Today, Sunday, March 10, many of the Cardinals gathered in Rome preparing for the Papal Conclave presided at Mass in one of the many Churches of the city. But they didn’t go to just any church – each Cardinal went to the Titular Parish Church they were assigned when they were created cardinals. The members of the College of Cardinals are considered clergy of the Diocese of Rome, and so each Cardinal is assigned a particular church of which they are the honorary pastor. Cardinal Timothy Dolan said it well in his homily at the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Rome, his titular parish:
Here I am not the Archbishop of New York; here I am not a cardinal; here I am a parish priest, like I wanted to be since my first Holy Communion.
And, of course, it is as a pastor of a parish in Rome, even if only honorary, that I am here to elect a new Bishop of Rome, a new Pope.
At heart, of course, he is right – the Cardinals are pastors, just as the man they will elect Pope will also be a pastor, a shepherd of God’s people. Of all the events and meetings leading up to the opening of the Conclave, today’s Masses in which the Cardinals scattered throughout Rome to their titular parish churches speaks to me the most of what these days are all about – discerning, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the next Universal Pastor/Shepherd of the Catholic Church. It’s not about political campaigning, bureaucracy, governance, money, or power – it’s about being a shepherd of souls, in the image of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Yes, the Cardinals are pastors – and the next Pope, like his predecessors before him, will be pastor to us all.
For those who are interested, here is a list of the titular churches for the Cardinal Electors from the United States:
Cardinal Raymond Burke – Sant’ Agata de’ Goti (Saint Agatha)
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo – Sant’ Eusebio (Saint Eusebius)
Cardinal Timothy Dolan – Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario (Our Lady of Guadalupe)
Cardinal Francis George – San Bartolomeo all’Isola (Saint Bartholomew)
Cardinal James Harvey – San Pio V a Villa Carpegna (Saint Pius V)
Cardinal William Levada – Santa Maria in Domnica (Saint Mary of the Lord)
Cardinal Roger Mahoney – Santi Quattro Coronati (The Four Crowned or Martyred Saints)
Cardinal Edwin O’Brien – San Sebastiano al Palatino (Saint Sebastian)
Cardinal Sean O’Malley – Santa Maria della Vittoria (Saint Mary of Victory)
Cardinal Justin Rigali – Santa Prisca (Saint Prisca)
Cardinal Donald Wuerl – San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains)
On a pilgrimage I led to Rome in March 2012, I had the privilege of presiding at Mass at one of these churches, San Pietro in Vincoli. One of the most visited small churches in Rome, it is named for the chains that held St. Peter when he was in prison, which are preserved beneath the altar. But it is more well-known and visited because it also contains Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses, sculpted for the tomb of Pope Julius II. Here are a couple pictures to see where Cardinal Wuerl presided at Mass today, in his titular parish church.