Skip to main content

Meet the Cardinal

One highlight of this course was a meeting with His Eminence Cardinal W. Kaspar, who leads the Ecumenical Dialogue division of the Catholic Church. We met in a large room, w/fancy chairs and question-microphones.
Cardinal Kaspar sat at the head of the large, U-shaped table under a large icon of St. Peter and St. Andrew embracing.
Peter is the mythic head of Catholicism (the rock upon which Jesus chose to build his church, acc. the author of John)--there's a reason the biggest church in the world is named Saint Peter's. Andrew has a similar role in Orthodox Christianity, and the image of the two embracing serves to remind those of the Catholic and Orthodox faiths that as the two were brothers it is fitting that their respective churches would embrace each other like brothers.

In terms of iconography, Peter is usually depicted holding the (massive) keys to the church, except for the occasional depiction of his martyrdom. He was supposedly crucified under Nero, at the Roman Circus (chariot course) that in antiquity was near the present-day site of St. Peter's Basilica. However, he blanched at being crucified in the same manner as Jesus, and for his last request he asked to be crucified upside-down.

(image courtesy of wikicommons; this is Caravaggio's famous depiction of Peter's crucifixion, groundbreaking in its attention to the physics and strain involved in the act of crucifying Peter, depicted not as a saint, but as a frail old man--I missed seeing this one in person, to my great regret. It hangs in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo...)

Earlier in the story, Peter is trying to escape the Neronic persecution that would claim his life. As he flees down the Appian Way, he encounters an apparition of Jesus (or Jesus in the flesh, depending on your personal beliefs), carrying his cross and heading deliberately towards Rome. "Domine, quo vadis?" (Lord, where are you going?) exclaims an astonished Peter. "I am going to Rome, to be crucified anew," says Jesus. Ouch! Chastened, Peter turns tail and heads back to Rome to meet his fate.

(again, a wiki-image. The painting of Peter and Jesus is by the famous fresco painter Annabale Carracci, perhaps most famous for his painting of a peasant eating beans: )

Saint Andrew is sometimes depicted with a pen and paper, but that's an attribute of a number of saints, so is not terribly useful for IDs. Fortunately, according to legend he was crucified on a Greek cross (an X, not a T), and is often portrayed with a cross of that shape, or with two things in the painting or sculpture in question crossing conspicuously.

(this beautiful El Greco of Saints Andrew and Francis courtesy of Art History's Abraham to Zacharias index of Christian Art)

But! We've gone very far afield, thanks to my love for Catholic iconography. That feels odd to say, given that at my most Christian I'm barely an agnostic, but there it is.

So: we met in a really fancy room, the Cardinal sat under an icon of Saints Andrew and Peter, and proceeded to turn all our polite questions into opportunities for spin. It was very disappointing, but not surprising given the current papal trends. For instance, while we were in Rome, Pope Benedict celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel ad orientem, with his back turned to the congregation at several times. This is a marked change from the reforms of Vatican II, and seems to be a theme with this papacy. You might have read above about how Sarah, Will, Mom, Dad and I stumbled onto the Pope's advent address in St. Peter's square--hard to say what it all means, but it sure means something. I also will write above about our meeting with Rabbi Di Segni, and his current criticism of Pope Benedict's revival of the Latin Mass, which despite whitewashing still calls for the Jews to see the error of their ways.


Wow. Reading this *really* makes me want to go back to Rome.

Popular posts from this blog

Be true to your school now!

This is a cross-posting of a comment I left on's recent post about my school, Starr King School for the Ministry. PeaceBang, who is apparently a UU Minister in the Northeast, posted a few days ago an item about my school's supposed "banning" of the term, "brown bag lunch," because of the racialized connotations of brown bags.* Her post was, to my reading, haughty and dismissive, and she seemed awfully pleased with her own wit and ability to take cheap shots at others with little to no basis for her opinions. I think the comments for that post are up to 40, and it's a pretty lively back and forth. So, here is my contribution: "This may not be the ideal forum for “deep, serious conversation,” but one of the cornerstones of Educating to Counter Oppression is the importance of having deep, serious conversations wherever they happen. The status quo of “waiting for the right moment or forum” to engage with these issues too often leads t

Suspicious? What month is it?

So I had a great post written on questions of agency and identity as explored through Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men and High Fidelity (I focussed more on the film by Stephen Frears than on the original Nick Hornby book), and it mysteriously disappeared. I, of course, blame the government . The crux of my post was that letting outside events and relationships with other people shape your life is fundamentally selfish , and that each of us bears responsibility for claiming our own agency . One of my favorite lines from Richard Linklater's Waking Life is an offhanded remark by a passerby , late in the movie, who tells the nameless protagonist (played by Wiley Wiggins ) "As the pattern becomes more complex , it is no longer sufficient to be swept along," or something like the same. The patterns are becoming more complex, and we face peril if we are satisfied with passivity. But, like I said, that post got erased, so here's a BMW z3 Coupe,

Depicting Rome, pt. 1

The Tiber as seen from the Ponte Principe Amadeo--this sideways problem is tricky. All I can say is that portrait-oriented photos don't get sidewaysed in Preview, or in iPhoto. Computer friends, help! The interior dome of the Pantheon. The whole of the temple dome is poured concrete, with walls 20 feet thick at the base. The interior is exactly as tall as it is wide: 140 feet. It survives (at least in part) because it was made a Christian church in the 7th century. The Sacristy in Santa Maria sopra Minerva Sundown in the Roman Forum Detail of the Triumphal Arch of Titus . It commemorates the Roman Imperial sack of Jerusalem in 70 CE. This panel, from the interior of the arch's span, shows the triumphal procession parading the spoils plundered from the Herodian Temple--note the large candelabrum. Roman Jews are a distinct group, historically descended from Palestinian Jews who moved to Rome in the Second Century BCE. Thus they are neither Sephardic