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Sede Apostolica Vacante. Eventi e celebrazioni, aprile 2005


            Two years after the publication of the volume Sede Apostolic Vacante. History, Legislation, Rites, Places and Objects, the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has now issued a new edition of the work.  The present volume has kept the same title as its predecessor, but has changed the subtitle to Events and Celebrations, April 2005.  This new subtitle clearly indicates the reason for the new edition: it is meant to enhance the earlier text by adding further documentation and a description of the events and celebrations which took place in Rome at the time of the vacancy of the Apostolic See in April 2005.  The first edition of Sede Apostolica Vacante shed light on the meaning and importance of the books Ordo Exsequiarum Romani Pontificis and Ordo Rituum Conclavis before they were actually used.  This second edition is meant to give an indication of how the two Ordines were implemented in April 2005, and to keep alive, thanks to its rich documentation, the memory of the events and which marked the celebration that Easter.

The Office’s publications, a new way of working

            The present volume is the latest of a series of volumes edited by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff in recent decades.  The need for scientific studies, adaptations and the active participation so greatly desired by the Council have led the Office to change its way of working, which is no longer centred on the mere rubrical execution of long-codified celebrations, but is now chiefly devoted to serious historical, theological and pastoral studies, important preparatory work and efforts to bring about a sound and suitable adaptation of the liturgy.  The Office’s publications have dealt both with its ordinary activity, as in the case of the booklets prepared for the active participation of the faithful or the liturgical books issued for the Pastoral Journeys of the Roman Pontiff, and its involvement in extraordinary events such as the Marian Year celebrated in 1987-88, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and finally the celebrations surrounding the death of the Pope, the vacancy of the Apostolic See, the Conclave and the inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of the new Pope.

Special features of this new edition

            The volume Sede Apostolica Vacante. Events and Celebrations, April 2005 keeps the earlier edition’s subdivision of the text into three parts: the Death and Funeral of the Roman Pontiff, the Vacancy of the Apostolic See; the Conclave and the Election of the Roman Pontiff.

            The new edition also fully retains the contents of the preceding edition.  Its most significant addition has to do with Part One, where, in the opening chapter, some historical information about the martyrdom of the Popes and the funeral of the Roman Pontiffs has been added.

            The real novelty of the present edition is seen in the insertion, in each of the three parts, of a new chapter entitled: Events and Celebrations, April 2005.

            These additional chapters are in turn divided into different sections including a chronicle of events, the activity of some Offices of the Holy See, the ritual indications furnished by the Celebrations Office, documentation, information about the audio-visual dimension of the celebrations, music, filming and broadcasting, as well as reactions in the press.

            The three new chapters, rich in information and abundantly documented, themselves represent over half the contents of the volume, which now exceeds six hundred pages, as compared to the 260 pages of the earlier edition.

            Of significant interest are the numerous charts and maps illustrating different locations and celebrations; some of these are tables which are separate from the text.  There is also a useful collection of photographs of different events, objects, places and celebrations.  The volume is fascinating from a historical, liturgical and documentary standpoint, but it is also a rich mine of information about the activity of the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff and other Offices of the Holy See, and about unique places, locations and objects.

Faith in the Paschal Mystery

            Nevertheless, apart from its historical value and great interest, this volume is essentially a document which presents a series of events lived and celebrated in faith.

            The publication is meant as a witness to one particular Easter, that of 2005, which the whole Church experienced by accompanying in faith the death of Pope John Paul II, the subsequent Conclave of the College of Cardinals and the election of the new Pope.  The latter event has been specifically documented in the volume: Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome Benedict XVI, recently published by this Office.

            Any number of images and emotions accompanied the succession of events, yet a single thread ran through them all: the Church’s faith in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.  The images broadcast throughout the world by the various networks showed the face of a Church which, even as she mourned the death of her Pastor, continued to celebrate her faith in Christ’s victory over death; a Church united in prayer as she awaited a new Supreme Pontiff; and a Church rejoicing in the new Pope, a gift of God’s goodness and providence.

            And so, in the end, this publication reminds us that the real protagonist of Easter 2005 was the holy People of God, and not important personages; the protagonist was not spectacle or television, but the Church’s liturgy, celebrated in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Vatican City, 5 February 2007

+ Piero Marini