Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Consistory Night Tradition: Madness in the Palace

Keeping with longstanding custom, the Apostolic Palace played host to the Consistory Night open house this evening as the new cardinals spread out across the state apartments of the papal residence (and beyond) to receive well-wishers.

A popular event with the Romans because it's the only time much of the building is open to the public, the two-hour free-for-all reportedly saw massive security lines and logistical chaos as the hordes of exuberant pilgrims cross-pollinated with Curial officials and other natives, most of whom queued up some more to congratulate the new red-hats at their appointed stations, but many who showed up just to look around.

So the word goes, crowd-control chaos has been a running theme through the day; as in 2007 -- when the Eternal City's November rain season forced the Consistory into St Peter's at the last minute -- storms reigned outside as the revelers arrived for the morning's conferral ceremony, and the 10,000-seat Basilica was quickly swamped by the visiting delegations, leaving no space for hundreds of ticketed pilgrims, most of whom traveled thousands of miles before waiting two hours or longer in line to get in, only to be turned away.

What's more, an apparent overticketing of several sections of the world's largest church saw several bishops forced to stand, and even many pilgrims assigned to the prime seating reserved for the relatives of the new cardinals were said to have found themselves without seats.

As a friend relayed, it was a miracle no one was trampled in the crush to get in. That said, the scene will repeat itself tomorrow as the neo-Porporati concelebrate Mass with the pontiff, during which they'll receive their rings.

PHOTOS: Reuters