Vatican Corner 06-16-2019

Popes wear a miter on their head during liturgical celebrations, but at official ceremonies, popes of the past centuries as well as modern day popes, have worn the papal crown or tiara for the purpose of highlighting their authority. At coronations the tiara has been part of the ceremony with it being placed on the head of the new Pope. The image of the tiara along with two crossed keys of Saint Peter continues today to be the symbol of the papacy. The tiara appears on Vatican documents, buildings, and on the Vatican flag. Over time the tiara evolved in shape and style, starting as a conical linen cap, becoming a metal crown, then a crown decorated with jewels, gold and having a second crown atop. Eventually a third crown was added above. A number of popes had new tiaras made for them because the crown was either too small, too heavy, or both. Historically there have been many tiaras but twenty-two are still in existence. Some were destroyed, dismantled or seized by invaders. In 1527 a tiara was melted down to pay the ransom demanded by the occupying army. Some were made of papier-mȃché to make them lighter. Some were conical shaped, some bulbous, some heavily bejeweled, while others not so much. In 1964, Pope Paul VI abandoned the tradition of wearing his jewel-covered gold and silver three-tiered tiara and in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica he laid the tiara on the altar as a sign of the giving up of human glory and power. That action was in keeping with the spirit of the ongoing Second Vatican Council. It was announced that the tiara would be sold and the money would be given to charity. The tiara was purchased by an American Cardinal and is now located in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. Some traditional Catholics were very upset with the sale and branded Pope Paul VI an antipope. Similarly, Pope Francis finds himself in the middle of a great paradox. He urges the world to care for the poor, the sick, the aged, the homeless, and yet he presides over the world’s most valuable collection of treasures. The Vatican Museums have a tremendous number of priceless works of art and the Vatican Archives have unparalleled historical artifacts. According to Michaels Wash, a Catholic Church historian, if those treasures were sold, the money could litti millions of people out of poverty. But they cannot be sold, they must be preserved by the Vatican and shared, so how can these treasures be used to benefit the needy? Some innovative solutions are being tried. Over the last few years the Vatican has been involved with countless fund-raisers that have brought in private corporate dollars and income from high-profile celebrities and billionaires. As an example, for the first time ever, Pope Francis allowed the Sistine Chapel to be rented out for a private corporate event, with the income going to his homeless charities. The Porsche Company arranged for forty wealthy guests paying over $10,000 each to enjoy a spectacular dinner and concert in the Sistine Chapel. A sizeable donation also came from Porsche. Celebrities have always had the opportunity to take special private visits to the Vatican museums. It was reported that pop start Justin Bieber offered $50,000 for an exclusive private visit. A $5,000 photo coffee table book of the Vatican’s Secret Archives has been published. A one-of-a-kind high quality copy of some of the famous documents in the Vatican archives are being offered to an elite group of investors at a price over $100,000 per page. These and other opportunities are being tried at the Vatican in order to raise funds, giving help to a lot of people less fortunate, thanks to Pope Francis.