Category Archives: Holy See

One Year Anniversary of Archbishop Sambi’s Birth into Eternal Life

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Pietro Sambi on this, the one year anniversary of his passing.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC after the passing of Archbishop Pietro Sambi.

My favorite memory of the Papal Nuncio was his 2010 visit to my parish, Holy Rosary in Northeast DC. When I reiterated how much of an honor it was to be in his presence, he smiled and simply invited me to have a piece of cake with him. His Excellency was a top-tier Vatican official and a highly skilled politician, but you would never know it outside of the office. He carried all of his own belongings and took time to approach every unsuspecting stranger with a smile, greeting them and leaving you without the slightest impression of his diplomatic ranking.
As a politician in the Vatican Diplomatic Service, he remained loyal his mission of charity, compassion, and returning Christ to His flock. Most notably, he negotiated with the Israeli and Palestinian governments to ensure more religious freedom and ease of restrictions on Catholic clergy living in Israel. In 2005, he was charged with his most pressing and final mission: serving as Papal Nuncio to the United States. From 2005 to 2011, his priorities included the protection of children, facilitating the healing of Church wounds, and the Papal visit of 2007.
Lord give us the humility of your faithful servant, Pietro, who submitted himself to you with a simple smile and unfailing spirit of charity for your flock. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Today is the great Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles. The readings today inspire humility and to a life of constant conversion toward Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel, we receive confirmation from Jesus Christ that Peter is the head of His Church here on earth.

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” – Today’s Gospel from Matthew 16

The statue of St. Peter was decorated this morning in Rome’s Basilica of St. Peter for the Papal Mass. He can be seen wearing the Papal Tiara and, stole, and red cope.

But this story would not be as great as it is without first recalling Peter’s denial of Jesus during the Passion. Recalling Peter back to His true mission, He asked Peter to reaffirm three times, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. For even great sinners, as we all are, can be fully reconciled with God and be given the keys to the kingdom.

In 64 A.D., Peter was jailed in Rome. (His jailers, Sts. Processus and Martinian later converted). To Saint Peter’s own disbelief, angels led him out of prison on the eve of his trial. Peter then began to flee the city to avoid further persecution but saw Jesus along the way. Jesus told Peter that He would return to Rome to be crucified again essentially saying ‘if you won’t, I must do it again’ – thus giving Peter the strength to go back and continue converting people to Christianity even at the risk of crucifixion, which happened later that year.

The tomb of St Paul can be seen between the base of the two candles just above the railing.

Saint Paul who was once a great persecutor of Christians, converted and became an unashamed promoter of Jesus Christ.  We are called to be the light of the world, but it is not without consequence. In today’s second reading, Paul tells us of his impending martyrdom

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.” II Timothy 4:6

The faith in Jesus Christ is a sustaining one. And even in the hardest of times, these men found their courage in Christ and remind us to do the same. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.


Pope Benedict Warns Against Future “Vatileak” Scandals

This week, Pope Benedict addressed students from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy where some of the world’s brightest young priests are training at one of the  most renowned diplomatic school in the world to be representatives of the Holy See to other governments.

Archbishop Vigano, the hero in this scandal, became the unfortunate center of attention this past year at the Vatican when the Pope’s butler leaked documents to the press about a struggle between him and some financial officials who were being loose with Holy See’s cash.

The Holy Father warned that the diplomats must keep the Pope informed regularly so that he can act appropriately if an issue develops. He reminded the students that faithfulness is a key virtue that they must pay particular attention to.


Virtual Tour of Christian Rome

St. Peter arrived in Rome circa 42AD and remained there until his martyrdom about 64AD. His successor, Linus, who was ordained Bishop of Rome by the laying on of hands. Each of the readers should desire to have that same zeal of the early Christians. Over the next several days, this blog will cover a virtual tour of Christian Rome divided into three sections:

SPQR, Senatus Populusque Romanus
The Senate and People of Rome

Beati, qui persecutionem patiuntur propter iustitiam (Blessed are those who endure persecution for the sake of justice Matt 5:11)

  1. Colosseum, Forum Romanum – Persecution of Christians circa 45AD-317AD
  2. Chiesa Quo Vadis Domine (Church of “Where are you going, Lord). Where Jesus appeared to Peter in 64AD.
  3. San Pietro in Vincoli, church that holds the chains of St. Peter from when he was in jail
  4. Catacombs, tombs of the early popes, saints, martyrs
  5. Piazza di San Pietro
Non potest civitas abscondi supra montem posita(A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden -Matt 5:14)
  1. Palace and Archbasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano- 317AD, Constantine I legalizes Christianity and gives this palace to Pope St. Miltiades. This church remains the cathedral of the Pope and the spiritual head of the church today.
  2. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore- Popes return to Rome in 1417, temporarily reside here. St Jerome is buried here.
  3. Quirinial Palace- Housed 30 popes from 15th century to 19th century when Italy was unified.
  4. Basilica of St Peter- Pope Pius IX holds first Vatican Council and moves into the Vatican Apostolic Palace in 1870.
Et ego dico tibi quia tu es Petrus Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt(And I say to you: you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it -Matt 16:18).
  1. Mass with Pope Benedict XVI
  2. Angelus with Pope Benedict outdoors in Piazza San Pietro noon local time


Where do the Vatican Ambassadors Come From?

As mentioned before, I am currently packing up and preparing to go to Rome for   the month of June. So for the next few days, this blog will sadly be empty of any intellectually stimulating blog posts.

In February, there was a post on the term “Holy See” vs “Vatican City”

The Ambassadors of the Holy See to each county are known as “Apostolic Nuncios.” Nuncios are a part of the Vatican Diplomatic Service and are usually Archbishops, although they do not have a diocese to manage. Not every county has one, but have you ever wondered where the Nuncios come from?

Here is a low-tech but interesting graphic I put together with the help of Google Maps and Paint.


Religious Freedom and the New Turkish Constitution

Catholics are hoping to end a longstanding tradition of structural violence in the Republic of Turkey. Turkey, which has a population of approximately 75 million people(almost 72 million are Muslim), allows for the free practice of religion, but it does not grant legal status to all churches and other non-Islamic organizations.

Structural violence refers to the denial of access to political and other resources in a country based on someone’s religious, ethnic, or other minority status. This is the case in Turkey and the Catholic bishops have recently petitioned the Turkish Parliament to give full recognition of these rights to the Church and other religious organizations as they begin to rewrite the constitution of the country next month. Since 1929, only Jewish and Orthodox minorities have enjoyed legal recognition by the country (JW News).

The Catholic Church recognizes the freedom of religion for all people. It is spelled out in a the 1965 document Dignitatis Humanae(Of the Dignity of the Human Person):

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

More information on the meeting between the Catholic and Protestant leaders meeting with the Turkish officials can be found here: Hurriyet Daily News(English) or L’Osservatore Romano(Italiano)

“Holy See” vs. “Vatican City”

Did you know that Vatican City is a country? In 1929, Italy signed the Lateran Treaty which recognizes the sovereignty of Vatican City. In fact, it is the only internationally recognized nation without full voting privileges in the United Nations. First and foremost, this nation acts as the head of the Catholic Church, but just like any of the Islamic republics, for legal purposes, Vatican City is considered to be a fully recognized country with special ties to a particular faith.

A view from the outside of the dome, known as the Cupola, of the Vatican

Vatican City is .2 square miles in area plus several extraterritorial properties such as the Basilica San Giovanni Laterano(Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome), Pontifical Laterano University, and Castel Gandalfo, the retreat home of the Pope. The residents are the Swiss Guard and religious men and women who are on special assignment. The population is roughly 830 and fluctuates as priests and nuns move to other missions around the world.

You may have also heard the term “Holy See” used interchangeably with “Vatican City”. But what are those terms, and are they really interchangeable?

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi(Center), Apostolic Nuncio to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland during a press conference.

They are actually distinctly different, but it’s sometimes hard to tell.  The guards at the UN are sometimes puzzled when they see a staff member from the “country” known as the Holy See.

In Latin, it is Sancta Sedes. In French it is the Saint-Siege.

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