POPE PIUS XII WILL BE THE FIRST POPE TO BE CROWNED IN PUBLIC FOR OVER NINETY YEARS.
The. Coronation Mass in St. Peter's next. Sunday will he a profoundly moving and deeply impressive spectacle, in a magnificent setting. A feature of the Mass is the ceremony of the Acclimation. Let us quote Fr. Thurston : " At the present day, after the Gloria and the. Collect of the Mass of the Coronatiun, Ile senior Cardinal Deacon, standing before the Pope enthroned, Aunts the words Exaudi, C h ri.stc (Hear, Cl Christ) ; to which all present reply Lung life to our Lord Pius, who has been appointed Supreme Pontiff and Universal Pope.' This is repeated three times with some other invocations. . . ."
For a considerable time past the Popes have had their coronation in St. Peter's (Leo XIII was crowned in the Sistine Chapel); but at an earlier period in history the ceremony was in the Pontiff's own Cathedral church, the basilica of St, John Lateran.
Not every Catholic realises that the Lateran basilica is of greater importance than the immense church which stands neighbour to the Vatican. On this point there is information in a little pamphlet, The Election of a Pope, lately issued by the Catholic Truth Society :
" Mother and. Head of all Churches "
"St. Peter's is not the Bishop of Rome's cathedral. Many pilgrims are surprised when they learn that for all its spaciousness and dignity that vast fabric does not hold the foremost place. The chief church in Rome, and the Pope's cathedral, is Constantine's noble foundation, the basilica of St. John Lateran, a church more than once destroyed and rebuilt. The Lateran Chapter takes precedence over that of St. Peter's. Across the front of the church an inscription proclaims the status of the building as 'the mother and head of all the churches in the city and in the world.' "
Procession to the Lateran
As Bishop of Rome, Pius XII will take formal possession of his cathedral.
Not for upwards of ninety years, until now, has a Roman Pontiff approached his coronation with the consciousness of being unfettered, politically, by circumstances in the secular world.
The long gap Is represented by the interval between the election of Pius IX, in 1848, and the opening of the present pontificate.
From the fall of the Temporal Power, in 1870, until the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty under the late Holy Father, a succession of Popes-Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI-accepted with the supreme office a state of things involving the outlook of lifelong residence in the papal palace.
The world was swift to hit upon a name for it : the Pope was " the Prisoner of the Vatican."
In the case of Pius XI, it is true, the Lateran agreement ended the long captivity to principle, and it was as the recognised Sovereign of the Vatican City that His Holiness was able to make use of his summer palace at Castelgandolfo, and in Rome itself to go to St. John Lateran, his cathedral church. But these so happy circumstances affected only the latter part of the late pontifical reign.
Pius XII has this freer atmosphere in which to live and work, from the moment of his election.
" Urbi et Orbi "
Before the Lateran Treaty was signed, Pope Pius XI, as though to give to Rome and to the world a foretaste of what was in store, imparted the blessing urbi at orbi from the outer balcony of St. Peter's. It was so long since that blessing had been given to a multitude in the piazza that the act was as unexpected as it was delightedly acclaimed. Last week, when the election of Pius XII was announced from the same spot, the crowd in the great square had no doubt as to the ceremony to follow. The Papacy, they knew, had since 1929 shed its chains.
If so much, therefore, why not more? Directly the popular thought turned to the coronation ceremony, which is to take place on Sunday next, delight reacted to the statement, unofficial though it was, that His Holiness would again appear upon the loggia of the Hall of Benedictions, there to receive the triple crown in the sight of the thronging thousands, after the Mass of Coronation in the basilica.
Before He Mounted His Horse
The coronation of a Pope is a ceremony of which the record is at least a thousand years old. Fr. Thurston, S.J., who has gone fully into many matters connected with the Church's ceremonial, tells us that " in the ninth of the Ordines Romani, which belongs, it seems, to the ninth or tenth century, we first meet a clear statement of the coronation of the Pope. It took place even then upon the flight of steps outside the basilica of St. Peter, just before the Pontiff mounted his horse to ride back to the Lateran."