Rome is feverishly awaiting the inauguration of the new Pope Francis I. on Tuesday. Delegations from 132 countries, more than 80 heads of state met on Monday in Rome to attend the service for the enthronement of the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
The Holy See maintains diplomatic relations with 179 countries. “We expect that about 250,000 people will attend the divine service,” reported the Vatican spokesman, father Federico Lombardi. The rough estimate of the Roman city administration is that up to one million people could attend. The Vatican is “certainly happy if that many people participate.”
Mugabe once again causes discord
The Italian government already raised the safety precautions up to a maximum, and the city of Rome, which has slightly more than 2.5 million has set all the machinery in motion to cope with the rush of the faithful. Thousands of security forces are on duty to ensure the safety of the heads of State and Government. Drastic restrictions of air traffic over Rome were put into effect. Snipers, bomb experts, dog patrols and motorcycle units are on duty.
The Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who had travelled to Rome despite an EU travel ban, caused polemic. Zimbabwe argues that the Vatican is a sovereign state and therefore not affected by EU travel ban. The EU travel ban against dictator Mugabe applies since 2002. However, the controversial African head of State traveled to Rome in 2005 for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. He also went there in May 2011, to attend the celebrations for the beatification of Pope John Paul II.
This years Ash Wednesday in Rome is all about the demise of Pope Benedict XVI., who retires at the end of February from the highest office of the Catholic Church. In the evening, after the general Audience, the Pope celebrated his last Ash Wednesday liturgy before numerous church dignitaries and thousands of believers. He was greeted with thunderous applause.
In his sermon Benedict XVI. issued a call for renewal and conversion during Lent the worshipers. This just serves to renew the conversation and concrete actions. “Today, many are ready to tear down their clothes in the face of scandals and injustices – which were of course committed by others – but few seem only willing to work on one’s own heart, one’s own conscience and their own intentions, and thereby leave the conversion, renovation and conversion to the Lord, “said Benedict XVI.
It is important to remember this and to live that this Lent: Everyone should be aware that the path of penance could not be overcome alone, but together with the many brothers and sisters in the Church, the Pope said.
“I think especially of the sin against the unity of the Church, to the divisions in the body of the Church,” the Pope said. “To live Lent in a more intense and visible ecclesial community and overcome the individualism and rivalries, is a humble and precious testimony to those who turned away from faith or are indifferent.”