Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pope City; The Woes of Rome

Benedict XVI to Visit Home of Papal Conclave

By Edward Pentin

ROME, AUG. 27, 2009 ( Next Sunday, Benedict XVI will travel to Viterbo, otherwise known the "City of Popes," about 60 miles north of Rome.

The city has a fascinating history and boasts a wealth of Etruscan and Roman archaeological finds. It also has a magnificent -- if not a little bizarre -- festival in honor of its patron saint, but more on that later.

Primarily, Viterbo is a medieval city and perhaps best known for being the birthplace of the papal conclave. Five pontiffs were elected in the city between 1261 and 1281, but it was the election of Pope Gregory X, which is arguably the most interesting. His accession to the papal throne in 1271 took 33 months owing to a protracted dispute over the Kingdom of Sicily. The College of Cardinals was split between which ruler of the kingdom the Pope should support. In the end they chose Gregory X (Tebaldo Visconti) as he was considered to be reasonably neutral in the dispute.

Visconti, then taking part in a crusade, wasn't even a priest when he was chosen, but came to Viterbo six months after his election and ordained a month later. He soon made it a priority to improve the process of papal elections and so, in 1274, published the decree "Ubi periculum" (Where there is danger). The decree consisted of a series of strict rules aimed at speeding up papal elections. These included stipulations (with certain provisos) that the election should take place in the city where the pontiff had died, that all cardinals were to live in common in one room, and that they were to be completely locked in with no one else allowed to enter (hence the name conclave, meaning "under lock and key).

A further rule was that if, after three days, there had been no election, the cardinals were allowed only one dish at lunch and supper. After five days, they were only allowed bread, wine and water until they decided on a new Pope. The new system was quickly put to work and appeared to be effective: Pope Gregory died suddenly in Arezzo in 1276 and his successor, Pope Innocent V (Cardinal Pierre of Tarentaise), was elected in the relatively short time of just three weeks. Gregory X's decree, however, didn't always shorten the election process, and was even temporarily rescinded shortly afterward by Pope John XXI.

Benedict XVI, no doubt well-versed in the city's history, will pay a visit to Viterbo's Conclave Hall and the Palace of the Popes soon after he arrives by helicopter Sept. 6. He will then celebrate Mass in the city and recite the Angelus before praying at two Marian shrines.


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