Italy by Numbers: Cost of Celebrating the Saints

2.5 million euro, Santa Rosalia (Palermo)
150,000 e. San Giovanni (Turin)
100,000 e. Sant’Agata (Catania)
45,000 e. San Giovan Giuseppe (Ischia Ponte)

Every saint in Italy has his or her day — if they are the patron saint of a city it can also be a costly one. Topping the list of expensive venerated martyrs is Santa Rosalia of Palermo. The protector against plagues, epidemics and earthquakes as well as the patron of engaged couples, has been celebrated in mid-July for over 375 years. The three-day festival for the beloved "santuzza" features processions of holy relics and elaborate historical floats with a total cost of 2.5 million euro.
Turin, on the other hand, stretches out celebrations for St. John for 9 days with an industrial thrift typical of the city: between fireworks, concerts by youth orchestras and a parade in costume the city spent a modest 150,000 e. The most economical fete takes place on the isle of Ischia, where thanks to contributions of returning immigrants, the local government spends ‘only’ 45,000 e. Celebrations for these these feast days can often be more heartfelt than other religious holidays and are well worth taking in if you get the chance.

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For more on Italian celebrations: click on region of interest, then hit the ‘festivals’ link….

Debate Over Patron Saint of Italy

The Italian senate is bitterly divided over who will become the official patron saint of Italy. In the running are two much-loved saints, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph, with the adoptive father of Jesus ahead three to one.

The new bank holiday must crowd into a calendar where most cities already shut down for the local patron saint (Milan for St. Ambrose, Naples for St. Gennaro, Bologna for St. Petronius, just to name a few) so for cost reasons, only one saint can be chosen.

The debate is drawn not across political lines but geographical ones — the three main proponents for St. Francesco all have their power bases in or near Assisi. The majority pushing for St. Giuseppe, on the other hand, has been accused of favoring the date over the saint: the new holiday would fall in the spring (March 19) as opposed to a less desirable one in the fall with St. Francis (Oct. 4). The doubling up of holidays has also been called into play — St. Joseph, also the patron saint of carpenters, is already celebrated in Italy as Father’s day.

Debate over Patron Saint of the Internet

Just which saint should be chosen to watch over computer programmers and guard against crashes has become a matter of debate in the Italian religious community.

St. Isidore of Seville, nominated two years ago, is a leading contender to be the protector of cyberspace. Vatican watchers say that Pope John Paul II should soon name the patron saint of Internet users and computer programmers. St. Isidore is said to have penned the world’s first encyclopedia, known as Etymologia. The 20-volume collection of writings on topics like art, medicine, history and theology to mathematics, literature, agriculture, war and cooking was written over 1,400 years ago.

Less than 7% of almost 3,000 Italians polled by Internet site, however, chose him, preferring a little-known Italian saint. Some 32.58% nominated San Giovanni Bosco, as the guardian of the info highway. Bosco, born in 1815 and sanctified in 1946, was credited with rejuvinating the Church’s teachings for young people. Coming in a close second is the angel Gabriel, with 30% of preferences, who currently keeps watch over the radio, postal workers and stamp collectors.

Selecting a patron for the Internet another sign of Catholic Church’s growing appreciation for cyberspace. Pope John Paul II recently called it a "wonderful instrument" and said that the Church, in approach to the new technology, is "realistic and trusting."

Confess Before You Fly: Airport Chaplain Conference

A quick confession before taking the plane is the most popular reason for a visit to airport chapels, according to chaplains from 46 international airports.

The fourth annual meeting of Airport Chaplains was held recently in Rome, the seat of talks surrounding the church’s sexual abuse scandal. The on-the-go style of an airport chapel is in line with how many Italians practice religion today: 64% (age 11 and over) don’t have time to attend weekly mass and some 30% only go once a year.

"It’s a vast and forgotten sector of the church," said cardinal Giovanni Cheli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. "Airports, like naval ports, are a crossroads of faiths and religions and for this reason it’s important that the Catholic Church is present."

These havens for modern pilgrims, often hidden by duty free shops and hamburger stands, are present around the world — from Turkey to Costa Rica, from Portugal to Thailand. Catholic chapels are present in most main Italian airports, from Venice to Genoa to Palermo, and usually open 24 hours for last-minute prayers.
Take a virtual peek at artworks in chapel of Milan’s Linate Airport

Sex advice? Ask the nuns online

If those who can’t, teach — the Benedictine nuns who give advice on sex and marriage have an advantage over other counselors. The nuns in Angri, province of Salerno, have set up an Internet site with illustrations of the reproductive cycle, abortion and contraceptives including the day-after pill and female condoms.

“Sexuality is one of the most potent and enriching energies people have,” declares the home page. The nuns also organize premarital courses and sexual Ed for adolescents as well as information on the Billings Ovulation Method for family planning.

While the information given is clearly in line with the Catholic Church, the site made news for the explicit nature of the explanations as well as an otherwise modern outlook on eros — "because sexuality is a fundamental component of (one’s) personality and a way of experiencing human love." ?1999-2004

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

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From 19-21 April — Italy’s largest sex fair…At press time the nuns didn’t have a booth

Archbishop Invites SMS Abstinence on Good Friday

Practicing Catholics should abstain from sending text messages by cell phone on Good Friday, according to the Archbishop of Salerno Gerardo Pierro.

“By abstaining from SMS messages, a preferred way of communication for young people, it’s a chance to put face-to-face contact first,” said the prelate, who advised not sending or receiving messages on March 29, the Friday when the Church holds the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
This is probably the first time the Church has come out against cell phone mania; other individual mobile-related events in Italy have included Christmas Mass by cell phone and a text message service with quotes from the Bible.
Italy has one of the highest rates of mobile phone use in the world — and an estimated 10,000 of these ‘messaggini’ are sent in the Bel Paese daily — and that number can hit 30,000 on holidays like Christmas or New Year’s.

Scientists Clear up St. Luke Mystery

An international group of scientists has proved that the body preserved in the Basilica of Santa Giustina in Padua is that of St. Luke the Evangelist, clearing up a millennium of doubt.
Like many sacred remains, the corpse made an adventurous series of moves. St. Luke was buried in Thebes in 150 a.d., then was taken to Constantinople in 300 a.d., then moved to Padua around 1000 a.d. Legend had it that a bait-and-switch had been done and that the remains taken to Italy were really of a Greek soldier.

Researchers, headed by Guido Barbujiani, studied two teeth from the skeleton in order to construct a genetic map. In a decade of work, the genetic information was checked against those of modern Greeks, Syrians and Turks — and it was discovered the genes were most similar to Syrians. Further anthropomorphic analyses showed the age of the body between 70 and 85 years old; historic sources say Luke, born in the Syrian territory of Antioch, died at age 84. Scientists concluded they could be reasonably sure the remains belong to St. Luke, patron of physicians and artists, who is also thought to have written a large part of the New Testament.
More about the Basilica…

Taking Communion with Real Wine

Lifting a ban of centuries, Italian Catholics will soon be taking communion with red wine. First banned for non-clergy by the Council of Constance in 1415, the use of wine is currently only permitted in special circumstances such as weddings and adult baptisms and confirmations. The note from the Vatican states that the symbolic body and blood of Christ can be taken two ways: with the host dipped into a cup of wine or through a sip from a communal cup. Bishops will decide which way and so it will at least be uniform in each jurisdiction. The change, which could come into effect with in the year, may also mean big business for vintners if it is adopted by the thousands of Catholic churches in the country.

Padre Pio: The Television Station

Sainthood may have to wait, but Padre Pio has already been made the star of a new television channel. Tele Radio Padre Pio which has a brown-and-yellow logo featuring the Capuchin monk in profile, currently only broadcasts in the area of San Giovanni Rotondo near Foggia but plans are already underway to broadcast by satellite throughout Europe. Padre Pio, expected to be proclaimed a saint in June 2002, is also the subject of countless websites and a radio station.
The devotion for the beatified monk has certainly brought about an economic miracle for this area of Southern Italy. In 1999, 7,500,000 pilgrims stayed overnight in the constantly expanding town of 26,000 residents. Donations from pilgrims built one of the most advanced hospitals in the region and a church, designed by Renzo Piano, big enough for 10,000 people is also being constructed. Plans are also underway to create a sort of “sacred theme park” relating the life of the stigmatist with one miracle recognized by the Catholic Church.
The online version of the broadcasts, in Italian. Currently the only English on the site is the button for donations.

Priest beats Pinups for most popular calendar

Father Mariangelo da Cerqueto, 85, is an undisputed publishing phenomenon –despite the lack of pulchritude his calendar "Frate Indovino" has been a sell out since 1946.
The title, which means "Brother Fortuneteller," refers to the daily weather forecasts–the calendar first gained popularity among farmers in Father Mariangelo’s native Perugia region for the accuracy of predictions made. The secret? The capuchin priest uses a manuscript from the 1600s found in the monastery archives.

The calendar, which sells between six and eight million copies yearly, dispenses pearls of wisdom like: “Since onions produce tears, chop them in moments of political or emotional turmoil” as well as recipes, folklore and proverbs. Sales for the priests’ calendar, which retails for L.6,500 (around $3), rival those of girlie calendars. Income from the Frate Indovino publishing house, which includes books and videos, fund the order’s missionary works. The 2002 edition may be the last one written by Father Mariangelo, who describes himself as “tired but not disappointed,” nonetheless declared this year’s motto “Laughter is Living.” Evviva! site for the Frate Indovino publishing house–and yes, they do e-commerce…