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Not in Our Name

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The earthquake at 3:32 a.m. on 6 April 2009, was a terrible sign and warning that the more sensitive minds among us perceived and took to heart.  It seems that the spirit of Celestine has finally found a way through the moral and spiritual debris that the church has buried him beneath for time immemorial. At the time, many saw in Celestine V the pope of the new church of the prophecies, greatly longed for by Joachim of Fiore, who predicted its advent in 1260, and thanks to Pope Angelicus, who, after the abdication of Saint Francis chose a mystical and solitary path and retreated to pray on the La Verna mountain, letting his kite filled with dreams float up into the sky. Celestine caught it for a brief instant but he was forced to let it go.

But now, it would seem that Benedict XVI has caught that kite and is holding it tightly in his hands.
On 28 April 2009, the Pope intentionally went to Aquila to meet with the spirit of Celestine and re-establish the profound connection between two very actual, but different ways of thinking and being.

Therefore, it is not by chance that the offer of the ‘papal pallium’ occurred after a very special ceremony, rich in symbolic meaning, just like the clear message that Benedict XVI wanted to convey about the ceremony, placing guards at the Sacred Doorway, fireman, heroes like those of the Twin Towers, many of whom consciously went to a certain and inevitable death in a desperate and vain attempt to save other human lives.
With this gesture he symbolically united the Aquila earthquake with the suicide attack in New York. However, on a closer, not purely symbolic or lethargic examination, the manner and moment chosen for this meeting – officially declared a private affair –, it is evident that the Pope wanted to send out a specific warning to the local authorities for their unjustified nonappearance and their lack of readiness in immediately realising the moral and political implications of the mayor’s absence.

Hence, when taking a certain stance, one must be very careful to do so in the correct manner and at the right moment, even when the intentions seem to be sincere. So, it is not by chance that we have chosen to call this chapter: “Not in Our Name”.

A few years ago, during the first Gulf War, I was amazed by the images of thousands of rainbow flags, which people hung from their balconies as a call for peace, and they continued to do so even when the war ended.

I wrote a letter to Furio Colombo, the director of the Unità newspaper and another to the writer and journalist, Gianni Minà.

Neither of them replied directly, but after some time a lovely article appeared in the Unità and two books were published with the symbol, that I myself invented, of the ‘rainbow flag’, in place of the red and white stripes of the American flag. 

For another star

1)    The first satirical book was by Giorgio Forattini, and was entitled "Guerra e Pace" (War and Peace), published by Mondadori.

2) The second book, "Non usate il Nostro Nome" (Not in Our Name) was the Italian translation of the story of the experiences of  several families of the 9/11 victims, who created the pacifist organisation, "Peaceful Tomorrows". 
Instead of withdrawing into their own pain and resignation, they decided to share this painful experience, in which the clash between civilisations and the manner in which we perceive human relationships, indiscriminately effected and destroyed everything and everyone, without respect for anybody or anything.
They went to Afghanistan to meet with the civilians who had been effected by the American bombs; they went to Japan to meet the victims of the atomic bomb, and they went to Iraq before it was attacked and they learnt to observe and compare themselves with the people. While those at home accused them of anti-patriotism, their association became one of the most important and respected in the fight not only against the war in Iraq, but against all wars, which are often born from that class of cultures and religions who presume themselves to be better than everyone else.

Since that time much water has passed under the bridge: President Bush ended his fratricidal war and now he has been replaced by President Obama, who seems to possess the same spirit that guided Celestine V on his terrestrial mission, as has been recognised when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, so that he might stop the conflicts between cultures and religions that are tearing our civilisations apart, and is not indifferent and deaf to the tragedies that occur all around us, as is bitterly represented in the photo below, left, which we hope was deliberately edited by the German photographer, Thomas HoepKer.

Or, instead, with crude realism, like the image by photographer Jhon Cleary, taken from the Eliott- Erwith gallery album, which might be amusing, but, unfortunately, does not veer far from current reality.

It is not by chance that a local paper "Abruzzo 24 Ore", published the image of Celestine V, symbol of peace and universal fraternity, with the face of the president of the United States, who judging from his initial actions, truly seems to be a brightly coloured kite.

Like Frederick II, Saint Francis, Brother Elias and the Khalif of Egypt, Malik al Kamil, who understood that only one shared root could and can unite the two different fields: the Jesus of the Gospel and the same saviour in the Koran. The common message of “peace and goodwill”, which reunites the peoples of the Earth in one unique ‘Ecumene’.

It would seem that Obama, just like Celestine V, has the same strength of character and foresightedness.

Indeed, when Celestine came into power, he carried out fundamental actions and made such highly advanced, but above all irriversable, decisions for his time, that his rapid, and certainly not voluntary dismissal, could not stop, or mortify,  even less weaken or uproot it from common consciousness. Everyone has personal values in which they firmly believe and where respect is required first for oneself and then for others. Reference values and moral principles, as well as interpersonal values, represent a personal and exclusive patrimony, which must always be chosen by the individual and never imposed by a group, even when they may be just. 
By his actions and his irreversible decision, Celestine underlined the principal of absolute respect for the religious beliefs of both individuals and groups, of whatever cult, regardless of them being accepted by other religions, because faith in a ‘Supreme Being’ (which cannot be lived as a strictly personal and intimate experience between the individual and the God in which they believe), without intermediaries , who must limit themselves – if accepted and acknowledged – exclusively to advising or suggesting the methods and most appropriate times, without ever interfering or imposing alternative and binding choices.

At the end of the 13th century, the journey of a number of spirit guides, the last being Pope Celestine V, was interrupted.

An eclipse arrived, dissipating the light. 

The energy that gave life to the Knights Templar, Catharism, the Albigensian Crusade and the Cistercian movement, who created together with the Templar an incredible amount of new and futuristic cathedrals, bringing a radical change in mentality, with an incredible impact on the economy and various socio-political aspects of the feudal society, which freed the minds and hearts of the people, was suddenly extinguished.

All together in one civilisation: yesterday like today, the unsolved problem of the peaceful existence between peoples, as highlighted by Vittorio Zucconi in an article that appeared in the ‘la Repubblica’ newspaper on 10 February 2008, and immortalised in these two symbolic photographs: like the Chinese student in a white shirt before the tank in Tiananmen square and, more recently, the rebellion of the young people in Iran due to the elections that they considered illegitimate.

Martin Luther King also found the kite and he tied a little tag to it which read "I have a dream".
Literally millions of people have heard his ‘dream speech’, because that event, like others in history, has become a universal event, a day that all the contemporary and successive generations feel that they have personally experienced.

Not all of these people were in Washington that day, but that day is now within all of us, just like the 6th of April 2009, which opened a passage towards the stars in many homes and churches, and above all in the dwelling of Celestine V. 

This unique and special Basilica, must be reconstructed in medieval style, eliminating the residual decorations and baroque structures, many of which crashed to the ground on that fatal day.

Any ornament or religious symbol added after that epoch shall be eliminated to ensure that a highly spiritual environment is restored, without any markings or ornaments of a specific cult, because it must return to be as it was intended in the projects of Celestine V: a temple of the spirit, open to all people, without any prejudice and without distinction of faith or creed.  

Indeed, it is a symbol of universal peace, which should rightfully bear the banner of peace, devised back in the1930s by Nicholas Roerich and chosen as the emblem of the Roerich Pact for the conservation of the treasures of human genius.

On 15 April 1935, this pact was signed at the White House, in the presence of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the representatives of twenty-one North American governments and Central and South America. They acted to ensure that the educational, artistic, religious and scientific organisations, as well as all places of cultural relevance, were inviolable and respected by all nations in times of war and peace.

The signing of the pact was a very solemn occasion. President  Roosevelt also invited, together with the diplomats, the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull; the Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace; the directors of the Unión Panamericana Dr. L. S. Rowe, Dr. E. Gil Borges, and the members of the board of the Roerich Pact.

On signing the pact, President Roosevelt sent out a message on an international radio programme: “It is appropriate on this day, defined as Pan-American President’s Day of all the American republics  and governments –that the members of the Pan American Union will sign a treaty, which marks a step forward in the preservation of the cultural accomplishments of the nations in this hemisphere. Presenting this Pact for signing by all the countries, we strive for that its world acceptance becomes a vital principle for preserving modern civilization.

This agreement has more profound significance than the text of this document. Let us create a new alliance based on the high principles of international cooperation and solidarity, which, I am sure, will be a great contribution to civilisation across America.


Wallace made a press declaration, in which, after re-examining the history of the pact, he concluded: «Never before has there ever been a more necessary ideal. Even though individual nations have to resolve their national and economic problems, they must also be aware of their responsibility as members of the community of nations. I firmly believe that it is time for the idealists, who create the reality of tomorrow, to unite around this symbol of cultural and international unity. It is time that we appeal to that acknowledgement of beauty, science and education which runs all along the national borders, to reinforce all the things we value, our governments and customs. It is for this reason that I consider the Roerich Pact such an important step forward. 

The Basilica of Collemaggio is a place of universal cultural, spiritual and inter-religious importance, to be considered not only untouchable, but it should also not be for the exclusive use of only one cult, as has occurred for centuries, also due to the decision of the Catholic Church to not emphasise its value and consciously render it inoperative - as explained in the pages of this web site, devised and greatly desired to create awareness about the Basilica in order to protect it, and make it a sacred site for all religions and to benefit the entire human race, not purely for a minority-, whose other concern, among others, is to minimise its importance and the interreligious and ecumenical scope of the site.

- Indeed, it is not a coincidence that the ‘active’ elements (see relics) have been eliminated and that it has been transformed into a Baroque church, the ceiling has been lowered, covering the columns and the continual halting of restoration works, as was the case with the Head of Fine Art, Mr. M. Moretti, who forced to suspend the works, died of a broken heart, due to the incredible resistance of a reality that was little inclined to accept the restoration of the original medieval structure. 

- It is also not a coincidence that since 1970 they have continually covered the labyrinth of the three eights with pews.

- It is not a coincidence that the message that Pope Benedict XVI symbolically sent to the community of Aquila and the local authorities, who were unjustifiably absent and not ready to immediately realise the moral and political implications of the absence of the Mayor.

- It is clearly evident that the Pope, acknowledging his role as Pope to his ancient predecessor, formally annulled this gesture, binding him permanently to the Roman Catholic Church, from which Celestine detached himself of his own free will. 

- Although difficult to contest, by opening the Sacred Door in person, without the obligatory presence of the Mayor, he has shown us that he does not accept the secular decision that Celestine made with the Papal Bull of 29 September 1204, as explained in the chapter, ‘The Pardon’.

This stance is unacceptable.

The papal pardon spoke of vere penitentes et confessi, without the obligation of Communion, using such a revolutionary formula that it successively and needlessly raised doubts over its authenticity, given that it was considered incorrect from a doctrinal perspective.
Indeed, plenary indulgence cancelled temporal punishment; not sin or blame, whereas Celestine ordered the absolution of punishment and blame.
Anyone of any race or status could go to the Basilica whenever they desired, taking with them their bad deeds or the resentment they harboured in their souls, and if they had a strong intention to change their ways, they could ask for forgiveness for their more or less grave errors or mistakes, without having to confess to a priest. They would then receive forgiveness and penance, the same as in Catholic rites, but they did not have to take ‘Holy Communion’.

Although plenary indulgence was intended for the Christian community, due to the innovative and secular nature of the Pardon, many retain that this was intended for all, without distinction of faith or beliefs. The papal bull was entrusted to the authorities and every jubilee they invited the bishop and their clergy to participate in the opening ceremony of the ‘Sacred Door’, carried out by the Lord Mayor (the only person who has the authority to do so) after the reading of the papal bull.

Many times throughout history, the Roman Church persecuted and killed priests and monks who had shown, by words or deeds, that they did not follow the ‘right path’, to then forgive them and make them saints.

Saint Celestine’s lot was not any better, as portrayed in the painting by Bartolomeo Romano, exhibited in the Prado museum, who on his resignation wore the humble attire of a monk and not the vestments of a bishop, as he is displayed to the public in the shrine today. His bones have been stolen on several occasions. His remains currently lie in the mausoleum, in the niche to the right of the main altar, and he has been placed in a glass, bronzed-brass and silver sarcophagus, a work created by the Aquila-born goldsmith, Luigi Cardilli, in 1972.

The remains of the saint, which had already been reburied in 1944, on request of Carlo Confalonieri, the Bishop of Aquila at the time, were placed in the tomb, donated by Monsignor Mario Pimpo, a Roman prelate, originally from the district of Tempera, in the Aquila region. 

On this occasion the prelate placed his Episcopal ring upon the ring-finger of the saint and also had his own image reproduced on the wax mask that was placed upon Celestine’s remains.  A truly unusual occurrence: the ring donated by the Bishop in 1976, was also nearly stolen by thieves who attempted to force the urn open.

Do not use my name or my face in vain, the poor monk might well shout to the winds. They have changed his clothes too many times and they have made him lose face, as well as his dignity and papal importance, so it is not by chance he called out to the sky, an alarm call to stop things returning to how they were before, obscuring the stars in the heavens yet again.

On May 5 2013, the ‘Pallium’ offered by Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Celestine V was put in the glass reliquiary containing the latter’s mortal remains, together with new vestments, the petrine ring, and three pins. A new ‘silver face’ was also given to Celestine V, moulded on the pope’s original skull using the latest technology.

Collemaggio and Saint Celestine are asking for help and support, which we simply cannot deny them.

He has been lifted into the heavens by a myriad of kites with a little flame of light attached to its tail, which glides slowly into the sky in search of the star of Celestine V, showing us the way once more. 

It is a message of love, written in Italian, but we are certain that whoever receives it will launch it again in their own language towards others stars, and so on and so forth, from star to star. And, as always happens after a hurricane, a luminous

< rainbow bridge >

will appear in the sky to unite Aquila and Pope Celestine V with all the villages, towns  and cities of the world. 

In the Bible, after the great flood, God created a rainbow in the sky as a symbol of peace and eternal alliance with all living creatures: Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." (Genesis,9,12-16).

In this difficult moment for Aquila, the enormous energy of the seven colours of the rainbow, which pervades many souls all over the world, must be directed towards the reconstruction of the Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio, to make Aquila, the new Jerusalem, the new spiritual centre of humanity as its founders and Pope desired.

It would seem that the Great American Kite has also launched this message of peace and President Obama has placed it in the hands of all the children of the world, who are ready to go in search of the white elephant and who recognise us, as Greenpeace says, by the light of these seven colours. 

Heart to Heart


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