We returned to Cebu last Saturday after a 10-day visit to Rome and Florence for the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod. As I brought my TV crew from my talk show, “Straight from the Sky” and MyTV channel 28th with My Wealth talk show host Jojoff Escobal, we were able to conduct interviews aside from doing a travelogue in Rome and in Tuscany, which should be showing on SkyCable’s channel 15 and MyTV channel 28 in November.
Although I never stopped writing columns to be sent back home, the trip, although hectic provided me time to catch up with my reading, especially when we were on our train ride to Florence and return flight to Cebu. No doubt, Rome was the center of the known universe because the Roman Empire existed before our Lord Jesus Christ was born. Yet in 410 AD the Goths sacked Rome and thus ended the Roman Empire. What we saw today were the remnants of what the brutality and savagery of the Goths.
Going around the ruins at the Roman Forum makes you ask, “What kind of hatred did the Goths possess that they would destroy so many edifices, notably the Imperial Palace where the Emperors lived?” Those ancient structures were hard to construct and surely a lot harder to destroy especially when explosives were not yet invented. But think of it! The Roman Empire was vast only from London, Egypt, Palestine and most of Europe. They had the best-trained and equipped armies, yet they fell to barbarians.
Around a hundred years before the collapse of the Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine the Great accepted Christianity and thus, even as the Roman Empire fell, the influence of Rome transferred from a temporal power into a spiritual power. But in 800 B.C. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, thus began the role of the Catholic Church not only as a spiritual power; but as a political power as well. Kings or emperors wishing real power had to be crowned by the Pope.
Then the Middle Ages came followed by the Renaissance period that was the cultural reformation with Florence at the center. Most of Italy were various States, Florence, Venice, Genoa and Siena were Republics, while Rome was called the Papal State, while the south of Rome was the Kingdom of Naples. Savoy and Milan were Duchies. But Rome and the Catholic Church still wielded great spiritual and political power, even after the Reformation in 1521. But change was soon to come.
It was only in 1861 when the Italian Parliament declared Rome as the natural and indispensable capital of the new unified Italian State. On February 11, 1929, the Lateran Treaty was signed for King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy by Prime Minister Benito Mussolini and Pope Pius XI, which created what is today the Vatican. Relations with the Republic of Italy and the Vatican are still guided by the Lateran Treaty. In fact in the Year 2008, the Vatican issued an edict that it would no longer adopt all Italian laws as embodied by the Lateran Treaty because of conflict between the Italian government and the Vatican over “right-to-life” issues. Sounds familiar?
There you are, I just gave you a short history of the Catholic Church so our readers can see that despite the turmoil of history, I see the Catholic Church as truly universal and committed to its true mission in saving souls. Today as world governments embrace Modernism, Liberalism and socialism, the Catholic Church remains steadfast in its commitment as a protector of human rights, especially when the child is still in a fetus stage.
While the Catholic Church is no longer a temporal power and therefore it no longer has any armies (the Swiss Guards despite their colorful medieval uniforms act more as a secret service to the Pope), yet when he was alive, the Blessed Pope John Paul II (his beatified remains were removed from his underground crypt and placed on a side altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica) caused the fall of the supposedly impregnable Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union broke down and freed all the Soviet puppet regimes from East Germany all the way to the Balkans. Yet the Pope has no armies, nor any intercontinental ballistic missiles. No doubt, prayer is the power of the Catholic Church today, the same kind of power that has kept Congress from approving the Reproductive Health bill.
On my last day in Rome, I visited the Basilica de Santa Maria Maggiore, which is only a five-minute walk from my hotel and under its magnificent canopied altar (which Bernini copied for St. Peter’s Basilica) lies a silver urn reliquary containing five pieces of wood from the crib or manger of the baby Jesus. It was brought to Rome by St. Helena. In a confessional box in this church is a sign, “Confessions in Italiano, Español, English, Tagalog and Visayan. This is a full recognition by the church of the presence of many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), many of whom just like San Pedro Calungsod comes from the Visayas. Thanks to San Pedro Calungsod!
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