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St. Peter's Square sparkles with pageantry

By Maria Karagianis, Globe Staff, and Sari Gilbert, Special to The Globe, 5/26/1985

nder a hot, hazy summer sun that bathed the marble colonnades in a bright white light, St. Peter's Square resounded yesterday morning with the strains of Gregorian chants and the patter of applause as 20,000 Roman Catholic pilgrims gathered for the centuries-old pageantry and ritual of a papal consistory, the first ever to be held outdoors.

Polish nuns, Nigerians in native dress, Philippine pilgrims, French Catholic tour groups and American visitors -- possibly the single largest national group, most of them from Boston and New York -- mingled in the cobblestoned square. Before them, Pope John Paul II, seated on a high-backed papal throne on the steps of St. Peter's, welcomed into the College of Cardinals 28 new scarlet-dressed princes of the church.

Two were Americans, Bernard F. Law of Boston and John J. O'Connor of New York. At the high point of the 90-minute ceremony, each of the new cardinals knelt before the pontiff to receive a red skull cap and biretta -- the four- cornered cardinal's hat.

The 28 newly chosen cardinals sat in two lines of straight-backed chairs on an ornamental carpet at the foot of the basilica's steps and listened to John Paul's homily. Afterward, they recited an oath of loyalty and faith and then, one by one, each escorted by a purple-robed bishop, the new cardinals approached the Pope's throne and knelt before him.

Speaking in low tones to each of the new prelates, Pope John Paul announced the name of the Roman church to which each will take title. Then the cardinals walked to the Pope's left to exchange the embrace of peace with the senior cardinals.

When Cardinal Law ascended the red-carpeted steps leading to the papal throne, he received one of the loudest cheers of the day, as did the other American, Cardinal O'Connor, who ascended the papal throne moments after Law to receive his biretta.

Earlier in the day, long before the 11 a.m. ceremonies began, pilgrims speaking a babble of tongues began crowding into St. Peter's Square. Italian peddlers hawked rosary beads, religious medals, pizza and ice-cream while Africans in dashikis, French school children, Asian priests, Indians in saris and several hundred Americans streamed across the vast square to their seats. Thousands of folding chairs had been set up inside wooden barricades in the center of the square.

Swiss guards, dressed in orange and blue uniforms and wearing plumed helmets, which were designed during the Renaissance by Michelangelo, stood at attention along the square's perimeter.

Among the scores of dignitaries at the ceremony were ImeldaMarcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos; and Roman Catholic Church leaders from many parts of the world, including the Polish primate, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, and Cardinal Joseph J. Bernardin of Chicago.

Mother Theresa of India was present, as were dozens of diplomats and government leaders from around the world, including New York City Mayor Edward Koch; Boston Mayor Raymond L. Flynn; Massachusetts Senate President William M. Bulger; former Massachusetts governors John A. Volpe and Edward J. King; Kitty Dukakis, wife of the governor; and several state legislators.

As each of the cardinals rose, supporters from his native country cheered encouragement. For Archbishop Miguel Obando y Bravo, 59, Nicaragua's first cardinal, a white banner with black letters reading "Nicaragua" was waved in the still summer air.

Polish pilgrims waved small red-and-white flags when Cardinal Henryk Roman Gulbinowicz, 57, Archbishop of Wroclaw and an outspoken supporter of the outlawed Solidarity trade union, received his biretta. And when it was the turn of Marxist Ethiopia's new cardinal, Archbishop Paulos Tzadua, the sound of joyous ululations from the Ethiopians echoed across the square.

The loudest single reception was that which greeted Archbishop Law. As the cardinal knelt in front of the Pope, while Law's mother, wearing a pink dress and a broad-brimmed straw hat watched from her wheelchair only a few yards away, a throaty roar welled up from the crowd of at least 600 Bostonians attending the ceremonies.

"He is a man who just has a special charisma," said Joseph McDonald of Boston, when asked if the joyous reaction to Cardinal Law had seemed unusual.

"He gives the feeling of having achieved some kind of inner peace," said Leo Crowley of Weymouth, a member of the Boston Papal Choir that accompanied Archbishop Law to Rome. Lucille Peruzzi, also of Weymouth, said the entire ceremony was terribly impressive and moving. "What a thrill it is to be here on these cobblestones, to see all these glorious statues," she said.

Her husband, John Peruzzi, also in the Papal Choir, said, "It's incredible being in this setting with so many different nations present."

Many wore handkerchiefs over their heads to ward off the sun's rays. Others held umbrellas to shield themselves from the scorching heat.

Long-time Vatican observers remarked that yesterday's consistory had more of a religious flavor than in past years, because the Pope read from the Gospel of St. Matthew and because of the recitation of the Lord's Prayer.

After the ceremonies, the scene in St. Peter's Square underscored the universality of the Roman Catholic Church. Celebrating the naming of a new Nigerian cardinal, a contingent of African priests, nuns and others dressed in long, colorful robes and turbans played drums and danced. The women chanted -- making a high-pitched noise like yodeling -- and one celebrant waved a huge ivory elephant tusk as he led the group out of the square. Observing the passing parade were two Massachusetts legislators, James T. Brett of Dorchester and Kevin W. Fitzgerald of Mission Hill. "Very impressive. Very moving. It makes you feel proud to be a Roman Catholic," said Brett.

After the ceremony, dozens of the Boston pilgrims converged on Roberto's, a nearby trattoria, for a lunch of lasagna and wine. Gerard Doherty of Charlestown and his wife, Marilyn, were among the Bostonians there.

"We came here today because we are very impressed with Cardinal Law," said Mrs. Doherty. "He's brought traditional values back to our church."

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 5/26/1985.
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