Monday, February 06, 2012

At the Vatican, A White-Out

On a brief lighter note, Rome's Mediterranean climate doesn't normally lend itself to a winter wonderland, but that came to pass over the weekend as the Eternal City experienced its first significant snowfall since 1986.

Said to measure as much as 8 inches, the fallout of the Friday storm wrought havoc in the city, as drivers left behind stuck cars and a relatively small municipal cleanup operation was quickly overwhelmed.

Ironically enough, the chaos struck as Region VI of the USCCB -- the very snow-friendly states of Ohio and Michigan -- spent the week on its ad limina visit. According to the Detroit delegation, which has been blogging its pilgrimage, the group's Saturday meetings with multiple dicasteries were canceled, with make-up sessions likely to bring an even busier final leg to their report's close today.

Speaking of the long-delayed Quinquennial trips, another delegation of prelates who are no strangers to the white stuff -- Region VII (Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin) -- are slated to begin arriving for their turn under the Curial lights tomorrow. The incoming group is likely to hear the next papal address of this visit, the third of B16's planned five talks to the US bench over the course of its six-month checkup.

Back to the snow, while even a slick coating over St Peter's Square didn't keep him from the noontime Angelus yesterday, even the Pope seems to have had his fill of winter.

"The snow is beautiful, but let's hope spring comes soon," Benedict said at the close of his talk. In light of the frigid temperatures, Benedict unusually donned his white grecca (overcoat) for the weekly appearance at his study window.

While city offices will be closed yet again today due to the weather, this Monday is scheduled to bring the start of a major Vatican-backed conference on clergy sex-abuse at the Pontifical Gregorian University, which will be highlighted by a rite of penitence tomorrow for the acts of the perpetrators and those of church leadership which failed to protect children. The evening service will be led by the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

And, of course, we're all of 12 days from the Scarlet Bowl at which the pontiff will create 22 new cardinals. Over the weekend, Benedict's customary pre-Consistory day of consultation with his "Senate" was formally announced for Friday, the 17th, its formal agenda entirely focused on the New Evangelization.

While the new intake to the College of Cardinals is invited to join the session, the designates usually don't have much of a speaking part. That'll change this time, however, as -- in further reflection of his standing as a "prime-time" figure regardless of the time zone -- the first of the day's two talks will be given by Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the US bishops.

PHOTOS: Getty(1); Reuters(2)