04 July 2021

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
36, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Saint Peter’s Basilica, as a work of architecture, is the greatest building of its age (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Today is the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity V). Later this morning I am hoping to preside at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and to preach at Morning Prayer in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry.

Last week my photographs were of seven monasteries in Crete. This morning (4 July 2021), my photographs are from Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, introducing a week illustrated with photographs of churches in Rome.

Earlier in this series, on Tuesday in Holy Week (30 March 2021), I introduced the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one is my favourite churches in Rome.

Queues line up in Saint Peter’s Square in pre-pandemic days to visit Saint Peter’s Basilica (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The imposing size of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the history of the Papal power make it difficult to grasp that the Vatican has been a sovereign state for less than 80 years and that it is such a tiny independent entity.

The three Lateran treaties in 1929 established the territorial extent of the new state, which is totally landlocked within the City of Rome by a land border of 3.2 km. With a land area of 0.44 sq km (108.7 acres), the Vatican State is comparable in size to a small farm in Ireland and easily outpaced by Europe’s next smallest states, Monaco and San Marino.

The sovereign territory is so tiny that any visitor to Saint Peter’s and the Vatican Museums visits the state many times over, constantly stepping in and out of Vatican and Italian territory.

The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican (Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano) was designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Saint Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world.

Despite popular perceptions, this is not the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome – this title continues to be held by the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. But Saint Peter’s remains one of the holiest places in the Roman Catholic Church and in world Christianity. Catholic shrines.

Tradition says this is the burial site of Saint Peter, and Saint Peter's tomb is said to be directly below the high altar. Many popes have been buried at Saint Peter’s since the Early Christian period.

A church has stood on this site since the time of Constantine the Great. The construction of the present basilica began in 1506, was completed in 1615, and it was consecrated in 1626. As a work of architecture, it is the greatest building of its age. It is one of the four churches in the world that hold the rank of major basilica, all four of which are in Rome, the other three being Saint John Lateran, Saint Mary Major, and Saint Paul outside the Walls.

Swiss Guards on duty at the top of the steps of Saint Peter’s during a Papal audience (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 6: 1-13 (NRSVA):

1 He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

‘Crossing the Tiber’ from Rome to the Vatican (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (4 July 2021, Trinity V) invites us to pray:

Heavenly Father,
Give us the strength to heal inequalities.
May we work together so that all can be healthy,
In body and soul.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, seen across the Tiber, towers above the skyline of Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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