Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Papal Traditon

Every time a pope is elected, there are many ancient rituals and ceremonies in accordance with tradition.

There is one tradition that few people are aware about, however. Shortly after the new pope is enthroned, the Chief Rabbi of Rome seeks an audience. He presents the pope with a silver trey bearing a velvet cushion. On the top of the cushion is an ancient shriveled parchment envelope. The pope symbolically stretches out his arm in a gesture of rejection. The chief rabbi leaves, taking the envelope with him, and does not return until the next pope is elected.

Pope Benedict XVI was intrigued by this ritual, the origins of which were unknown to him. He instructed Vatican scholars to research it but they came up with nothing. When the time came the chief rabbi arrived for his audience, the new pope faithfully enacted the ritual rejection, but when the chief rabbi turned to leave the pope called him back.

"My brother," the pope whispered, "I have to admit that we are ignorant of the meaning of the ritual repeated for centuries with the representative of the Jewish people. I have to ask, what is it all about?"

The chief rabbi shrugged and replied, "We have no more idea that you. The origin of the ceremony is lost in the mists of history."

The pope said, "Let us retire to my private chambers and enjoy a glass of wine together. Then, with your agreement, we shall open the envelope and discover it's secret at last." The chief rabbi agreed. He was just as curious as the pope.

When they were alone, the pope gingerly pried open the parchement envelope with trembling fingers, the chief rabbi removed a folded sheet of ancient paper. It was written in ancient Aramaic.

"What does it say?" the pope asked.

"It's a bill for the Last Supper," replied the rabbi.