Wednesday, August 18, 2010
EUROPE: ROME: SPECIAL PARISH FOR SWISS GUARD AND POLICE
Actually, the Church of San Pellegrino inside the Vatican once belonged to the Swiss Guards and still is decorated with the coat of arms of each commander of the corps from 1517 to 1982.
But since 1977, the church has been the chapel of the 150 Vatican gendarmes, as the police are called, and the 30 Vatican firefighters.
Their chaplain, Msgr. Giulio Viviani (pictured), celebrates Mass in the church daily at 7 a.m. and usually stays in his office there until about 8:30 a.m., in case one of the men wants to talk or go to confession.
The rest of his day is spent fulfilling the obligations of his full-time position as an official in the office coordinating papal liturgies.
Other than during the summer, he also offers the police and firefighters topical religious education classes, such as explaining what the Eastern Catholic churches are and how members of the Eastern hierarchy dress. That way, the police officers will know a bishop when they see one and salute, as tradition dictates.
Msgr. Viviani said one of the first of his weekly classes in the fall will be about synods of bishops and about Christians in the Holy Land, so that when the officers start greeting and guarding members of the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East in October, they'll know what's going on.
One of the most popular segments in his catechesis, he said, is the Advent series of guided visits to the other churches and chapels inside Vatican City, including the Sistine Chapel and the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
"There are people who work at the Vatican for a lifetime without seeing anything but the place they work," the chaplain said.