ROME (CNS) — The children of the Church of St. Bartholomew on Tiber Island gave Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago an icon of the Madonna and Child and asked him to take it with him into the conclave to elect a new pope.
As members of the College of Cardinals spread out over Rome March 10 to celebrate Mass in their titular churches, Cardinal George was at his, surrounded by children and teenagers who fill the little church each Sunday after religious education classes.
St. Bartholomew is not a parish church, but is used by the younger members of the lay Community of Sant’Egidio each Sunday for catechism classes and Mass, and most weekday evenings for vespers. The church also serves as an ecumenical shrine to 20th-century martyrs of communism, Nazism and Latin American dictatorships.
At the beginning of the Mass, Cardinal George told the congregation that the Christian life is full of choices, but it was God who chose them first. He asked for their prayers as he and the other cardinals prepare to meet to choose a new pope.The rector of the church, Father Angelo Romano, gave the homily during the Mass, which marked “Laetare” (Rejoice) Sunday, the midpoint of Lent. He told the children, their teachers and parents that the community rejoices because “Easter is near. But we have another reason to rejoice, too, because of the visit of His Eminence Cardinal George.”
Father Romano said it is an important time for the church; “we draw near to Cardinal George and all the cardinals with our prayers.”
After two children presented the cardinal with the icon, which is a small copy of a larger one found in the church, Cardinal George said, “I want to thank you for the present, and especially for your prayers for me and for all the cardinals. It’s an intense and very important moment for the church, so thank you for your prayers and for your faith.”
Before the Scripture readings were proclaimed, the children came up in procession and kissed the Book of the Gospels. They led much of the music with the beat of drums, guitar strums and rhythmic clapping.