DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     August 30, 1999     vol. 10, no. 163

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Initiative of Pope Celestine V

          AQUILA (ITALY), AUG 27 (ZENIT).- Saturday's celebrations of the "Celestine Pardon" concluded where the first Christian Jubilee began. The highlight was a procession displaying Celestine V's "Bull of Pardon," the Pope who inspired the first Jubilee in history in the year 1294 in the Italian city of Aquila. On this occasion, the city's Holy Door was opened by Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, Archbishop of Palermo.

    Hermit Pope

          Pietro del Morrone, who became Pope Celestine V, was a hermit who had lived in seclusion in a small cave chapel on Morrone Hill in the Abruzzi Mountains. His personal sanctity attracted many people's attention, obliging him to search for seclusion in a more inaccessible place. Here he founded the religious Holy Spirit Community of Maiella, to house his hermit disciples. He, himself, lived as a hermit for 40 years, making rare trips to request approval of the Community's rule.

          In 1294, Charles of Anjou, king of Naples went to his hermitage. The king was worried about the state of the Church: Peter's chair had been vacant for two years, because the Cardinals meeting in the Italian city of Perugia, could not agree on whom to choose as new Pope. The elderly hermit gave the king a letter of exhortation for the Cardinals to speed up their decision. Aware of the people's unease and of a movement for renewal within the Church, when the conclave received the letter, the electing cardinals choose the author, Pietro del Morrone, as the new Bishop of Rome. The date was July 5, 1294.


          The hermit was 80 years old at the time of his election. The primary objective of his pontificate was the profound change of the conduct of the clergy, who not always knew how to discern between temporal and spiritual power. The Pope searched for a striking way to entice all to return to the Gospel spirit. Before long, he had the answer -- "Pardon": he called everyone to a year of forgiveness of sins and return to evangelical austerity and fidelity.

          The elderly hermit soon realized he was not up to carrying the weight he had accepted. He had a Curia that was wise in the secrets and cunning of the politics of the time. He, himself had little knowledge of the laws of the period and feared that the temporal power would erode his spiritual life, so he resigned his post on December 13, 1294, five months after his election.

          On December 24 he was succeeded by Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, who took the name Boniface VIII. He annulled all of his predecessors pontifical transactions, but kept the convocation to "Pardon," which was scheduled for the year 1300.

          Celestine died in his cell on May 19, 1296. A few years later he was proclaimed a saint and confessor of the faith.

          In the bull, "Antiquorum habet fidem" of February 22, 1330, in keeping with his predecessor's spirit, Pope Boniface VIII granted a plenary indulgence to anyone who would visit during that year, and every hundred years, the Roman Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul. And so the Jubilee was born, a year of reconciliation between contenders and of conversion to God. It was an historic event, attended by over 200,000 pilgrims, according to estimates at the time. Dante Alighieri, the author of "The Divine Comedy," mentions the Jubilee in his works. ZE99082702

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

August 30, 1999       volume 10, no. 163


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