Last month, the whole nation has been blessed by the company of His Holiness, Pope Francis. We united in welcoming the head of the Roman Catholic Church and were immensely grateful for this compassion. – Written by Erika Grace R. Lapitan
For the people of Tacloban City who have been greatly affected by the Typhoon Yolanda, this simple act of love was greatly appreciated. They were given hope to stand up again.
However, we can better appreciate every human act of love if we try to know what the person represents. We now travel to the Vatican City in Rome, where we can learn how the state came about, leading to us having a Pope.
The capital of Italy, Rome is known in Roman Mythology as the city built by Romulus and Remus, twin brothers who were adopted and cared for by a she-wolf. The two siblings, with their natural skills for leadership, then decided to build a new city. Their differences resulted into Romulus killing his brother in a fight, and him founding the city of Roma. For thousands of years, the city not only expanded its territories but also created a civilization that surpasses others.
Like any state in the world, Rome also struggled from conflicts between its settlers, as well as its neighbors. Many cities wanted to seize the Roman Empire because of its natural beauty and affluence. With the transfer from one emperor to another, Rome’s culture was greatly enhanced most especially when Constantine the Great signed the Edict of Milan. This gave Christianity a full reign. Constantine remarkably is also the emperor who ordered St. Peter’s Basilica to be built.
Though things have altered through the centuries, Christianity in Rome remains unchangeable. A proof of this is the walled enclave known today as the Vatican City. The name “Vatican” is not new to the locals of Rome. The place was once a marshy area on the west of Tiber River. An emperor of early Rome turned it into a vast garden, which later became home to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
When there was a dispute arose between the Italian Government and the Papacy, a Lateran Treaty was signed between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See (the ecclesiastical authority of the Catholic Church). This gave the latter’s full authority in the Vatican City State. In 1929, Vatican became an independent state headed by the Pontiff with Pope Pius XI as the first head. To mark this occasion and to provide a more united spirit, a Vatican flag was also adopted in June 7, 1929.
INSIDE THE WALLED CITY
Although St. Peter’s Basilica is the most popular attraction in the walled city, travellers can never have a scarcity of beautiful landmarks. One of this is St. Peter’s Square, situated right in front of the Basilica.
Constructed between the years 1656 to 1667, the massive square was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini to accommodate the vast number of people who wanted to see the pope. At the center of the piazza is the looming Egyptian Obelisk brought from Egypt. Due to the Obelisk’s location at the centre of the square, it is also used as a sundial to tell the time. Framing the plaza on both sides are the colonnades, which Bernini describes as ‘the maternal arms of Mother Church’.
Lovers of architecture can have fun studying the different edifices around the metropolis. One of them is the famous Sistine Chapel, the official residence of the pope. It takes its nam from Pope Sixtus IV, who initiated its restoration.
In addition, one will also enjoy seeing the Casina Pio IV or simply Villa Pia, a patrician country house. This is now home of the different Academies of Vatican. Anyone shouldn’t also miss the chance to walk through the large gardens lying on both sides of the city. These host lovely fountains and statues that are absolutely picture-worthy.
Heart of the Vatican
With all these and more, what greatly matters is who would lead not only the city of Vatican, but also the entire Roman Catholic Church. Thus, a pope is needed to unite every people.
The choosing and electing of a new pope is handled by the Papal Conclave, where the College of Cardinals meets to select the new leader. As part of the process, they are locked in a room in the Sistine Chapel, and are not allowed to leave until a new pope is chosen.
Once elected, the new pope will then choose his regnal name. This is a tradition that started in AD 533, which symbolizes who the newly assessed Pontiff would emulate. Such is the case of the reigning Pope, whose real name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who decided to follow the works of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was known for his deep love for the poor and eagerness to preach the work of Christ. Pope Francis is the first Pope to use this regnal name.
The Pope from the Latin America
Born December 17, 1936, Pope Francis is the eldest among the five children of the Italian immigrants Mario José Bergoglio and Regina María Sívori. With humble beginnings in Buenos Aires in Argentina, he graduated as a Chemical Technician and worked as a janitor and nightclub bouncer before finally entering the seminary. He was ordained in the Catholic Church on December 13. 1969.
Throughout the years, he rose as a prominent religious leader in Argentina, eventually landing the position of Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He was elected as Pontiff on March 13, 2013 after Pope Benedict XVI resigned on February 28 of the same year.
The first Jesuit pope, Mario José Bergoglio believes in the value of showing mercy especially to the poor, the needy, and the people wronged by the society. His motto, Miserando atque eligendo, was taken from a homily of St. Bede about Jesus’s mercy towards the tax collector.
Round and around
Any ruler will not be an effective leader without a place to govern. Thus, St. Peter’s Basilica was especially constructed in November 18, 1626. Designed in a Late Renaissance style, the basilica built to commemorate St. Peter, a fisherman and one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. He is also considered as the first Pope appointed by Jesus himself.
However, the Basilica we see today is not the original edifice built during the rule of Constantine. Still, the structure itself is a sight to behold as many famous artists have contributed to the church. Donato Bramante designed the crossed floor plan as well as the building’s grand dome Carlo Maderno who was responsible for the basilica’s main regal façade. Gian Lorenzo Bernini lent his talent in creating the Cathedra Petri (or the ‘throne of St. Peter’), the Chapel of the Sacrament, as well as statues of prominent saints.
But, probably the most famous of all these artists is Michelangelo, who is known for his eye-catching frescoes etched on the ceilings of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. These symbolic paintings include “The Last Judgement” and “The Creation of Adam”. He is also responsible for the Pietà sculpture seen in the basilica.
Aside from the masterpieces, the basilica also houses relics which date back from Jesus’ time, like the veil of Veronica and pieces from the cross where the Christ was nailed. What also greatly attracts tourists to visit the city is the fact that the tomb of St. Peter lies beneath the Basilica.
Another masterpiece situated is the St. Peter Baldachin, which serves as a sanctuary and marking of the tomb of St. Peter underground. Fashioned after the Ciborium, the 30-meter structure consists of four spiral columns standing over a marble platform. It is said to be made up of pure bronze with intricate embossed carvings such as laurel leaves.
Inside the Vatican Museums
Near the Basilica, one will find the Vatican Museums. It consists of over 54 galleries and ranks as the 5th most visited art museums all over the world. Among the most visited of the Vatican museums are the Lateran Museum and the Museo Chiaramonti. The Etrucso and Egiziano museum are also known for having collections which comprise of significant pieces of Etruscan and Egyptian civilization.
Masterpieces seen in the museums are the statues of Prima Porta Augustus, a marble figure of Augustus Ceasar and Sleeping Ariadne. The walls are also laden with paintings, such as Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno and Leonardo de Vinci’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness.
For a different view, you can also walk through the spiral staircase designed by Guiseppe Momo. Also known as the Snail Staircase, it consists of two iron stairways that go up and down in a double helix structure. It is also worth to see the catacombs of the Popes buried within the Basilica. These include the ones of Pope Innocent VIII (who died on 1492) and Pope John Paul II (who died on 2005).
But probably the oldest and most famed artefact found inside the Vatican Museum is the marble sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons, which was excavated in 1506. The museum celebrates its annual celebration every October since its foundation hundreds of years ago.
A BLESSED VISIT
Journeying from a country of rich legacy, Pope Francis touched many Filipinos with his sincerity and wisdom. His visit may be in the simplest desire to console the poor nation devastated by the Typhoon Yolanda, but to the Filipinos it is among the best of memories.
The Papal Visit is a five-day trip with the theme of “Mercy and Compassion”. Greatly moved after seeing the effects brought by two major catastrophes in the Visayas last 2013 (a Typhoon Yolanda and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake), he decided to come to the Philippines. Showing deep love for the poor, Pope Francis is a role model who has opened the eyes of many to follow the Almighty.
DAY 1: WARM WELCOME
Pope Francis arrived on the afternoon of January 15, 2015 at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. A huge crowd of Filipinos prepared songs and dances to greet the 78-year-old pontiff, who was coming from Sri Lanka. He was welcomed by President Benigno Aquino III, archbishops, and other government leaders. Two orphan children also handed him flowers. The Pontiff headed to the Apostolic Nunciature, his official residence during the tour.
DAY 2: MAKING A STAND
Pope Francis started his second day with a courtesy visit to the Malacañan Palace. After a closed-door meeting with President Aquino, the Pope gave a public speech and made a stand on current issues, especially corruption.
After the meeting, he went to the Manila Cathedral to celebrate mass for church leaders from around the different parts of the country. He continued the day’s activities at SM Mall of Asia Arena, where he met with various families. Select families shared experiences about disabilities, separation, and keeping strong faith. To end the day, Pope Francis attended a secret event, where he surprisingly visited 320 kids at a children’s foundation in Manila.
DAY 3: PONCHO IN THE RAIN
The highlight of his Apostolic Trip was in Tacloban City, where he was received by the same people he wanted to console. At the grounds of Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, he celebrated a mass in front of over 150,000 devotees.
“[Christ] understands us because he underwent all trials that you have experienced,” said Pope Francis in his native Spanish during his homily. He encouraged the people to trust in Christ, because according to him “Jesus never lets us down”.
Though Typhoon Amang caused some activities to be shortened, the Pontiff didn’t let the fierce weather hinder him from comforting the survivors. He even had lunch with 30 typhoon survivors and blessed the mass graves. As a thank you gift, Pope Francis received a carved image of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, made from the debris of the typhoon-damaged church.
DAY 4: A MASS GATHERING
Pope Francis’s fourth day was spent in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. Despite of the continuous rain, it seems that all worries vanished as Pope Francis entered UST’s sports field. Here, young representatives shared invocations and issues of today’s youth. Perhaps, what greatly moved the Pope is the emotional speech made by Glyzelle Iris Palomar, who tearfully asked him why God makes children suffer.
Pope Francis abandoned his prepared speech and asked the youth to “learn how to cry for the poor”. He asked the youth “to think, to feel, and to do”, three acts they need to learn and apply harmoniously in life.
Braving the rain on board his Pope Mobile, the Pope later went to celebrate another mass at the Quirino Grandstand. An estimated 6 million people attended this event, surpassing that of Pope John Paul II’s 5 million. Truly, faith knows no boundaries: rain or shine.
DAY 5: A BIG SEND-OFF
Ending the Pope’s Apostolic Tour has brought many people to tears. He gave his final blessing at the Villamor Air Base and expressed his deep gratitude. Although it was his last day in the country, many Filipinos still tried catch a glimpse of him. The crowd chanted “Viva Santo Papa” and “Pope Francis, we love you” while children danced as he boarded Philippine Airline’s Airbus 340.
IN THE EYES OF THE FAITHFUL
Dear Pope Francis,
Through your visit, you’ve given us not only happiness but the promise of a brighter day amidst life’s struggles.
We never minded standing under heavy downpours and among crowds because we know that you’re with us. You a smile on our faces with just a wave of your hand. You’ve given us a part of yourself when you came and we’ve given you a part of ours when you left. Thank you and we love you, Pope Francis.