AZinItaly

A couple of Phoenicians living temporarily in Roma

Archive for the tag “jewish new year”

My Jewish New Year – An Audience with the Pope

IMG_5172I’m not sure exactly what it is. Certainly living in Rome and being so close to Vatican City has something BIG to do with it. There must also be something about the time of year.

It’s once again the Jewish High Holy Days, the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Last year at this time, I found myself visiting some of the major basilicas in Rome, including St. Peter’s and writing about it.  So how did I celebrate the Jewish Holidays this year? Why by attending an Audience with the Pope!

Pope Francis – I prefer the Italian Papa Francesco or Il Papa – has proven so far to be fascinating, and I have been fascinated by him. I’ve got to admit, I’ve never been that interested in the goings-on of the Catholic Church. But being in Rome when he was elected has made him and the Church more interesting to me.

Papa Francesco is the 266th Pope. He is the first South American to be elected Pope of the Catholic Church (his parents were Italian, though). He is also the first Jesuit to ever be elected. He has already in the short time since his election in March of this year shaken up the Church and the traditions which surround the Pope.

He refuses to live in the papal apartments, instead residing in a guest house within the Vatican. He won’t wear the traditional ornate vestments worn by Popes in the past, preferring simpler vestments void of ornamentation. He came “out” so to speak and said that a homosexual orientation was not a sin. This week, the New York Times ran an article about him which you can read here, talking about how he’s been calling parishioners who have written to him, something no Pope has ever done in the past.

A friend of mine who works for Radio Vaticana said that it’s much more challenging to work with him than the previous Pope. He speaks more off the cuff and often doesn’t often use a script, which makes reporting on what he says more difficult. Like she has to pay attention now, which wasn’t always necessary with Pope Benedict, who kept to the script which was made available to reporters prior to him speaking publicly.

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I think you just gotta love him. For trying to shake up a very old tradition. For his humility and warmth. So I wanted to see him. On some Wednesday mornings, he holds a Papal Audience. When the weather is nice, it’s held outside in St. Peter’s Square. There are seats available and tickets are free, but you must get them beforehand and then cue up early to get a seat. Cue up the Italian way, in what resembles a mob scene, not the polite kind of queuing that the English do. And by early, like 3 hours before he arrives.

IMG_5175I bought tickets for Michael and I through a tour operator called Viator, which provided the services of a guide who would help us get good seats and then give us a history lesson while we waited. Our guide, Sen, a history professor in Rome who’s from New York, knew a good spot where we could see the TV screen and see Il Papa when he went by. The Square is divided into sections with walkways where Il Papa can ride by and greet and bless those in attendance.

It was exciting to see him up close. We were within feet of him when he passed by and Michael was able to get these great photos. He stopped often to kiss babies handed to him by his security service, or to offer a greeting or blessing. After going around the Square, he sat in an unadorned chair on a stage set up close to the entrance of St. Peter’s. Groups of pilgrims who had travelled from all over the world to see him were acknowledged. He presented a teaching which was translated into a number of languages about loving the Church as you would love your Mama. A children’s choir sang. It didn’t rain despite the cloudy skies and weather forecast. And I was blessed by the presence of the Pope. Not bad for a Jewish farm girl from Illinois!

Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Tre

St. Peter’s Basilica

I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to finish the trilogy!

On the third day of the Jewish New Year, I decided to go for the whole megilla (deal) …the Trinity, and visit another chiesa  (church). I’d yet to see during our stay in Roma the Basilica di San Pietro, St. Peters.  So I figured, if you’re Jewish and going to go to church during the Jewish high holy days, why not visit the BIG ONE.

Off to St. Peter’s Basilica I went. I was glad to be visiting alone, as the line to get in was long.  I’ve found that it’s always easier being short of stature to scurry up in the line when you’re traveling solo! (Sorry if you were in front of me and I wormed in front of you; but it’s unlikely you were part of a German or Korean tour group that day and are now reading my blog!).

The whole of St. Peter’s Square is imposing. It’s surrounded by a Doric—pillared colonnade composed of 284 columns, atop which sit statues of 140 saints. The Vatican, the world’s smallest city-state, is guarded by the Swiss Guard, who to this day dress in uniforms reputedly designed by Michelangelo. But even the Square pales in comparison to what you’ll find after passing through several security checkpoints and finally entering the Basilica.

Originally built by Constantine around 326 AD, the Basilica was built on the site where St. Peter was buried following his crucifixion in 64 AD. In 1452 the church was in such disrepair that Pope Nicolas V resolved to build a new Basilica. After several false starts, it was finally rebuilt and mostly completed in the 1500s and 1600s. Michelangelo is responsible for much of the dome and Bernini finished the façade and interior.

The grandeur is overwhelming. There is so much gilt, marble and mosaics that one can’t help but be in awe of such wealth.  I viewed one of the Vatican’s greatest treasurers, the Pieta, a sculpture created by Michelangelo while in his 20’s, of Mary, shown as a young woman holding Jesus after the crucifixion. It now sits behind glass after having been vandalized in the 1970’s.

Inside St. Peter’s

I’ve attached some photos, including the baldacchino (canopy) which rests over the papal alter. The baldacchino was created by Bernini and sits below the dome created by Michelangelo. I hope the photos will give you a brief feeling for the scale, lushness and sacredness of St. Peter’s if you’ve never visited.

I also visited the Vatican grottoes below, which contain the tombs of the Popes, both modern and ancient, along with a few queens who converted to Catholicism and were banished from their home countries when they converted. They were given funerals in the Basilica and honored by being buried in the grotto. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the grotto.

And on the 4th day of the New Year, I rested.

 

Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Uno

Santa Maria Maggiore

It’s the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. I have to confess, that I haven’t been very religious in my adult life. I consider myself to be more spiritual, than religious. It’s been awhile since I attended a temple or synagogue for the High Holiday services. I have enjoyed it when I’ve gone, but it’s just not something I’ve found myself seeking out, of my own accord.

My spirit though, knows it’s a time for reflection, because I’ve found myself wanting to go visit several churches on the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah.

Yesterday, on the first day of the New Year, I went to see Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s considered to be Rome’s finest Early Christian basilica, dating back to 430 AD. The campanile (bell tower) is the tallest in Rome, having been added in 1377.  Major renovations occurred to the basilica in the 13th and 18th centuries. The coffered ceiling was reputedly gilded with the first gold to arrive from the New World, a gift from Spain to Pope Alexander VI.

Pio IX Pontifici Maximo

I found myself in awe at the grandeur and size of the basilica. But probably what caught my eye the most, was a small chapel located just in front of and below the main chapel. Accessible by a set of stairs, it contained a statue of Pio IX Pontifici Maximo kneeling in prayer.  I have to confess, I googled him and can’t quite figure out who he was, but the statue of him was magnificent.

In this small lower chapel, which seemed to be encased in gold, there was also a small podium off to the side. It contained envelopes so you could request a mass to be said either solely for your intentions or to have your intentions included as part of a group mass. The cost for your own mass was 10 euro and any donation could get your intention stated as part of a group mass.

The Lower Chapel

I didn’t really understand what this all meant…being a Jewish woman on the high holidays in a Catholic church, but I felt compelled to ask for a prayer and intention, and so I did. I trust that my request was made, and I am grateful for all the help I can get in this life.

Stay tuned for day two.

Doors to the Basilica

 

The gilded ceiling

 

 

Inside the Basilica

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