Around Rome Friday, there were subtle signs of the profound change taking place here.
One day after Pope Benedict’s historic resignation as head of the Catholic Church, the Vatican released footage of the papal apartment being sealed.
The Camerlengo and his men also taped the elevator shut for good measure, affixing a stamp so that no one would be tempted to use it.
“The door was taped and sealed,” Father Thomas Rosica told reporters. “The door was already locked.”
Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone carried a traditional papal staff called the Ferula for the occasion. As of today, he is no longer the secretary of state.
As Camerlengo, he is now acting head of state — with limited powers — until there’s a new pope.
Today, the summons went out to the cardinals to be here Monday morning to start the discussion. The conclave will start shortly thereafter.
The Vatican post office issued new stamps valid only during the vacancy.
Instead of the pope’s face there’s an angel and the words “Sede Vacante” — vacant seat. For religious philatelists and fans of the church, they are a collector’s item.
In the shop window of the pope’s tailor, the mannequin was gone today. In its place, there was simply a white cap on a red pillow — a tip of the hat to His Holiness.
But the day was bittersweet for Roman goldsmith Claudio Franchi, who designed Benedict’s Fisherman’s Ring and made it with his own hands.
The design for the seal was inspired by Michelangelo; the edges and the inside were inspired by St. Peter’s Square.
“This is my masterpiece, my Sistine Chapel,” he said.
Benedict can no longer wear it. The Vatican constitution requires the Piscatory Ring be destroyed when a pope dies so that others cannot forge his seal.
Franchi’s ring is not a signet, he insists. He says it’s a decorative item.
It’s 18 carat gold, size 24. Benedict is somewhere between size 23 and 24, but he asked for 24 because it’s twice the 12 Apostles.
Franchi pleaded for the ring to be spared and his prayers appear to have been answered.
According to the Vatican spokesman: “When we speak about the destruction of the ring or the seal it is usually meant as scratch marks, not necessarily smashing and destroying.”
Franchi now hopes to make the new pope’s ring. He says he already has some ideas.
And he said he hopes the slightly defaced one once worn by Benedict ends up in the Vatican museum – just like Michaelangelo’s masterpiece.