Thursday, March 23, 2006

THE CONSISTORY: A Red Hat For the Tiara-Killer

Torino had a very good February. Not only did it host a very successful Olympic Winter Games -- which the Romans ignored out of their (135 years and counting) antipathy toward the Savoys -- but one of its native sons was tapped to enter the Pope's senate.

Cardinal-designate Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo is shown entering the New Synod Hall for today's session with the College he'll join tomorrow.

One of the Holy See's champion statesmen, and with an aristocratic pedigree which encompasses the modern royalty of the heads of Fiat and Ferrari among his relatives, Montezemolo has served in some of the most prominent -- and challenging -- posts in papal diplomacy. After stints as the papal representative in Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Honduras and Uruguay, he became the Vatican's first nuncio to Israel following the establishment of inter-state relations in the mid-'90s, then was recalled to Rome to serve as the Apostolic Nuncio to Italy; the holders of the latter post are reliably assured of a red hat when their service is up.

A heraldist, Montezemolo returned to the spotlight last year when the newly-elected Pope called Montezemolo into his service to design his coat of arms. The arms, shown at right, took the monumental step of forgoing the traditional triregno, the papal tiara, in favor of a bishop's mitre.

Suffice it to say, that didn't make a lot of people happy. But judging by the artist's subsequent appointment as archpriest of St. Paul's Outside the Walls and, now, to the College, it seems his client -- the only opinion which counts, of course -- was well-pleased.

Montezemolo turned 80 last summer and, hence, is ineligible from voting in a conclave.

AP/Pier Paolo Cito