Benedict’s Tiara

A brief part of Pope Benedict’s off-the-cuff remarks yesterday at the Synod for the Middle East were captured on video and can be seen on the internet. Plus, a change in the Pope’s coat-of-arms: the papal tiara is back in place of the simple bishop’s mitre…

By Robert Moynihan

(Photo, Pope Benedict in the hall of the Synod yesterday, where he gave a dramatic 20-minute reflection without notes)

“These gods must fall, as it is said in the letter to the Ephesians: The dominations and powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord, Jesus Christ.” —Pope Benedict XVI in his unscripted reflection to open the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East

“His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” —John 2:17, after the disciples saw Jesus take up a whip, overturn the tables and scatter the coins of the money-changers in the Temple

The Pope Against the Powers and the Principalities, in film

I think everyone who receives this newsflash should click on the link below to see a video of portions of the remarkable opening meditation which the Pope gave to open the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East yesterday.

By watching this brief video, one can get a very real sense for Benedict’s present physical, intellectual and spiritual condition.

Physically, the Pope is walking slowly, and is slightly stooped. He seems a bit tired. But this is what one would expect of an 83-year-old man who recently engaged in difficult travels, like the jam-packed traveled to Scotland and England in September, and who celebrated quite a long liturgy on Sunday in St. Peter’s, and who each day receives important Church and government leaders (for example, he received the president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, on Saturday). One thinks of the fact that Benedict, at 83 and a half, is now nearly the age of Pope John Paul II when he died at the age of 84 and a half in 2005. But Benedict seems in much better shape than the suffering John Paul II did at the same age. That said, Benedict does seem tired, so one wonders if the Vatican should take care to put even fewer burdens on his shoulders, so that he does not totally exhaust himself.

Intellectually, one is astonished, as always with this man, at the power of his mind. Speaking without notes for 20 minutes, Benedict recalls verses in Latin from the Psalms, and recites them verbatim, and he keeps the thread of his discourse almost as if it had been written out and he was reading it. There is not a trace in this video of a man whose intellect is in decline. The power and precision of his mind is clearly evident.

Spiritually, this video shows the Pope as both pious and zealous for the things of the Lord. At the moment when he speaks the words which I cite above, “These gods must fall,” his voice is filled with a certain passion. This Pope clearly does not wish men to be enslaved to debt, to the fear of terrorism, to drugs, to behaviors which destroy human dignity. He clearly is hungry and thirsty for the fall of all false gods, for the triumph of truth, justice, holiness and peace. One is reminded of the phrase in scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me,” especially since the house of God is the body of men, since his dwelling is in men, not in constructions of stone, and therefore zeal for God’s house also means zeal against those who would oppress, enslave, drug and degrade men.

I was moved by this video, and by the Pope’s evident zeal for the things of God, which are in the end, of course, the very things — the only things — which bring life and blessing to man.

Here is the link:

Just click on the link, and your computer should take you to the Rome Reports web site, and you should be able to watch the video, which is only a minute or two.

A comment from a reader

I received this comment from a reader on the Pope’s remarks yesterday:

Have read your flash on the Pope’s impromptu remarks at the synod. The phrase “capitali anonimi” presents real problems of interpretation.

In Romance languages (“Societe anonyme” in French, etc.) and some Germanic languages use of the “anonymous” concept does not connote some mysterious dark force but simply that the entity and its liability are based on the amount of capital contributions rather than on the personal activity and personal resources of individuals — sort of the difference between a corporation and a partnership.

That being the case, what it sounds like the Pope is saying is not that there are “Da Vinci Code” forces ruling our lives but rather that “big corporations” are among the to-be-defeated “powers of this world” — in addition to drugs, terorism and the life styles currently propagandized by the mass media — and that true goodness is to be found in the faith of ordinary people.

If I’m correct, his talk seems to include an element of the common European center-left/left criticism of large scale private initiative with the populist Rooseveltian apotheosis of “the little guy.”

In that context, since there is good and bad in everything and everyone (except Jesus) it would have been “fair and balanced” of him to include “big government” among the “powers of this world” as well — the statist/militaristic regimes that foster soul-deadening dependence, destroy initiative and productive growth, and survive through repression/oppression and ever higher taxes. And to recognize that the faith of the ordinary people will prevail over those abuses as well.

I appreciated this letter, and would be happy to receive others. (Also, in a few weeks, we should be able to post these newsflashes on a blog, and to post comments from readers as well.)

Other Synod videos

The H2O video service also had a brief report on the Pope’s remarks, but without much time being given to the Pope himself, as there is a narrator giving a voice-over throughout:

A background report on the Synod is available in video at this link:

The Change of the Coat-of-Arms

Many have already noted an interesting change made the other day in the Pope’s coat-of-arms (left), without any official announcement.

In keeping with e tradition which goes back to Pope Paul VI and especially Pope John Paul I, who wished to downplay the “regal” aspects of the Petrine office and emphasize instead the “episcopal” aspect of the role of the Bishop of Rome, Benedict began his pontificate with a coat-of-arms which did not include the triple crown, the papal tiara, but rather displayed the bishop’s mitre.

On Sunday, the cloth unfurled under his window in the Apostolic Palace as he prayed the Angelus contained the tiara.

The actual crown itself, the Papal Tiara, also known as the Triple Tiara, the Triregnum or the Triregno, is the three-tiered papal crown worn by Popes from Pope Clement V up to and including Pope Paul VI, who was crowned in 1963.

The crown has not been worn by any of Pope Paul’s successors, but it has not been abolished and it remains the symbol of the papacy and the Holy See, featured in the coat-of-arms of the Vatican and on many papal coats-of-arms.

What does it mean that the Pope seems to have decided to restore the tiara? But, are we even sure he has been informed? No one seems to know. I’ll try to get the answer in coming days.

Here is a link to a video of the Angleus on Sunday which shows the old and the new coat-of-arms:

And here is a link to an article about the history of the papal crown:

Facebook Comments