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

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Church Was Not "De-consecrated" but "Profaned"

          VATICAN CITY, AUG 27 (ZENIT) and CWN - Last Thursday, a 63-year-old man committed suicide in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

          It began as an ordinary summer afternoon at the largest church in the world, as groups of tourists made their way among the artistic masterpieces that have come to symbolize some of the greatest expressions ever of both faith and culture: the Pieta of Michelangelo, works of Canova and Bernini.

          Precisely, in front of the main altar, under the canopy or "baldechino" of Bernini, Benedetto Minnini, a retired resident of the Italian city of Bari, ended his life with a pistol. It was just after 2 p.m.

          At that moment, an Australian woman was filming panoramic shots of the tomb of St. Peter with her small video camera when, almost unaware of it herself, she captured the gruesome event on film. She later handed over the film to the Italian police to help them investigate the incident and discover the motive behind the suicide.

          While other suicides have taken place on Vatican grounds in the past, this is the first time that it has occurred within the Basilica itself. Pope John Paul II, who is still living in his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, was informed of the incident shortly afterwards.

          Joaquin Navarro-Valls, spokesman for the Holy See, denied press reports that the Basilica would have to be re-consecrated after the suicide. During the normal daily Mass celebrated at 5 p.m. on the same day, there was a "reparation rite," as established in the " Cśrimoniale Episcoporum."

          The Mass "for the remission of sins," was celebrated by St. Peter's parish priest, Fr. Giovanni Ferrotti. He began by blessing water and sprinkling it on the faithful and on the place where the suicide was committed. The liturgical readings and prayers were all of a penitential nature, asking for forgiveness for what had occurred which, according to Vatican sources, "profaned" but did not "desecrate" Christianity's largest church.

          Cardinal Vincenzo Fagiolo, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, explained to Vatican Radio that these reparation rites "express the ecclesial community's sorrow over what has occurred, asking for forgiveness and invoking God's mercy. These rites also implore grace and blessings for the Christian people, who sorrow over the profanation of the Lord's dwelling."

          This ceremony makes no judgement of the person who committed suicide. "We cannot judge, because we do not know what led him to this act," the Cardinal explained. Apart from the state the person was in at the time of taking his life, the reparation affects the objective profanation of the Church. ZE99082705

          Meanwhile, CATHOLIC WORLD NEWS reported that the suicide of man inside St. Peter's Basilica who used a gun on Thursday to kill himself raised security questions in Rome concerning the estimated millions of pilgrims expected to visit the city during next year's Jubilee 2000 celebrations.

          The Rome's city government has estimated that up to 30 million people will visit the city between December 24, 1999 and January 6, 20001, five times the usual number. The Vatican's security system only requires visitors to St. Peter's Basilica to pass through metal detectors during official papal events.

          Vatican officials privately said they are planning to change security measures for the millennium, but declined to give details. "Security will be different. I can't tell you more because it is a security issue but it will be discreet," one Vatican official said. The officials did say the Pope specifically ordered that the Vatican should not become a secured bunker.

          On Thursday, Roberto Mininni, a 60-year-old Italian from the south of the country, walked into the basilica through the main entrance, went to the confession area, pulled out a pistol, and shot himself.

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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