Saturday of Week V of Lent

On the day before Palm Sunday, Romans gather in this lovely 5th-century Church of St. John at the Latin Gate dedicated to St. John the Evangelist. According to the great historian and Father of the Church Tertullian, it is at this site that John was tortured in Rome (boiled in oil) and unharmed, before being exiled to Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation. The lovely bell tower was built in the 11th century. This church is very popular for weddings.

The Cardinal-Priest of the titular chuch is Cardinal Franciszek Macharski. He succeeded Karol Wojtyła to the archdiocese of Krakow, when the latter became Pope John Paul II. While Krakow is no longer the capital of Poland, it is the most influential bishopric in Poland, and a leading city in academic, cultural, and artistic life in the country. Until 1791, Krakow's archbishop also held the title of duke.


Friday of Week V of Lent

Dedicated by Pope Simplicius to St. Stephen around 470 after the body of the protomartyr was found in Jersualem, the Basilica of St. Stephen in the Round on the Celian Hill s the first circular church in Rome, modelled upon the Basilica of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Inside, the outer walls host 24 famous frescoes, depicting scenes of horrific martyrdom. The church is one of the handful churches which have survived their original 5th-century structure.

Cardinal Friedrich Wetter succeeded to the see of Munich in 1982 after Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, was appointed as President of the Holy Office. Wetter was created cardinal in 1985 and was given this titular church. He served the German archdiocese for 22 years before retiring.

The previous Cardinal-Priest was József Mindszenty, the famous primate of Hungary who suffered tremendously under the Communist rule.

This historic church also serves as the national church of the Hungarians. One of the chapel is dedicated to St. Stephen of Hungary, king from 1000 to 1038.


Thursday of Week V of Lent

The Basilica of St. Apollinarus is a "modern" church compared to the ones we've seen, founded as "late" as in the 7th century. The present church was reconstructed in the 18th century. Today Opus Dei runs the station church, next to the prelature's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

Apollinarus was a disciple of Peter, the first bishop of Ravenna. He converted many people and was beaten and left to die.

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran is the Cardinal-Deacon of the diaconal church, also the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, responsible for forming good relationships with the Jews, Muslims, Hindu and other non-Christian religions. He is the most senior Cardinal-Deacon and so holds the office of Protodeacon. The Cardinal Protodeacon is responsible for declaring to the world the name of the new pope after a papal conclave. However, Cardinal Tauran will be promoted to the order of Cardinal-Priests next year and will concede the office to the American Cardinal Levada.

Do not miss the Basilica of St. Augustine around the corner.

Wednesday of Week V of Lent

Pope Marcellus I was arrested by Emperor Maxentius, but was freed by Lucina, a Roman woman, who hid him in her house. The emperor eventually found the pope, had the house turned into a stable where Marcellus was forced to work and died. The house was converted into the Church of St. Marcellus in the later 4th century, becoming one of the first 25 parishes. The church was rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1519.

The church has been administered by the Order of Friar Servants of Mary, or Servites, since 1369. The order was founded by seven founders in 1233, and these seven saints are celebrated as an optional memorial in the General Roman Calendar.

Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence, is the new Cardinal-Priest of the titular church. He was created cardinal a month ago by Pope Benedict XVI.


Tuesday of Week V of Lent

The first chapel was built at the present site of Basilica of St. Mary in Via Lata in the 5th century, with the upper church built over it in the 9th century. The present basilica was built in 1491, with the façade and portico finished in the 17th century.

St. Paul may have spent two years in the crypt under the present church when he was under house arrest awaiting his trial.

Above the altar is a miraculous icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary called "Virgin Advocate". Relics of the deacon-martyr Agapitus lie under the altar. A crypt is also open for visit.

Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the former ecumenical chief from Australia, has been the Cardinal-Deacon of the diaconal church. When he had become cardinal for 10 years, the deaconry became a titular church for the time being, and he was promoted to the Order of Cardinal-Priest.

Within a walk of 200 metres, you can also admire the Titular Church of St. Marcellus (which we will visit tomorrow), the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles (which we visited earlier), and the Titular Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola.


Monday of Week V of Lent

As one of the first 25 parishes of Rome, the Basilica of St. Chrysogonus was built in the 4th century over the house of Crisogonus, later dedicated to a different Crisognous who was a martyr in Aquileia, a saint venerated also in the Orthodox Church.

The Tawianese Cardinal Paul Shan, bishop emeritus of Kaohsiung, is the cardinal priest of this titular church in the region of Trastevere. He has developed cancer, and in his age of 88, he still travels around the world to give witness to Christ. Although Kaohsiung is neither the capital nor metropolitan see of Taiwan, it holds de facto the primary importance due to its history and pastoral activities. The present bishop of Kaohsiung was given the personal title of archbishop to recognize the importance of the office.

The basilica was rebuilt in the 12th century and again in the 17th century. Remains of the first church were recovered in the early 20th century. Several well preserved sarcophagi can be found in this graceful basilica.

Fifth Sunday of Lent

On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, pilgrims return to the Vatican Hill after Saturday of Week I, the site of Peter's burial. After a grand church was built by Constantine in 330, it gradually came to ruins. The new Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican was commissioned in 1506, and it took 120 years to finish the construction.

You have to be inside the basilica to feel its great size, because otherwise proportionally it just looks like a Renaissance church. The baldachin over the main altar is 7-storey high. There are 44 altars, 11 domes, 778 columns, 395 statues and 135 mosaics inside the basilica. The façade itself is 45 m x 110 m big, which is longer than a standard FIFA football field.

Most do not know that St. Peter's Basilica is no longer the largest church in the world, but the second largest one. Which is the largest?

The interior of the basilica houses many precious relics and tombs of saints. Among the most important are the tomb of St. Peter (underneath the papal altar), St. Veronica's veil and tombs of 91 popes. Displayed here is the symbolic chair of Peter.


Saturday of Week IV of Lent

Today's station church, the Basilica of St. Nicholas in Prison, is dedicated to the 4th-century St. Nicholas of Myra (who became the popular Santa Claus). St. Nicholas never came to Rome, but this church was built over the site of a Byzantine-time prison, and St. Nicholas is the patron of prisoners. The bishop-saint who participated in the Council of Nicea is especially popular among Greeks who inhabited this area in Rome.

The church is popular for its Marian devotions, especially Our Lady of Pompeii and Our Lady of Guadalupe. See this panorama of the interior of the basilica. Don't miss the Basilica of St. Bartholomew across the bridge on the island, where the tomb of the apostle is found.

For the last 11 years, the protector of the Cardinal Title has been the Polish Zenon Grocholewski. He is the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, in charge of Catholic universities around the world and all Latin-rite seminaries in non-missionary dioceses.


Friday of Week IV of Lent

St. Eusebius was a priest in Rome who, prior to this martyrdom in 357 AD, held the Eucharist in his house here every day. Pope Liberius converted this house into the Church of St. Eusebius, which became one of the first parishes in Rome. The tomb of St. Eusebius is under the main altar.

Every year on January 17, pets are brought here to be blessed by the priests. The parish is administered by the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the present archbishop of Galveston–Houston, is the Cardinal-Priest of the title. In 2007, he became the first archbishop in the southern United States to be created cardinal, a sign of the fast growing Catholic population in the region. His main cathedral-basilica in Galveston was destroyed by Katrina in 2008 and has not been reopened. The new co-cathedral in Houston became the de facto cathedral in the archdiocese.


Thursday of Week IV of Lent

Pope St. Sylvester I built the Basilica of St. Martin ai Monti in the fourth century. A synod was held here to prepare for the Council of Nicaea in 325, after which the Nicene Creed was proclaimed here in Rome. The church was restored in the 6th century and dedicated to St. Martin of Tours.

Since 1299, the parish has been administered by the Carmelite Fathers whose general curia is next to the church. Greatly revered by Romans for his service of the poor, Angelo Paoli (1642-1720) was beatified by the pope last year and was buried in this church.

Kazimierz Nycz, Poland's youngest cardinal and the archbishop of the Polish capital, is the Cardinal-Priest of the titular church. The title is known as Saints Sylvester and Martin in memory of the founder of the basilica. Pope Pius XI and Pope Paul VI were protectors of the title before they were elected to the papacy. The church is also one of the 62 minor basilicas in Rome.


Wednesday of Week IV of Lent

The Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is one of the four major basilicas and one of the seven papal basilicas in the world. It is most famous as the resting place of St. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. St. Paul holds equal dignity with St. Peter, the two pillars of the Church.

St. Paul was sentenced to death around 67 AD in Rome. As he was a Roman, he was beheaded outside the walls of Rome, at the site of Tre Fontane close to the basilica. Constantine built a small church over his tomb here. A larger basilica later replaced the church. The church was further expanded in the 8th century, making it the largest church in the world at that time (until the new St. Peter's Basilica was built in the 16th century). This lasted until the devasting fire in 1823 that burned down the whole basilica. The whole world was quick to donate money to rebuild the present basilica to its former glory.

St. Paul's tomb is under the papal altar. During the Year of St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI authorized carbon dating of the bone fragments of St. Paul's relics. The result confirmed the remains dating from the 1st or 2nd century.

The basilica is used for a lot of ecumenical events. The pope always comes here during the Week of Christian Unity in January every year, which ends on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul on 25 January. It was on this day in 1959 that Blessed Pope John XXIII announced the opening of the Second Vatican Council in this same basilica.

Mosaic portraits of all the popes can be found in the upper portion of the side walls. Some say that when space runs out for portraits, the world will end. There are only seven spaces left. At least that will be enough to last until after 2012.

A Cardinal archpriest represents the pope to govern the papal basilica. Territorially belonging to the Vatican City State, it is guarded by gendarmerie or police force of the tiniest state in the world. A Benedictine abbey is attached to the basilica, whose abbot in the past acted as the abbot nullius of the territorial abbacy.

Attend this fascinating virtual tour of different parts of the basilica.


Tuesday of Week IV of Lent

Pope St. Damasus built the Basilica of St. Lawrence in the House of Damasus over his own house (hence the name) in the fourth century. It became one of the first 25 parishes of Rome. The pope had a strong devotion of the martyrs of Rome and built chapels over their tombs. Pope Damasus also commissioned St. Jerome, the great Father of the Church, to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to Latin, now known as the Vulgate.

It is one of eight churches in Rome dedicated to the deacon-martyr Lawrence. Other churches include St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, St. Lawrence in Panisperna and St. Lawrence in Lucina which we visited earlier.

Presently, the basilica is incorporated in the complex known as the Chancery Palace where the tribunals and many offices of the Roman Curia are found, including the Apostolic Penitentiary, Apostolic Signatura and the Roman Rota. Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, is the protector of the Cardinal Title, who hosted the pope and 1.5 million youth during last year's World Youth Day.


The Princes' New Coats

Two months ago before the consistory took place, I posted on this blog about the coat-of-arms of the cardinals-elect. Now it's time to update the coats-of-arms of these prelates since their elevation. I found 17 of them and photoshoped the arms of Francesco Coccopalmerio from his former one. (I also have João Bráz de Aviz's former arms as archbishop of Brasilia, but he would have changed his shield when appointed to the Roman Curia.) If anyone can find the coat-of-arms of the the 4 remaining cardinals (João Bráz de Aviz, Domenico Calcagno, Lucian Mureşan and Julien Ries), please write to me.

Cardinals employ the insignia of a red galero with a cord and 15 red tassels on each side of their shield in their arms. (Read also my summary of the insignia of prelates of other ranks.) The shield identifies the person or the family. It is customarily changed whenever this primary office changes (say from auxiliary to ordinary or from ordinary of a see to another).

Simple designs of the shields of the other curial cardinals are desirable: Fernando Filoni, Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Santos Abril y Castelló, Antonio Maria Vegliò, Giuseppe Bertello, Francesco Coccopalmerio and Giuseppe Versaldi. When a bishop takes possession of a diocese (or an office), he often combines his personal elements with those of the diocese in separate parts of the shield. This is known as marshalling. For instance, Edwin O'Brien uses the red crosses of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in two of the quarters of the shields, while the other two quarters are further marshalled into the symbols he used in his previous arms including that of the coat-of-arms of the premier see of Baltimore. See other fine examples of marshalling in the arms of Timothy Dolan and Rainer Woelki.

A few notes about the coats-of-arms of the other cardinals: Cardinal George Alencherry can use a different design in his arms because of his affiliation in the Eastern rite, although this style is not shared by his predecessors or other Syro-Malabar bishops. Thomas Collins and Timothy Dolan could have included a pallium in their arms because they are archbishops of metropolitan sees, like Dominik Duka, Willem Eijk, Giuseppe Betori and Rainer Woelki. John Tong is the only cardinal with the office of a bishop and so uses a single-bar cross instead of a double-bar archiepiscopal cross. (The design of the Hong Kong bishop's shield regrettably breaks every rule in heraldry, just like his predecessor Cardinal Joseph Zen's. They were ordained bishop on the same occasion prior to Hong Kong's return to China. Their coats-of-arms were probably designed by the same novice.)

While both Prosper Grech and Karl Becker were only priests when the consistory was announced, the former received episcopal consecration while Karl Becker asked for dispensation from episcopal ordination out of humility, and so does not employ a cross on top of his shield. Note also the different shapes of the shields that are used, which are allowed in heraldry.

Everyone should appreciate how beautifully the heraldic artists designed and drew these coats-of-arms. Some of the illustrations were taken from Araldica Vaticana, Marco Foppoli and Giuseppe Quattrociocchi. (I'd be happy to acknowledge other designers if they were missed.) Ecclesiastical heraldry is indeed a great treasure of the Church.

Monday of Week IV of Lent

This 4th-century Basilica of the Four Holy Crowned Martyrs was dedicated to four Roman soldiers: Carpophorus, Severianus, Severius and Victorius. They refused to honour a statue of the god of Aesculapius and were sent to death by Emperor Diocletian (284-305).

A 9th-century Carolingian-style church was built over this site of a 4th-century church, one of the first twenty-five parishes of Rome. A fortress was built around the church by Pope Innocent IV. A monastery was constructed adjoining the church in the 11th century. The apse contains the frescoes of the 4 martyrs. The skull of St. Sebastian can also be found in this church. Today, the Augustinians have been serving the church since 1564.

It is only a short walk of 200 metres up the hill from the magnificent Basilica of St. Clement, halfway between the Colosseum and the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

The Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony has been the Cardinal-Priest of the titular church since 1991. He retired one year ago and the Mexican-born José Horacio Góme succeeded him to the largest see in the United States, a sign of the emerging Hispanic prominence in the Catholic presence in the country.


Fourth Sunday of Lent

Half way through Lent, today is called Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday, because the Introit of the Mass is "Rejoice, O Jersualem". The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is chosen as the station church today because of its connection to Jerusalem.

It is one of the seven churches that traditionally pilgrims visit in Jubilee years, including also the four major basilicas, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls and St. Sebastian Outside the Walls. This route was suggested by the Oratorian founder St. Philip Neri.

Helen, Emperor Constantine's mother, went to Jerusalem on a "shopping spree" and brought back the all the precious relics that she could find, among which was the True Cross on which Christ died. The site of the present church was her palace, in which she built a chapel to house the relics. This St. Helen's Chapel can still be found today. Her son later transformed it to a basilica.

We'll return to this basilica, appropriately, on Good Friday.


Saturday of Week III of Lent

Big countries in the world have national churches in Rome, so that foreign people can have a church of their own while sojourning in the eternal city. The Church of St. Susanna is the national church for the United States of America. At the request of US President Harding, Pope Benedict XV allowed the American Paulists to administer this church.

The patroness of the church is the daughter of St. Gabinus, who owned a house at this site in the third century. Susanna was a well educated woman, so much so that the emperor Diocletian wanted her to marry his son. When she refused to marry, she was beheaded together with her father.

A church was built here in 330. The present Baroque structure was built in 1593.

The present Cardinal-Priest of the titular church is Cardinal Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston and Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major. WikiLeaks revealed that he had been instrumental in helping the Vatican to establish a good relationship with Vietnam. He has just reached the age of 80 and cannot take part in the election of the new pope in the future.


Friday of Week III of Lent

Lucina owned a house at this site and hid Pope Marcellus here during persecutions. Pope Damasus was elected pope in this house in 366. Later the Basilica of St. Lawrence in Lucina was built over the house. Read about the story of the deacon Lawrence. Read also about the Papal Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls which we visited last Sunday.

Above the high altar is a famous painting of the crucifixion of Christ by Guido Reni. Below the altar is the gridiron on which Saint Lawrence was martyred, which has become the symbol of the saint.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige, the former Secretary of the Congregation for Liturgy, , is the Cardinal-Priest of the titular church. He is now the Archbishop of the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, a respected liturgist and pastor who has helped to make peace among racial groups in the country.


Thursday of Week III of Lent

Located outside the ancient Roman Forum, a government building existed at this site in the first century, and was converted into the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian in the 6th century. The apse mosaics that you can still see date to the same century. In the 8th century, Pope Adrian I established it as a Diaconal Church, to provide charitable service to the people.

Behind the church is the round-shaped Temple of Jupiter Stator that dates back to the third century BC.

Cosmas and Damian were doctors and offered their knowledge for free during the Diocletian persecutions. They were martyred through beheading. We hear their names in the Eucharistic Prayer I in Mass today. The two saints became patrons of physicians, surgeons, pharmacists and veterinarians. The church is related to the history of medicine also because Claudius Galen and other physicians regularly lectured at this site in the 2nd and 3rd century.

The former President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People Cardinal Giovanni Cheli is the Cardinal-Priest of the diaconal church which for the time being is a titular church. Cardinal-Deacons become Cardinal-Priests after 10 years.


Wednesday of Week III of Lent

The Basilica of St. Sixtus is named after Pope St. Sixtus II, who reigned from 257 to 258. His relics were brought here from the Catacombs of St. Callixtus in the 6th century. The church also has the honour of being one of the original 25 parishes (4th century) and the oldest monastery (8th century) in Rome. Pope Innocent III rebuilt the church and erected the present bell tower. Pope Honorius III donated this church to St. Dominic in 1219 to become the first monastery of the Dominican nuns, who are still living next to the basilica.

The Cardinal-Priest of this titular church is the Ukrainian Cardinal Marian Jaworski of Lviv, succeeding the great Chinese Cardinal Ignatius Kung, who had been imprisoned for 30 years. The latter was made a cardinal in secret in 1979 while he was still in prison, and the creation was not revealed until 1991.

The basilica is opposite to another titular church: Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, of whom Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the Archbishop emeritus of Washington, is the Cardinal-Priest.


Tuesday of Week III of Lent

The Basilica of St. Pudentiana is a fourth-century church, the unofficial national church of the Philippines. Some considered this as the first cathedral of Rome! This is because when Peter first came to Rome, he stayed at the home of Pudens, a senator. He lived there for several years, baptized people and preached from this site.

Pudens is the father of Pudentiana and Praxedes. The first chapel was built here in 140 AD. Rebuilt many times since then, the present church has its foundation dating to the 4th century with modifications in 1588 and façade in 1870.

Since 1983, the Cardinal-Priest of the titular chuch has been Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the current Archbishop of Cologne, who is expected to retire by the end of next year.


Monday of Week III of Lent

Built in 336 by Pope Mark, the Basilica of St. Mark was one of the original 25 parishes in Rome. It was dedicated to St. Mark the Evangelist, one of the 70 disciples of Christ, the founder of the Church of Alexandria, and the first writer of the first gospel shortly after 70 AD. The Gospel of Mark then became a source for Matthew and Luke. The church was later also to Pope St. Mark who lived at that site.

Cardinal Marco Cé, Patriarch emeritus of Venice, is the Cardinal-Priest of the titular church. Venice, of course, is most famous for its own Byzantine-style Basilica of St. Mark which holds the tomb of the evangelist and has the saint as its patron. Cardinal Albino Luciani, who was also Patriarch of Venice and later became Pope John Paul I was Cardinal-Priest of this basilica, as well as six other popes.

Each region of Italy has a church in Rome to give pastoral care to the people coming from the region. Fittingly, this church was assigned to the Venetian people living in Rome.


Third Sunday of Lent

The first church at the present site of Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls was built by Constantine. Next to it was another church built by Pope Sixtus II. The two churches were so close to each other that eventually the walls that separated them were torn down to form a single basilica. Damaged by a bomb by the Allies in 1943, it was beautifully restored in 1948. Along with the 4 major basilicas, it is one of the five patriarchal basilicas in Rome. A patriarchal basilica was historically assigned to each of the 5 ancient patriarchal sees (Pentarchy):

Basilica of St. John Lateran: Patriarchate of Rome
Basilica of St. Peter: Patriarchate of Constantinople
Basilica of St. Paul: Patriarchate of Alexandria
Basilica of St. Mary Major: Patriarchate of Antioch
Basilica of St. Lawrence: Patriarchate of Jerusalem

There are two other patriarchal basilicas in Assisi that have great historical significance: the Basilica of St. Francis, and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Despite the name, neither of them has a patriarchate assigned to it. I'll talk about these basilicas some other time.

Since 2006, Pope Benedict XVI decided to stop using the title "patriarchal basilica" in these seven churches. Since then, they have instead been known as papal basilicas.

Under the main altar is the tomb of St. Lawrence, and the protomartyr St. Stephen (both deacons). The body of St. Stephen was transferred from Constantinople by Pope Pelagius IIRead about the story of the deacon St. Lawrence in the blog entry of the station church of Thursday of Week I of Lent. Pope Pius IX is also buried in this basilica.

As a papal basilica, it is not a titular church. While the four papal major basilicas have archpriests who act as delegates of the pope, the papal minor basilica of St. Lawrence is governed by a commendatory abbot. The parish is now served by Franciscan Capuchins. Avoid the hours of noon to 4 pm on weekdays to visit the basilica when it is closed.