allegorical and symbolic images drawn from classical tombs – very important evidence indeed of a culture at the crossroads between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Fantastic animals and monsters, mythological gods and goddesses, chimaeras (creatures half-human, half-beast) such as sirens, tritons, centaurs, satyrs and sphinxes stand out against the gilded background of the caissons; some are playing musical instruments or fighting with rudimentary weapons in a huge variety of poses.

In the left wing of the palazzo – currently occupied by the Hotel Columbus – the old refectory overlooking the hanging garden still has the ancient 15th century décor of themes based on nature, as well as allegorical figures clearly influenced by the style of Michelangelo. In the same wing of the building, some of the rooms on the second floor have frescoes painted in 1552 by the Florentine artist Francesco Salviati. The work was commissioned by Cardinal Giovanni Salviati, who owned the building for a long time and made it his residence. One of these frescoes is at the centre of the ceiling of the “Apollo Room” where, in a trompe l’œil portrayal, Apollo drives his chariot pulled by the horses of the Sun, surrounded by the emblems of the Medici family.


•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment


A Brief History

The origins of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem date back to the First Crusade, when its leader, Godfrey de Bouillon, liberated Jerusalem. As part of his operations to organise the religious, military and public bodies of the territories newly freed from Muslim control, he founded the Order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre. According to accounts of the Crusades, in 1103 the first King of Jerusalem, Baldwin I, assumed the leadership of this canonical order, and reserved the right for himself and his successors (as agents of the Patriarch of Jerusalem) to appoint Knights to it, should the Patriarch be absent or unable to do so.

The Order’s members included not only the Regular Canons (Fratres) but also the Secular Canons (Confratres) and the Sergentes. The latter were armed knights chosen from the crusader troops for their qualities of valour and dedication; they vowed to obey Augustinian Rule of poverty and obedience and undertook specifically, under the command of the King of Jerusalem, to defend the Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Places.

Very soon after the First Crusade the troops – including the Knights of the Order of Canons of the Holy Sepulchre – began to return to their homelands. This led to the creation of priories all over Europe, which were part of the Order as they came under the jurisdiction of the noble knights or prelates who had been invested on the Holy Sepulchre itself and who, although they were no longer in the direct service of the King of Jerusalem, continued to belong to the Order of Canons.

The Order first began to fail as a cohesive military body of knights after Saladin regained Jerusalem in 1182, and completely ceased to exist in that format after the defeat of Acre in 1291. The passing of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem left the Order without a leader, though it continued to survive in the European priories thanks to the protection of sovereigns, princes, bishops and the Holy See. The priories kept alive the ideals of the Crusader Knights: propagation of the Faith, defence of the weak, charity towards other human beings. With the exception of events in Spain, it was only rarely that the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre ever took part again in military action to defend Christianity.

In the 14th century, the Holy See made an extremely high payment to the Egyptian Sultan so that he would grant the right to protect the Christian Sanctuaries to the Franciscan Friars Minor. Throughout the whole period of the Latin Patriarchate’s suppression, the right to create new Knights was the prerogative of the representative of the highest Catholic authority in the Holy Land: the Custos.

In 1847 the Patriarchate was restored and Pope Pius IX modernised the Order, issuing a new Constitution which placed it under the direct protection of the Holy See and conferred its government to the Latin Patriarch. The Order’s fundamental role was also defined: to uphold the works of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whilst preserving the spiritual duty of propagating the Faith.

In 1949, Pius XII decreed that the Grand Master of the Order should be a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church and assigned the position of Grand Prior to the Patriarch of Jerusalem. In 1962 Pope John XXIII and, in 1967, Pope Paul VI reorganised and revitalised the Order by adding more specific regulations to the Constitution with the intention of making the Order’s activities more co-ordinated and more effective.

In February 1996, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II enhanced the Order’s status. Today it is a Public Association of faithful with a legal canonical and public personality, constituted by the Holy See under Canon Law 312, paragraph 1:1.

Over and above its historic connotations and its eventful progress in times gone by, the valuable and interesting aspects of the Order today lie in the role assigned to it, which it pursues within the sphere of the Catholic Church and through its administrative structure and its local organisations in various communities.

The Order today

a) Purposes

The Order’s aims are:

  • To strengthen in its members the practice of Christian life, in absolute fidelity to the Supreme Pontiff and according to the teachings of the Church, observing as its foundation the principles of charity which make the Order a fundamental means of assistance to the Holy Land;
  • To sustain and aid the charitable, cultural and social works and institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, with which the Order maintains traditional ties;
  • To support the preservation and propagation of the Faith in those lands, and promote interest in this work not only among Catholics scattered throughout the world, who are united in charity by the symbol of the Order, but also among all other Christians;
  • To uphold the rights of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
  • The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is the only lay institution of the Vatican State charged with the task of providing for the needs of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and of all the activities and initiatives to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The contributions made by its members are therefore the Patriarchal institutions’ main source of funding.

b) Structure of the Order

       The Order has a definite hierarchy. At the top is the Cardinal Grand Master who is appointed directly by the Holy Father, to lead and govern the Order. The Grand Master is assisted by a consultative body, the Grand Magisterium, whose task is to identify and agree with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem the programmes and action to be undertaken each year to provide for the Christian institutions and communities in the Holy Land, including the operating methods and timescales.

       The Presidency of the Grand Magisterium consists of the Governor General, the Vice-Governors General and the Chancellor of the Order: this is the Order’s executive “board”.

       The hierarchy then divides into two distinct parts: ecclesiastic and lay. The first, headed by the Chancellor and the Ceremonial Officer, is responsible for the Order’s spiritual development; the second, headed by the Governor General, is responsible for managing the Order.

       The task of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is to define programmes and events to be put in place to develop Members’ spirituality. The task of the lay hierarchy is to carry out the Order’s social and charitable activities on behalf of the Holy Land.

       The Order is subdivided into Lieutenancies, which in turn are divided into Sections. If appropriate, the Sections may be further divided into Delegations.

       The Lieutenant, Section Heads (Presidi in Italy and Sicily) and Delegates (responsible for the Delegations) are accompanied by a parallel ecclesiastical organisation consisting of Section and Delegation Priors.

       All these roles are functional, involving administrative responsibilities; they are not honorary titles. The term of office is four years, which may be renewed, subject always to the holder carrying out his/her tasks correctly and effectively.

       Suitable candidates for each post are suggested by the immediate superior and submitted to those in higher positions and the Grand Magisterium for final approval.

       The Order currently has 52 Lieutenancies: 24 in Europe, 15 in North America and Canada, 5 in Latin America and 6 in Australia and the Far East.

       At present, the number of active Members is around 23,000. These are the Members who actually practise the life dedicated to service and charity which they promised to uphold when they were admitted to the Order.

c) Activities

       As already indicated, the Order is represented in almost every country in the world where there is a large Catholic community and appropriate conditions for activities that will allow it to achieve its objectives.

       Together, and individually, each Lieutenancy, Section and Delegation draws up a yearly programme of meetings and events aimed at strengthening the spiritual growth of the Members as well as events to raise awareness of the Order’s role and activities in their respective local communities.

       The donations raised for the Holy Land are administered by the Lieutenancies in accordance with the administrative and fiscal legislation of their country of operation and each Lieutenancy maintains relevant accounts which are reported to the Grand Magisterium. These accounts include the amount of donations, the beneficiaries and the purpose for which they are allocated.

       The work the Latin Patriarchate and the other Catholic institutions carry out in favour of the Christians in the Holy Land thanks to the Order’s support can be summarised as follows:

       The especially difficult times following the second Intifada, (which put a stop to work and economic activity in a very large part of the Holy Land), caused many Christians to lose their jobs and prompted the Latin Patriarchate, the Apostolic Nunciature and the other Catholic institutions to engage in the distribution of social and humanitarian aid in an operation to provide the families most in need with direct financial support. However, charity in the form of direct subsidies – which some may view as “handouts” – is not part of the Order’s normal operating methods. Handouts humiliate the people obliged to accept them and have an adverse effect by encouraging the beneficiaries to live on charity.

       The Order’s policy has been, and still is, to help the Christians in the Holy Land achieve educational and professional standards that will enable them to play an active part in the society of their own country, at a level that will give them equality with people of other faiths.

       In the latter half of the 20th century, middle-class Christian families leaving the Holy Land to seek a secure future abroad became a real exodus. Today, the number of Christians in different areas of the Holy Land varies from 2% to 4% of the local population and these are very largely craft workers, small tradesmen and those working in the tourist industry that has developed alongside pilgrimages. Such very small minorities can only survive if their skills are high enough to earn them the appreciation and esteem of the society in which they live; and this can only be achieved thanks to better standards of education and training.

       Since the end of the 19th century, the Order has financed the construction of 40 patriarchal schools in Israel, Palestine and Jordan and it now has a commitment to fund their running costs. Today around 19,000 pupils and students attend these schools, from nursery classes through elementary, middle and upper school, as well as in a number of technical schools. On average, the student breakdown is 60% Christian (Catholics, Orthodox, etc.) and 40% Muslim.

       The Order’s involvement with education helps to deal with a very important problem in the region: how to get people of different races and religions used to living in peace and mutual respect. If these values are encouraged from an early age they may be implanted in children’s minds, otherwise there is no hope of doing it at a later stage, for in adolescence young people are easy prey to extremist ideologies.

       The running costs of the Patriarchate and its 68 parishes, the salaries of the 900 or so teachers and other staff in the educational establishments, the costs of the patriarchal seminary and the orphanages and clinics, as well as those of the Patriarchate’s new enterprises and other ongoing projects (including the construction of housing for young Christian families) are enormous and rise continually, putting a heavy burden on our Order. Such costs can only be sustained thanks to the generosity of the active Members of the Order.

d) What it means to be a Member of the Order

       Joining the Order means taking on a commitment for life. The commitment to be a Witness to the Faith, to lead an exemplary Christian life of continuing charity in support of the Christian communities in the Holy Land, to practise the true charitable commitment of a Christian.

       The purpose of joining the Order is to serve the Catholic Church and to carry out acts of charity to make the operations to maintain the Christian presence in the Holy Land possible. The purpose of joining the Order is not to become a member of a prestigious organisation in order to boast of one’s status or acquire personal benefits and advantages.

       Usually, though not always, a candidate is put forward by an existing Member of the Order. The Delegate and Section Head with jurisdiction over the area in question will assess the candidate at an initial interview. If his/her attributes are generally considered to meet requirements the candidate can begin a period of training of no less than 12 months. If the candidate completes this period successfully, he/she may apply for admission to the Order through the local Lieutenancy.

Gran Magistero dell’O.E.S.S.G.
00120 – Città del Vaticano
Tel. 39 – 06 – 6828121
Fax 39 – 06 – 68802298



The Pauline Chapel Historical Events

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment


The Pauline Chapel was built during the works of renovation around the Sala Regia commissioned by Pope Paul III (Farnese, 1534-1549). These renovation works lead to the demolition of the Chapel of St. Nicholas and the construction of the “Staircase of the Maresciallo”.

The construction of the new sacellum (small chapel), which began in 1537 and was based on the project of Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane, was meant to serve the very same functions as the previous chapel and would be located not on the east side as before, but on the south side of the Sala Regia. The works must have been almost completed by November 1538 because on All Saints day Mass was celebrated in the “Cappella Noviter Erecta”. The Pauline Chapel, as still today, had a rectangular plan, covered by a vault “a schifo,” followed by a more narrow rectangular room which was covered with a barrel-vault and destined to become the presbytery with the altar.

The commission given to Michelangelo to decorate the new chapel must have been contemporary to the finishing of The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. The artist first painted the Conversion of Saint Paul between the end of 1542 and July, 1545. The works for the Crucifixion of Saint Peter began immediately after the completion of the Conversion of Saint Paul and ended in March of 1550.

The iconographic program of the Chapel, was most certainly suggested in part by the Pope himself and it is possible that originally it was different than the present one. In fact, Vasari in his first edition of “Lives of the painters,” wrote about a Consignment of the Keys, and not about the Crucifixion of St. Peter. Thus it could be — unless the Aretino made a mistake — that the original theme for the frescoes was the “call” of the two Princes of the Apostles.

The glass in the windows was completed in 1543 by Pastorino, while Perin del Vaga was commissioned in 1542 to decorate the vault with stuccoes.

The final appearance of the Pauline Chapel after the interventions of Perin del Vaga and Michelangelo is unclear and it is particularly uncertain if the decorations were even completely finished.

L’abbellimento della appella riprese con The The embellishing of the Chapel started again with Gregory XIII (Boncompagni, 1572-1585) who, in 1573 sought the advice of Vasari for a new iconographic program, but which was never carried out. However, the second phase of the decoration started during the same year when Lorenzo Sabatini painted the Stoning of St. Stephen, the Healing of Saint Paul in the house of Anania and the The Fall of Simon Mago, which were all completed by the end of 1577, the same year as the death of the artist. Between 1580 and 1585 Federico Zuccari and some helpers finished the decorations by painting the Baptism of the Centurion and replacing the ceiling decoration with the fifteen Stories of St. Peter and of St. Paul.

Until the papacy of Leo XIII (Pecci, 1878-1903), the intervention of Pope Paul V (Borghese, 1605-1621) in the Chapel was testified to by the presence of his large papal coat of arms on the floor. These renovations must have focussed primarily on the altar area and been connected to the works done by Maderno for the façade of Saint Peter as well as to the construction of the new Bell Tower next to the Apostolic Palace. In fact, some documents clearly acknowledge that the walls of the Pauline Chapel were also affected by the new façade.

Nei due ecoli successivi sono During During the next two centuries, restorations are documented during the papacy of Alexander VIII (Ottoboni,1689-1691), possibly in order to repair damages caused by a fire while another three minor restorations occurred in the XVIII Century. To Clement XI (Albani, 1700-1721) we attribute the construction and embellishment of the wooden structure or “machina” of the 40 hours devotion for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament which covered the area of the altar. In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV (Lambertini, 1740-1758) commissioned Domenico Spolia “restorer of paintings and stuccoes” the complete restoration of the Chapel. Another intervention, probably more limited, must have been done in 1786 by the “figurative painter” Bernardino Nocchi who was paid for the “restorations of paintings and frescoes in the Pauline Chapel and in the Sala Regia.”

The Nineteenth Century was characterized by two very important restorations: the first one was commissioned by Pope Gregory XVI (Cappellari, 1831-1846) and focussed not only on the paintings and stuccoes, but also on the altar area where the “bella machina” was removed along with its entire wooden apparatus. As a result, the wall behind the altar was renovated with a magnificent marble tabernacle to keep the Blessed Sacrament, four granite columns, and precious marbles as well as the painting The Transfiguration of Our Lord by Simone Cantarini. Pope Gregory XVI also added a “new floor of marble sections covering the presbytery, separated from the rest of the Chapel by a grate” (“L’Album”, 25th December, 1837, p.330). A commemorative marble inscription was placed on the lunette above the altar (and subsequently removed) as a testimony of these works. In 1838 the engraver Pietro Girometti made a medal representing the Pauline.

A further renovation took place during the Pontificate of Pius IX (Mastai-Ferretti 1846-1878), as the archival documents and the presence of his coat of arms in the Chapel testify. A dedicatory plaque was placed above the door before the intervention of Pope Paul VI which held the inscription “PIUS IX PONT. MAX. PAULI III SACELLUM ANTIQUAE FORMAE MAGNIFICENTIUS RESTITUIT. ORNAVIT AN. MDCCCLV”.

È nell’ambito dei lavori di PioIX During the During the works commissioned by Pius IX, the “machine of the 40 hours” was placed back in its former location. The same machine was definitely removed once again during the papacy of Leo XIII during the years of 1890-91. This renovation focussed once again on the altar wall and the floor where the architect Virgilio Vespignani replaced the coat of arms of Paul V with the coat of arms of the reigning pope. The execution of the works was given to the “marmoraro romano” Paolo Medici (a specialist in marble sculpting). Also the walls of the presbytery, which were evidently affected by the presence of the machine of the 40 hours, were newly decorated.

A complete new restoration took place in the XX Century between 1933 and 1936. The results of this restoration were presented at the Roman Pontifical Academy of Archaeology on the 12th of January 1934 by Bartolomeo Nogara, the then Director of the Vatican Museums and Biagio Biagetti, Director of the Paintings of the Holy Apostolic Palace. Furthermore, a complete photographic documentation of the frescoes by Michelangelo both of the Pauline Chapel and the Last Judgement was completed.

The restoration took place simultaneously with the one of the Last Judgement, under the direction of Biagetti and utilised the same methods. The restoration started with the Conversion of St. Paul (January 1933 — November 1933), followed by the Crucifixion of St. Peter (August 1933 — February 1934) and continued with the side frescoes of Lorenzo Sabatini and Federico Zuccari. The restoration of the decoration of the vault was continued between July 1935 and January 1936.

In 1975, during the papacy of Paul VI (Montini 1963- 1978) and after the liturgical reformation of the Vatican Council II, the last arrangement took place in the Pauline Chapel. On this occasion, the Medici Company, constructed an oval altar in yellow imperial block as well as a round base under the tabernacle of the same stone (the project was prepared by the architect Giovanni Carbonara). During this restoration the marbles of the apse were cleaned and a new commemorative plaque was placed on the entrance wall.

Pauline Chapel

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

For five years, Maestro De Luca and his team have worked on the restoration of the Pauline Chapel. The very first step in the restoration process consisted in the cleaning of the gilded and coloured stucco decorations and the restoration of the frescoes, which were painted by Lorenzo Sabatini and Federico Zuccari. The very last step of this restoration consisted in the cleaning and conservation of the two frescoes painted by Michelangelo, the Conversion of Saint Paul and the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, which face one another on the side walls of the Chapel. This extremely important and delicate phase started in June 2008 with the constant effort and work of Maestro Maurizio De Luca with his principle assistant Maria Putska.

For a proper restoration, which aims at allowing the public to appreciate the authentic Michelangelo, our restorers had to clean each area and remove every detail that was not originally done by Michelangelo’s hands. In fact, the Pauline Chapel is a coherent work of art, where all the painters, with their distinct styles and techniques, were able to work in consonance with the style and genius of the supreme master, Michelangelo. In fact, these painters did not engage in any competition with Michelangelo, but instead humbly sought to create a harmony within the Chapel by playing supporting notes. Thus, it would have been erroneous to place the emphasis solely on the frescoes of Michelangelo presenting them as exceptional testimonies which outshined the rest of the artist, and in fact, leaving them in his shadow. If we had done so, we would have been unfair not only to them, but to art history itself.

The painters, sculptors and decorators who worked in the Pauline chapel some twenty years after Michelangelo, were surely flattered to have been chosen to work in the same Chapel as the Great Master. Indeed, the work inside the Pauline was challenging enough for them, but became all the more intimidating because, after the publication of the “Lives of the Artists” by Giorgio Vasari, Michelangelo was considered a Genius and almost a “deity.” Thus, both Sabatini in the Fall of Simon Mago and Zuccari in the allegorical nudes of the vault, tried to keep a low profile by using a style as similar as possible to Michelangelo, avoiding every possible dissonance with the overall style of the Chapel.

Restoration, as our professors have taught us, is above all a critical work which descends directly from one’s interpretation of the story that has been refigured. It was this interpretation of the story that lead to the philosophy of intervention, which was then elaborated and defined by the Direction of the Restoration Committee for the restoration of the Pauline Chapel (Professor Arnold Nesselrath, Maurizio De Luca and with your author).

Of course the cleaning of Michelangelo’s frescoes is based on coherence with the chromatic values, with the tone and the “patina” of the whole of the frescoe itself. However, in order to better understand the reasons and difficulties of the restoration, one should know the construction problems confronted during the building and decoration of the Pauline Chapel. All these difficulties are the direct consequence of the particular character and the special destiny of a sacred space, so utterly unique for what it represents.

The Pauline Chapel has been the Papal Chapel for ages. It is the most intimate and private among the chapels of Apostolic Palace. The Pauline is the chapel which, even more than the Sistine, is called to evoke the mission and destiny of the Universal Church. In fact, this Chapel is dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. On the first rests the historical and juridical legitimacy of the roman pontiffs. The second is the corner stone which sustains and justifies the doctrine of the Church and its ecumenical mission.

The Popes of the XVI century, amidst the Reformation and Counter Reformation, were utterly aware of the extraordinary symbolic meaning of this place which explains the complicated construction and decorative itinerary of this chapel, so full of interruptions, reworkings and adjustments by multiple Popes. Antonio da Sangallo was the first architect in charge of the construction of the Chapel, between 1537 and 1542, during the papacy of Paul III Farnese. Also, Perin del Vaga took care of the stucco decorations, which were eventually removed at the time of Gregory the XIII Boncompagni.

In the forties of the same century Michelangelo, who had just completed the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, started painting his last two frescoes. These years are extremely hard for Buonarroti, who is also dedicated to the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica and the designing of the Cupola, despite his old age and fragile state of health. The existing written documentation shows massive purchases of ultramarine blue (we found so much and of such high quality during the restoration!), but it also shows several interruptions in the decoration of the Chapel (summer 1544 and summer 1546) because of the Master’s declining health.

In 1550, Michelangelo completed his works of art, but the renovation of the Pauline Chapel would be suspended for more than twenty years, until the papacy of Pope Gregory XIII. This Boncompagni Pope was a man of intelligence and exquisite taste. He reformed the calendar, commissioned the construction of the Tower of the Winds and the Gallery of the Geographical Maps. During his papacy the Pauline Chapel is again a construction site full of artists and decorative professionals of every kind. Painters like Lorenzo Sabatino and Federico Zuccari and their assistants work alongside decorators, sculptors and goldsmiths whose names (Andrea Svolgi, Bartolomeo Fiorentino, Cesare Romano, Prospero Bresciani, Giacomo Casagnola etc. etc.) are written in the accounting books of the period.

The present image of the Pauline Chapel is basically the one that Gregory XIII wanted during his papacy (1572 – 1585) and it is characterized by the large murals of Sabatini and Zuccari, which describe the most important episodes of the life of St. Peter and Paul and by the gold and coloured decorations of the vault, which recall the Gallery of the Geographical Maps.

The last renovation was completed in the years of Pope Paul VI (1974-75) and focussed on the remodelling of the presbytery. This rearrangement, in agreement with Archbishop Harvey, his Excellency Paolo De Nicolò and the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, with Monsignor Guido Marini, Master of the Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations and with the approval of the Holy Father, who visited the Chapel on the 25th of February 2009, was completely removed in order to restore the presbytery to its original arrangement. The Technical Services of the Governatorato, under the direction of the Engineer Pier Carlo Cuscianna restored the old marble altar. This altar has been detached from the wall in order to allow the celebration of the Mass both towards the public “versus populum” and towards the Crucifix “versus crucem”. The restoration of the frescoes by Michelangelo was carried out with infinite care and attention (also thanks to the collaboration of Gianluigi Colalucci, former restorer of the Vatican Museums now retired, who worked in the Sistine Chapel twenty years ago).

Everyone expected these two frescoes to appear “sub specie negra,” under a dark layer of dust. We anticipated finding darker colours in comparison to those of the Sistine as an expression of pessimism and melancholy which characterized the last years of Michelangelo’s career. The old master, at the end of his life was confronting himself with the concept of the “Absolute” and with History. He was focussed on his ultimate challenge with the “affettuosa fantasia che l’arte mi fece idolo e monarca” (the affectionate fantasy which made me an idol and a monarch). And so, seen through the prism of his final sonnets, and in the spirit of the “Rondanini”, thus we loved to think of the Michelangelo of the Pauline chapel.

The cleaning revealed a suffering and almost tragic Michelangelo, but with extraordinary and solid plasticity and firm, urgent, cromatic appearance. The colours are the same of the Last Judgement and serve to highlight a terrible, violent and desperate humanity. Never before has the style of Buonarroti revealed such ravaged faces and hate-filled expressions, eccentric and complicated postures, as well as such a great exposition of wild energy and darkening of reason. Only in Goya of the “Black Caprices” and “Quinta del Sordo” some two centuries later, will anyone move amongst these unsettling regions of emotion. It seems almost as if the painter is questioning the theological enigma of a Salvation mysteriously offered to an unmerriting humanity, immersed in Evil and covered with the sin here represented. Michelangelo questions himself about all this and we have the impression that Saint Peter interrogates himself as well depicted as he is, irately staring out in the very moment in which he is lifted upside down on the cross, almost second guessing the usefullness of his martyrdom. As we all know this terrible idea was destined to affect another great Michelangelo: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, who represented the same subject on the canvas of the Cerasi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo.

The restoration gave very consoling results, far beyond our prudent expectations. All the previous restorations were removed with extreme care in order to leave behind only the original Michelangelo. The frescoes of Michelangelo were finally freed from the layer of oil and dust which was suffocating them and are now ready to shine in all their beauty and vivid colours. On the 4th of July, when the Holy Father unveils the “parva” Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, I hope nobody will say that this restoration brought the frescoes of the Pauline to their “original splendour” (as too often our inexperienced journalists like to write). On the contrary, this restoration merely sought to hand over the frescoes of Michelangelo, Zuccari and Sabatini along with the decorations of the entire Chapel, in the best possible conservation condition for the best possible appreciation and enjoyment of those who enter this space of prayer, and after all, that is all we can ask of a well done restoration.

Antonio Paolucci
Director of the Vatican Museums


•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment




Politeama Square, Palermo
Sunday, 3 October 2010


Dear Young People and Families of Sicily,

I greet you with great affection and great joy! Thank you for your joy and for your faith! This encounter with you is the last meeting of my Visit to Palermo today but in a certain sense it is the central one. In fact, it is this occasion that prompted you to invite me: your Regional Meeting of Young People and Families. So today I must begin here, with this event; and I do so first of all by thanking Bishop Mario Russotto of Caltanissetta, who is the Delegate for the pastoral care of youth and the family at the regional level, and then, also, the two young people, Giorgia and David. Dear friends, yours was more than a greeting, it was a sharing of faith and hope. I warmly thank you. The Bishop of Rome goes everywhere to strengthen Christians in the faith, but he then goes home strengthened by your faith, by your joy and by your hope!

Therefore, young people and families, we must take seriously this gathering, this get-together, which cannot be solely an occasional or functional event. It has a meaning, a human, Christian and ecclesial value. And I do not want to start with a discussion but with a testimonial, a true and very timely life story. I believe you know that last Saturday, 25 September, a young Italian girl, called Chiara, Chiara Badano, was declared Blessed in Rome. I invite you to become acquainted with her. Her life was a short one but it is a wonderful message. Chiara was born in 1971 and died in 1990 from an incurable disease. Nineteen years full of life, love and faith. Her last two years were also full of pain, yet always of love and light, a light that shone around her, that came from within: from her heart filled with God! How was this possible? How could a 17 or 18-year-old girl live her suffering in this way, humanly without hope, spreading love, serenity, peace and faith? This was obviously a grace of God, but this grace was prepared and accompanied by human collaboration as well: the collaboration of Chiara herself, of course, but also of her parents and friends.

In the first place her parents, her family. Today I want to emphasize this in a special way. Bl. Chiara Badano’s parents are alive, they were in Rome for the Beatification I myself met them and they are witnesses of the fundamental fact that explains everything: their daughter was overflowing with God’s light! And this light, which comes from faith and love, was first lit by them: father and mother kindled that little flame of faith in their daughter’s soul and helped Chiara to keep it constantly alight, even in the difficult times of growing up and above all during her great and long trial of suffering, as was the case for Venerable Maria Carmelina Leone, who died at the age of 17. This, dear friends, is the first message that I would like to leave you: the relationship between parents and children as you know is fundamental; but not only due to a just tradition I know that this is keenly felt by Sicilians. It is something more, which Jesus himself taught us: it is the torch of faith that is passed on from one generation to the next; that flame which is also present in the rite of Baptism, when the priest says: “Receive the light of Christ… [a sign of Easter]… this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly”.

The family is fundamental because that is where the first awareness of the meaning of life germinates in the human soul. It germinates in the relationship with the mother and with the father, who are not the masters of their children’s lives but are God’s primary collaborators in the transmission of life and faith. This happened in an exemplary and extraordinary way in Bl. Chiara Badano’s family; but it also happens in many families. In Sicily too there are splendid examples of young people who have grown up like beautiful, vigorous plants, after germinating in the family with the Lord’s grace and human collaboration. I am referring to Bl. Pina Suriano, Venerable Maria Carmelina Leone and Maria Magno Magro, a great teacher; to the Servants of God Rosario Livatino, Mario Giuseppe Restivo and to many young people whom you know! Often their activities do not make the headlines because evil is more newsworthy, but they are the strength and future of Sicily! The image of a tree is very significant for representing the human person. The Bible uses it, for example, in the Psalms. Psalm 1 says blessed is the man who meditates on the law of the Lord: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, / that yields its fruit in its season” (v. 3). These “streams of water” could be the “river” of tradition, the “river” of the faith from which to draw the vital sap. Dear young people of Sicily, be trees that sink their roots in the “river” of good! Do not be afraid of opposing evil! Together you will be like a forest that grows, silent perhaps, but capable of yielding fruit, of bringing life and of deeply renewing your land! Do not give in to the suggestions of the Mafia, which is a path to death incompatible with the Gospel, as our Bishops have so often said and say!

The Apostle Paul takes up this image in his Letter to the Colossians, where he urges Christians to be “rooted and built up in him [Christ] and established in the faith” (cf. Col 2: 7). You young people know that these words are the theme of my Message for next year’s World Youth Day in Madrid. The image of the tree tells us that each one of us needs fertile ground in which to sink our own roots, a ground rich with nutritious substances that make a person grow: these are values, but above all they are love and faith, the knowledge of God’s true face, the awareness that he loves us infinitely, faithfully, patiently, to the point of giving his life for us. In this sense the family is a “Church in miniature” because it transmits God, it transmits Christ’s love, by virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony. Divine love, which unites a man and a woman and makes them become parents, is capable of generating in the hearts of their children the seed of faith, that is, the light of the deep meaning of life.

And here we come to the next important passage, which I can only outline: the family, to be this “Church in miniature”, must be properly inserted in the “great Church”, that is, in the family of God that Christ came to form. Bl. Chiara Badano also witnessed to this, as did all the other young Saints and Blesseds; that together with the family they were born into, the great family of the Church is fundamental, encountered and experienced in the parish community and in the diocese. For Bl. Pina Suriano it was Catholic Action widespread in this region for Bl. Chiara Badano, the Focolare Movement. In fact, ecclesial movements and associations do not serve themselves but Christ and the Church.

Dear Friends, I know your difficulties in today’s social context. They are the difficulties of the young people and families of today, particularly in the south of Italy. And I also know the commitment with which you seek to react to and face these problems, supported by your priests who are authentic fathers and brothers in the faith to you, as was Fr Pino Puglisi. I thank God for having met you, because wherever there are young people and families who choose the path of the Gospel there is hope. And you are a sign of hope, not only for Sicily but also for all Italy. I have brought you a testimony of holiness and you offer me your own: the faces of the many young people of this land who have loved Christ with Gospel radicalism; your own faces resemble a mosaic! This is the greatest gift we have received: to be Church, to be in Christ a sign and instrument of unity, of peace, of true freedom. No one can take this joy from us! No one can take this power from us! Courage, dear young people and families of Sicily! Be holy! At the school of Mary, our Mother, make yourselves fully available to God. Let yourselves be moulded by his Word and his Spirit and you will be even more, and increasingly, the salt and light of this beloved land of yours. Thank you!

Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Men and Women Religious and Seminarians

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment




Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Palermo
Sunday, 3 October 2010


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On my Pastoral Visit to your region a Meeting with you could not be omitted. Thank you for your welcome! I liked the parallel the Archbishop drew between the beauty of the Cathedral and that of the building of “living stones”, which you are. Yes, in this brief but intense moment with you I can admire the face of the Church in the variety of her gifts; and, as Successor of Peter, I have the joy of strengthening you in the one faith and in the profound communion that the Lord Jesus Christ bought for us. I express my gratitude to Archbishop Paolo Romeo and I extend it to the Auxiliary Bishop. I address my most cordial greeting to you, dear priests of this Archdiocese and of all the Dioceses in Sicily, to you, dear deacons and seminarians, and to you, men and women religious and consecrated lay people, and with it I would like to reach out to all the confreres and sisters of Sicily, and in a special way to those who are sick or very elderly.

Eucharistic adoration, which we have had the grace and joy to share, has revealed to us and permitted us to feel the profound meaning of what we are: a member of the body of Christ which is the Church. Prostrate before Jesus, here with you, I asked him to inflame your hearts with his love, so that you may be conformed to him and imitate him in the most complete and generous gift of yourselves to the Church and to your brethren.

Dear priests, I would like to address you first of all. I know that you work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no effort. The Lord Jesus, to whom you have consecrated your life, is with you! May you always be men of prayer, so as also to be teachers of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer during which, modelling yourselves on Jesus, you enter into a regenerating conversation with the Father. It is not easy to stay faithful to these daily appointments with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life has become frenetic and work is ever more absorbing. Yet we must convince ourselves: time for prayer is fundamental: in prayer, divine grace acts more effectively, making the ministry fruitful. We are pressed by so many things, but if we are not inwardly in communion with God we cannot give anything to others either. We must always set aside the necessary time “to be with him” (cf. Mk 3: 14).

Concerning priests, the Second Vatican Council says “However, it is in the Eucharistic cult or in the Eucharistic assembly of the faithful (synaxis) that they exercise in a supreme degree their sacred functions” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 28). The Eucharist is the source and summit of all Christian life. Dear brother priests, can we say that it is so for us, for our priestly life? What care do we devote to preparing ourselves for Holy Mass, to celebrating it, to remaining in adoration? Are our churches truly the “house of God”, where his presence attracts people who, unfortunately, today often feel the absence of God?

The priest always finds, and in an unchangeable manner, the source of his own identity in Christ the Priest. He is not in the world to establish our status, according to the needs and concepts of social roles. The priest is marked by the seal of the Priesthood of Christ, to share in his role as the one Mediator and Redeemer. By virtue of this fundamental bond, the immense field of the service to souls, for their salvation in Christ and in the Church, opens to the priest. This service that must be wholly inspired by the love of Christ. God wants all human beings to be saved, he wants no one to be lost. The Holy Curé d’Ars said: “the priest must always be ready to respond to the needs of souls. He does not live for himself, he lives for you”. The priest exists for the faithful: he encourages them and sustains them in the exercise of the common priesthood of the baptized, on their journey of faith, in cultivating hope and in living charity, the love of Christ. Dear priests, may you always give special attention to the world of youth. As Venerable John Paul II said in this land, open wide the doors of your parishes to young people, so that they may open the doors of their hearts to Christ. May they never find them closed!

The Priest cannot be distant from the daily concerns of the People of God; on the contrary he must be very close but as a priest, always with a view to salvation and of the Kingdom of God. He is the witness and steward of a life different from earthly life (cf. Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 3). He is the herald of a strong hope, a “trustworthy hope”, the hope of Christ, by virtue of which we can face the present even though it may often be arduous (cf. Encyclical Spe Salvi, n. 1). It is essential for the Church that the priest’s identity be safeguarded with its “vertical” dimension. The lives and personality of St John Mary Vianney and of all the Saints of your land such as St Hannibal Mary di Francia, Bl. James Cusmano and Bl. Francis Spoto are a particularly enlightening and vigorous demonstration of this.

The Church of Palermo recently commemorated the anniversary of the barbarous assassination of Fr Giuseppe Puglisi, who belonged to this presbyterate, killed by the Mafia. His heart was on fire with authentic pastoral charity; in his zealous ministry he made a lot of room for the education of children and young people and at the same time strove to ensure that every Christian family might live its fundamental vocation as the first teacher of the faith to children. The same people entrusted to his pastoral care were able to quench their thirst with the spiritual riches of this good pastor, the cause of whose Beatification is under way. I urge you to keep alive the memory of his fruitful priestly witness, following his heroic example.

With great affection I also address you, who live consecration to God in Christ and in the Church in various forms and institutes. I reserve a special thought for the cloistered monks and nuns, whose service of prayer is so precious for the Ecclesial Community. Dear brothers and sisters, may you continue to follow Jesus without compromise, as the Gospel proposes, thereby witnessing radically to the beauty of being Christian. It is your particular task to keep alive in the baptized the awareness of the fundamental requirements of the Gospel. In fact, your very presence and your style give the Ecclesial Community a precious incentive to attain the “high standard” of the Christian vocation; indeed, we could say that your existence is as it were a form of preaching, very eloquent even though it is often silent. Yours, dear friends, is an ancient way of life yet ever new, despite the decrease in your number and forces. But have trust: our times are not those of God and of his providence. It is necessary to pray and to grow in personal and community holiness. Then the Lord will provide!

With special affection I greet you, dear seminarians, and I urge you to respond generously to the call of the Lord and the expectations of the People of God, growing in identification with Christ the High Priest, preparing yourselves for the mission with a solid human, spiritual, theological and cultural formation. The Seminary is particularly valuable for your future, because, by a full experience and patient work, it leads you to being pastors of souls and teachers of faith, ministers of the holy mysteries and messengers of Christ’s charity. Live this time of grace with dedication and cherish in your hearts the joy and dynamism of the first moment of the call and of your “yes”, when, responding to Christ’s mysterious voice, you gave a decisive turning point to your lives. Be docile to the orders of your superiors and of those responsible for your growth in Christ, and learn from him love for every child of God and of the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you once again for your affection, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer so that you may continue with a fresh enthusiasm and with strong hope on the journey of faithful adherence to Christ and of generous service to the Church. May the Virgin Mary, our Mother, always help you; may St Rosalia and all the holy Patrons of this region of Sicily protect you; and may the Apostolic Blessing that I warmly impart to you and to your communities accompany you.

Holy Mass Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment




Foro Italico Umberto I, Palermo
Sunday, 3 October 2010


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I rejoice at being able to break with you the bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist. I greet you all with affection and thank you for your warm welcome! I greet in particular your Pastor, Archbishop Paolo Romeo; I thank him for his words of welcome on behalf of you all and for the meaningful gift he has offered me. I also greet the Archbishops and Bishops present, the priests, the men and women Religious and the Representatives of the Ecclesial Associations and Movements. I address a respectful thought to Hon. Mr Diego Cammarata, the Mayor, grateful for his courteous greeting, to the Representative of the Government and to the Civil and Military Authorities, who have wished to honour our Meeting with their presence. A special “thank you” goes to all who have generously offered their collaboration for the organization and preparation of this day.

Dear friends, my Visit is taking place on the occasion of an important regional ecclesial Meeting of Young People and Families, whom I will meet this afternoon. But I have also come to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and commitments, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. When the ancient Greeks landed in this area, as the Mayor mentioned in his greeting, they called it “Panormo” meaning the place looking out over the whole bay, a name that suggested safety, peace and calm. In coming to see you for the first time, my hope is that this City, drawing inspiration from the most authentic values of its history and tradition, may always know how to make the hopes of serenity and peace, summed up in its name, come true for its inhabitants and for the entire nation.

I know that in Palermo, as in the whole of Sicily, difficulties, problems and worries are not lacking; I am thinking in particular of those who are actually living their lives in precarious conditions, because of unemployment, uncertainty about the future and physical and moral suffering and, as the Archbishop recalled, because of organized crime. Today I am among you to witness to my closeness and my remembrance in prayer. I am here to give you strong encouragement not to be afraid to witness clearly to thehuman and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this territory and of its people.

Dear brothers and sisters, every liturgical assembly is a place of God’s presence. Gathered together for the Holy Eucharist, disciples of the Lord are immersed in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, they proclaim that he is Risen, is alive and is the Giver of life, and witness that his Presence is grace, strength and joy. Let us open our hearts to his Word and welcome the gift of his presence! All the texts of this Sunday’s Liturgy speak to us of faith, which is the foundation of the whole of Christian life. Jesus taught his disciples to grow in faith, to believe and to entrust themselves increasingly to him, in order to build their own lives on the rock. For this reason they asked him “increase our faith!” (Lk 17: 5). What they asked the Lord for is beautiful, it is the fundamental request: disciples do not ask for material gifts, they do not ask for privileges but for the grace of faith, which guides and illumines the whole of life; they ask for the grace to recognize God and to be in a close relationship with him, receiving from him all his gifts, even those of courage, love and hope.

Jesus, without directly answering their prayer, has recourse to a paradoxical image to express the incredible vitality of faith. Just as a lever raises something far heavier than its own weight, so faith, even a crumb of faith, can do unthinkable, extraordinary things, such as uproot a great tree and plant it in the sea (ibid.). Faith trusting in Christ, welcoming him, letting him transform us, following him to the very end makes humanly impossible things possible in every situation. The Prophet Habbakuk also bears witness to this in the First Reading. He implores the Lord, starting with a dreadful situation of violence, iniquity and oppression. And even in this difficult, insecure situation, the Prophet introduces a vision that offers an inside view of the plan that God is outlining and bringing to fulfilment in history: “He whose soul is not upright in him shall fail, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab 2: 4). The godless person, the one who does not behave in accordance with God, who trusts in his own power but is relying on a frail and inconsistent reality that will therefore give way, is destined to fall; the righteous person, on the other hand, trusts in a hidden but sound reality, he trusts in God and for this reason will have life.

In past centuries the Church in Palermo was enriched and enlivened by a fervent faith that found its loftiest and most successful expression in the Saints. I am thinking of St Rosalia, whom you venerate and honour and who, from Mount Pellegrino, watches over your City of which she is the Patroness. I am also thinking of two great Saints of Sicily: Agatha and Lucy. Nor should it be forgotten that your religious sense has always inspired and guided family life, fostering values such as the capacity for giving themselves and solidarity to others, especially the suffering, and innate respect for life that constitutes a precious heritage to be jealously guarded and proposed anew especially in our time. Dear friends, preserve this precious treasure of faith of your Church; may Christian values always guide your decisions and your actions!

The second part of today’s Gospel presents another teaching, a teaching of humility that is nevertheless closely linked to faith. Jesus invites us to be humble and suggests the example of a servant who has worked in the fields. When he returns home, the master asks him to go on working. According to the mentality of Jesus’ time the master had every right to do this. The servant owed his master total availability; and the master did not feel under any obligation to him for having carried out the orders he had received. Jesus makes us aware that, before God, we are in a similar situation: we are God’s servants, we are not his creditors but are always indebted to him, because we owe him everything since everything is a gift from him. Accepting and doing his will is the approach to have every day, at every moment of our life. Before God we must never present ourselves as if we believe we have done a service and deserve a great reward. This is an illusion that can be born in everyone, even in people who work very hard in the Lord’s service, in the Church. Rather, we must be aware that in reality we never do enough for God. We must say, as Jesus’ suggests: “we are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Lk 17: 10). This is an attitude of humility that really puts us in our place and permits the Lord to be very generous to us. In fact, in another Gospel passage, he promises people that “he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them” (cf. Lk 12: 37). Dear friends, if we do God’s will today with humility, without claiming anything from him, it will be Jesus himself who serves us, who helps us, who encourages us, who gives us strength and serenity.

In today’s Second Reading the Apostle Paul too speaks of faith. Timothy is asked to have faith and, through it, to exercise charity. The disciple is also urged to rekindle in faith the gift of God that is in him through the laying on of Paul’s hands, in other words the gift of Ordination, received so that he might carry out the apostolic ministry as a collaborator of Paul (cf. 2 Tm 1: 6). He must not let this gift be extinguished but must make it ever more alive through faith. And the Apostle adds: “for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control” (v. 7).

Dear people of Palermo and dear Sicilians, your beautiful Island was one of the first regions of Italy to receive the faith of the Apostles, to receive the proclamation of the Word of God, to adhere to the faith in such a generous way that, even amidst difficulties and persecutions, the flower of holiness always sprang from it. Sicily was and is a land of Saints, belonging to every walk of life, who have lived the Gospel with simplicity and wholeness. To you lay faithful, I repeat: do not fear to live and to witness to the faith in the various contexts of society, in the many situations of human existence, especially in those that are difficult! May faith give you the power of God in order to be ever confident and courageous, to go ahead with new determination, to take the necessary initiatives to give an ever more beautiful face to your land. And when you come up against the opposition of the world, may you hear the Apostle’s words: “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord” (v. 8). One should be ashamed of evil, of what offends God, of what offends man; one should be ashamed of the evil done to the Civil and Religious Community by actions that would prefer to remain in the shade! The temptation of discouragement and resignation comes to those who are weak in faith and those who confuse evil with good and to those who think that in the face of evil that is often profound there is nothing that can be done. On the contrary, those who are firmly founded on faith, who trust totally in God and who live in the Church are capable of conveying the devastating power of the Gospel. This was how the Saints who flourished in Palermo and throughout Sicily down the centuries behaved, as likewise the lay people and priests of today who are well known to you, such as, for example, Fr Pino Puglisi. May they always keep you united and nourish in each one the desire to proclaim, with word and deed, the presence and love of Christ. People of Sicily, look at your future with hope! Bring out the full radiance of the good that you desire, that you seek and that you possess! Live courageously the values of the Gospel to make the light of goodness shine out! With God’s power everything is possible! May the Mother of Christ, Our Lady Hodegetria whom you so deeply venerate, help you and lead you to deep knowledge of her Son. Amen!