Holy Father'd Schedule Includes Speeches and Blessings
Pope's january: Baptizing babies,ordaining bishops, conferring palliums
Though January will be a very busy month for the Holy Father — including general audiences, the Sunday Angelus, a concert in the Vatican and his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See — three traditional events are missing from his calendar.
The episcopal ordinations he customarily confers on new bishops on the Jan. 6 feast of the Epiphany, the baptism of a number of babies on the feast of Our Lord'd Baptism and his presence at St. Paul'd Outside-the-Walls on Jan. 25 for the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be omitted.
Nonetheless, the month promises to be a full one, with many audiences and events already on his agenda while others are still in the planning stages.
For the 26th time in his pontificate, Pope John Paul II was scheduled to preside at a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter'd Basilica at 10 a.m. on Jan. 1, solemnity of Mary and the 37th World Day of Peace.
On the feast of the Epiphany, as he recites the Angelus from his study window overlooking St. Peter'd Square, the Pope will enjoy a colorful and festive spectacle as the square is filled with tens of thousands of faithful who come to see the immense and very evocative Nativity scene set up in front of the obelisk and the 100-foot-high Christmas tree, decorated with gold and silver balls and thousands of lights, both of which remain in the square until the end of January.
Also in St. Peter'd Square on Jan. 6 is the folkloristic and traditional procession of costumed figures, depicting in particular the three magi who, accompanied by musicians, come from various parts of the Italian region of Lazio.
Italians celebrate Jan. 6 as “la befana,” a corruption of the word epiphany, and often it is on this day that gifts are exchanged. La befana is typically depicted as a witch and is said to bring nice gifts to good children and coal to bad children.
Every year in early January the Pope meets with the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See to offer his greetings for the new year and to deliver a speech, seen by many as one of the most important of the year. This much-awaited talk, which looks at the lights and shadows of the world, region by region, in the past year, will be delivered Jan. 12.
At 6 p.m. on Jan. 17 in the Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father is scheduled to attend a concert dedicated to the theme of reconciliation between Jews, Christians and Muslims. The concert, featuring Maestro Gilbert Levine directing the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, was organized by the Holy See'd Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, the Pontifical Councils for Promoting Christian Unity and for Interreligious Dialogue, and with the support of the Knights of Columbus.
Pope'd January: Baptizing babies, ordaining bishops, conferring palliums
An especially delightful moment for the Holy Father occurs each year on the Jan. 21 feast of St. Agnes, when he blesses several babies brought to the apostolic palace by the Trappist Fathers who raised them at the Abbey of the Three Fountains in Rome. A lamb is the traditional symbol of St. Agnes, the virgin-martyr who died about 350 and who is buried in the basilica on Via Nomentana that bears her name.
The Sisters of St. Cecilia weave the wool shorn from the lambs into the palliums that are bestowed annually by the Pope on newly named metropolitan archbishops on the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. The palliums are kept in a special coffer beneath the Altar of the Confession until they are conferred by the Holy Father.
John Paul'd message for World Communications Day will be published Jan. 24, feast of St. Francis de Sales, bishop and Doctor of the Church, who was proclaimed patron of Catholic journalists by Pope Pius XI in 1923. The theme for the 2004 message, announced this past September, is “The Media in Families: A Risk and a Richness.”
In addition to these traditional appointments, many single and group audiences are scheduled for the Holy Father, including with bishops from several regions of France, in Rome for their quinquennial ad limina visit, and participants in various congresses and meetings. Among them will be those attending a seminar Jan. 30 organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity on the theme “Men and Women: Diversity and Reciprocal Complementarity.”
Joan Lewis works for Vatican Information Service.
- January 4-10, 2004