There’s barely a sound and the corridors are still empty when the neatly dressed Crea suddenly flicks a switch to reveal walls lined with Renaissance frescoes and priceless tapestries.
It’s a stunning moment, and Crea, who holds the title of “clavigero,” or chief key keeper at the Vatican Museums, never tires of it. He manages a dedicated team that opens and closes some 300 rooms every day.
While baptizing 33 babies in the Sistine Chapel on Jan. 11, Pope urged mothers to breast-feed their infants if they were hungry.
“Mothers, give your children milk — even now,” Francis said. “If they cry because they are hungry, breast-feed them, don’t worry.”
The pope departed from his prepared text, which included the phrase “give them milk,” and inserted the Italian term “allattateli,” which means “breast-feed them.”
The celebration took place to mark the day Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan River.
Francis also asked the parents gathered to remember the poor mothers around the world.
“Let us thank the Lord for the gift of milk, and we pray for those mothers — there are so many, unfortunately — who are not able to give their children food to eat,” he said.
The National Security Agency spied on cardinals as they prepared to select the new pope — perhaps including even Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who emerged from last spring’s conclave as Pope Francis, a leading Italian news magazine reported in Wednesday’s editions.
Pope Francis still lives in the guesthouse, but the magazine did not speculate whether the phones there were still tapped.
As if the task of choosing the Vicar of Christ and the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics wasn’t daunting enough, the voting must also take place under the gaze of Michelangelo’s brilliant but imposing frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.
That’s what the late Pope John Paul II decreed when he rewrote the conclave rules in 1996, and so it shall be starting today — and for however many days it takes the 115 cardinal-electors to choose a successor to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who retired last month.
In the Sistine Chapel, “everything is conducive to an awareness of the presence of God, in whose sight each person will one day be judged,” John Paul II wrote in his 1996 Apostolic Constitution “Universi Dominici Gregis,” which regulates papal elections.
VATICAN CITY — Exactly 500 years ago, on Oct. 31, 1512, Pope Julius II led an evening prayer service to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's newly-finished vault frescoes.
But as Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance masterpiece, the Vatican said the growing number of tourists who visit the historic site every year might eventually lead to limiting access to the chapel to help preserve the frescoes from human-born problems and pollutants.
“We could limit access, introducing a maximum number of entries,” wrote Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semi-official newspaper. “We will do this, if the pressure from tourism were to increase beyond a reasonable level and if we were to fail in resolving the problem efficiently.”
Paolucci stressed, however, that in his opinion such measures will not be necessary “in the short to medium term.”