Friday, February 18, 2011

Countdown to B-Day

In preparation for Rome's biggest event since the 2005 funeral of Pope John Paul II, this morning the Holy See revealed its gameplan for the late pontiff's beatification on May 1st.

With crowds of 2 to 3 million expected to flood the city -- and the handful of hotel rooms remaining for the days said to have been running at some €700 ($950) a night -- the Vatican first made an unusual caution against "unauthorized offers" by travel agencies which have promised tickets to the beatification events. Released in six languages, a communique from the prefecture of the Papal Household -- the Curial organ that arranges audiences and handles ticketing for Vatican events -- underscored that "For the Beatification Mass... as made clear from the outset, no tickets are required" (emphasis original).

After the chaos that took place during last November's consistory -- when several prime sections had more ticket-holders than could be seated in them, and hundreds of pilgrims (if not more) ended up shut out of St Peter's Basilica -- maybe the lack of passes this time isn't the worst thing.

Beyond the crowd-control plans for the Mass, today's rollout included the announcement of several pieces of the days-long celebration itself. First among them is an evening vigil on 30 April -- the "liturgical anniversary" of John Paul's death -- to be held at 8pm at the Circus Maximus. The papal vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, will preside, with Pope Benedict joining the gathering by video-link.

On Beatification Day itself, the remains of the new Blessed will be placed before the basilica's High Altar "for the veneration of the faithful," beginning shortly after the midmorning Mass and continuing until everyone who wants to pass by has had the chance to do so. The "exposition" on the basilica's main floor indicates that John Paul's body will be borne outside and present on the Sagrato -- the steps of St Peter's -- during the day's climactic liturgy itself.

The following morning at 10.30, a Mass of Thanksgiving will take place in the Square, to be celebrated by the Cardinal-Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. Only after the second Mass will John Paul's remains be "privately" reinterred in the basilica's chapel of St Sebastian, on the main floor, between Michelangelo's Pietá and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament.

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Likewise this morning, the plans were unveiled for the Vatican presentation of the second volume of B16's Jesus of Nazareth, which will publish on March 10th.

In just the latest sign of the author's regard for Rome's ranking Canadian, the press conference to release the second part of the Pope's chronicle of the historical Jesus will be led by the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, barely six months after the Quebecois arrived to take up the all-powerful post.