St. Peter and the MinaretsIssue: Sept-Oct 2010
URBI ET Orbi (“for the city and for the world”) is the traditional blessing the pope offers on special occasions. Although he has at times pronounced it in other venues—St. John Lateran, the pope’s official ecclesiastical seat, or the Quirinale, now the Italian president’s residence—the pontiff usually intones the prayer from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square. The ancient ceremony reminds us that the pope holds office as head of the Church because he has been elected bishop of “the city,” Rome; that he is the leader of a global organization whose very name, “Catholic,” means universal (making the whole world his parish); and that he is the head of a miniscule but internationally recognized sovereign state.