Polish Cardinal became parish priest in Rome

Wlodzimierz Redzioch

The Renaissance fa├žade of the Church of Maria del Popolo has Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz's coat of arms with the Giewont Mount, next to the coat of arms of the Pope. On 24 October 2006, Cardinal Dziwisz takes symbolic possession of his titular Church in Rome.

Rome - the diocese of the Pope and city of cardinals

The Diocese of Rome, headed by the Pope, is the heir of the first Christian community that was created in the capital of the Empire during the apostolic times. The Christian message must have reached Rome very early although the exact date cannot be defined, and the first Christians were converted Jews, Roman soldiers who returned from Palestine as well as the neophytes from Greece and other regions of the East. St Peter also came to the capital and according to the tradition he presided over the Christian community in the years 42-64 (or 67 - two dates of the Apostle's death are given and the existing documents confirm both dates). St Peter died, together with numerous Christians, in the persecutions, which took place after the fire of Rome. Nero accused Christ's disciples of setting the fire. How was Peter's successor elected? We can imagine that by referring to the Acts of the Apostles. When the number of Christians grew in Jerusalem the Apostles gathered the believers and asked them, 'Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task' (Acts 6:3). Biblical scholars suppose that the text concerns appointing deacons or priests but probably the first bishops were appointed in the same way. The local believers, clergy and bishops of the neighbouring Churches made the selection. It is hard to define the roles of those particular groups but it is worth remembering the old Roman saying 'Il popolo acclama, il clero designa, i vescovi eleggono' - 'People acclaim, clergy appoint, bishops choose'. That procedure of electing a new bishop could be applied when the number of believers and clergy was small. This was until the 4th century. When the Church gained freedom the situation changed, and the number of Christians and priests grew. And what was worse, the more important the role of Roman bishops, the bigger pressure exerted by contemporary authorities and various social parties during the process of election. At the turn of the centuries it was so difficult that Gregory VII decided to make a big reform aiming at giving the Church again the possibility that bishops, and first of all the pope, were elected in an independent way. Then Pope Nicholas II issued the bulla 'In nominee Domini', by virtue of which only cardinals-bishops were to elect the pope. In the following century Pope Alexander III promulgated the constitution 'Licet de vitanda' (in 1179), in which he confirmed that all cardinals, i.e. cardinals-bishops, cardinals-priests and cardinals-deacons, were eligible to elect pope. To be elected pope it was necessary to obtain more than two-thirds of the votes. The above-mentioned three categories of cardinals - bishops, priests and deacons, formed a new organism, called the College of Cardinals (Sacro Collegio). It has existed until now and its main task has remained the same: election of the bishop of Rome.

Genealogy of 'cardinal'

It is worth explaining where the title of 'cardinal' comes from. During the first centuries of Christianity the title 'cardinales' was a very original term and referred to the priests delegated to service (Latin incardinati) in some church or deaconry. Then the title was given to the religious, dealing with the so-called titular churches (tituli cardinales) of Rome and the most important churches of the Christian world. With time the title could be used only by the closest collaborators and advisors to the Bishop of the Eternal City, who resided in Rome and who helped him to run the Church. The increasing scope of the tasks and the growth of ecclesiastical bureaucracy caused the number of cardinals to go up. In 1586 Sixtus V defined the maximum of cardinals as 70, preserving its division into three categories: bishops, priests and deacons. That limit was exceeded during the pontificate of John XXIII, who included the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches into the College of Cardinals. That Pope also decided to ordain all those cardinals who were not bishops. Thus the division of cardinals into deacons, priests and bishops is only historical since all cardinals are bishops now. And Paul VI decided that the number of the cardinals who participated in the consistory - those who were under 80 - couldn't exceed 120. Currently, there are 187 cardinals, including 115 cardinals electors.

Santa Maria del Popolo

Each cardinal has his deaconry or titular church in Rome, which is to symbolise his relationship with the diocese of the Pope (cardinals bishops are connected with one of the suburban dioceses: Albano, Frascati, Palestrina, Porto-Santa Rufina, Sabina-Poggio Mirteto, Velletri and Ostia, but the bishop of Ostia has always been Dean of the College of Cardinals). Therefore, the duty of every newly appointed cardinal is to take possession of his titular church. Benedict XVI, giving Archbishop of Krakow the dignity of cardinal, chose Santa Maria del Popolo as his titular church. This church is located at the large square del Popolo, along the ancient Aurelian Walls, next to the monumental Porta Flaminia: the main entrance to the city from the north. This is one of the most beautiful churches in Rome, which is regarded as a true church-museum because of its numerous works of art.

"Niedziela" 44/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl