Religious Seating Arrangements at the Pope's Funeral


Written on 6:33 AM by Jack B.

While reading the official seating arrangements of the non-Catholic religious figures at the Pope's funeral a couple of tidbits stood out to me.

First that the Orthodox/Eastern Churches had primacy of honor in the seating arrangement, another example of the late Pope's pontificate-long efforts at reunification. Also that ALL other Churches, other than the Eastern Churches, are listed as "ecclesiastical communions" and not just Churches, in keeping with Vatican custom. It shows I think that even in death the Pope's ecumenical priorities in respect to the "sister-churches" of the East are taken note of and continued even though relations with some Protestant and Jewish groups are much better than that with, say, the Russian Orthodox.

Glad to see the Billy Graham Organization of Evangelicals sent 4 representatives including two members of the Graham family. Billy Graham (who is also very sick and could use prayers) is not only a great Christian but also has taken heat over the years for his warm relations with Catholics and admiration of John Paul II in particular.

Of course I didn't expect to see the name of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson immediately after the Graham delegation but then on reflection - why not? Jesse always manages to show up everywhere. He's a little like my US Senator Chuck Schumer - show him a camera, and he'll be in front of it. At least Al Sharpton wasn't there (though I must admit to feeling warmer towards Rev. Jackson lately since he crossed ideological lines to help save Terri Shiavo).

Another interesting thing to note was the presence of 2 former Catholics who left the Church has and were there as dignitaries of other faiths. One was Most. Rev. Joris Vercammen, who's a former Catholic priest who left the Church and become one of the top dogs at the ultra-liberal Old Catholic Church which broke with the papacy after Vatican I.
Also there was Mario Scialoja of the Muslim World League - Italy, who converted to Islam while Ambassador of Italy to the UN and was later posted to Saudi Arabia which legally tolerates no religion other than Islam and punishes and jails anyone wearing a cross or caught with a Bible. Converts from Islam to Christianity (or any other religion) face death. Which makes this article he wrote about the difficulties of Muslims in free and liberal Europe all the more ironic. Scialoja was just the first Ambassador of Italy to Saudi Arabia to convert from Christianity to Islam. One of his successors in the post did the same. Obviously the Vatican is more open minded in it's protocol when dealing with former Catholics then people who are still Catholics (even if name only). I remember there was a ruckus when the President of Portugal was refused an audience with the Pope "because he insisted on being accompanied by his second wife, who like himself is divorced and remarried".

The full seating arrangements (including Heads of States) can found in this PDF document which sometimes doesn't seem to want to load properly.

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