Far from his native Milwaukee, Cardinal James M. Harvey took possession of his “titular church” in Rome, a vibrant suburban parish that will now look to him as its cardinal patron.
“Be assured of my continued remembrance in the Lord and of my friendship, my friendship for all of you regardless of how you collaborate within this reality, this parish community,” Cardinal Harvey told parishioners at St. Pius V a Villa Carpegna during Mass on May 26.
In Catholic tradition, each cardinal is given a “titular see” in Rome that serves as a highly symbolic link to the Successor of St. Peter, the Pope.
Cardinal Harvey currently serves across the city as the head of the Roman Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls. When Pope Benedict XVI gave him the red “biretta” last November 24, he also named him titular of St. Pius V, just a half mile southwest of the Vatican.
The Sunday morning Mass was inserted into the normal line-up, with accompaniment from the parish choir and organist. The church was filled to overflowing and reasons for celebration abounded.
Not only was it the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, but Rome was celebrating the feast one of its patrons, St. Philip Neri, who incidentally carried out his ministry during the years of Pope St. Pius V.
As all cardinals do when they “take possession” of their Roman see, Cardinal Harvey first met the parish priest at the central door of the church. There, he kissed a depiction of Christ on the Cross and proceeded to the Altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament, where he paused for a moment in prayer.
Parish priest, Father Donato Le Pera, said that the cardinal's presence fortifies the relationship between the parish and the Pope.
“Every cardinal is a de-facto priest of Rome, as they have been throughout history, and that's what we want today to mark, through our links of friendship and collaboration with His Eminence, Cardinal Harvey,” he told CNA.
The parish of St. Pius V a Villa Carpegna serves 15,000 people in the surrounding neighborhood. In addition to the local individuals, families, elderly and youth, there are many religious orders in the area.
Also present at Mass were acquaintances of the cardinal's from throughout his three decades of living and working in Rome, first as a Vatican diplomat and later as the prefect of the Pontifical Household.
Among them was Paolo Gabriele, Benedict XVI's ex-butler who was hired by then-Archbishop Harvey. He was convicted of theft by the Vatican court system in October 2012 for leaking the Pope's internal correspondence, jailed, and then pardoned just before Christmas.
After Mass, Cardinal Harvey joined the parishioners for a "rinfreschino," the Italian equivalent of coffee and rolls, in the parish auditorium.