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A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II

By Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Despite the tragic passing of Prince Rainier III on April 6, 2005—mysteriously only four days after the death of H.H. Pope John Paul II, on April 2nd—for those who still recall the great love Prince Rainier had for the Principality of Monaco, his Monegasque subjects and the Catholic Church, it is difficult not to contemplate the fact that, if he were still living, 2009 would mark the sixtieth year of Prince Rainier’s assuming his princely reign of the Principality of Monaco in May 1949. Catholics cannot but recall in loyal remembrance, Prince Rainier’s fidelity to the Magisterium of the Universal Church and his eagerness, upon assuming the crown, to travel to the Vatican for a papal audience with, and a blessing from Pope Pius XII in the Holy Year of 1950.

His fiftieth year of princely reign was marked in May 1999, with great pomp and ceremonial steeped in both royal symbolic regalia and Catholic ecclesiastical ritual. The Principality’s Philatelic Office, a major commercial industry in Monaco, which also serves as an archive of its national history, published one-of-a-kind philatelic issues to commemorate all of these historic occasions, and many of the other special events which occurred during Prince Rainier’s reign. The most memorial event in the history of Monaco, of course, still being Prince Rainier’s wedding to Ms. Grace Patricia Kelly of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a Catholic Hollywood actress, on April 19, 1956.

The wedding occurred six years after Prince Rainier’s private audience with Pope Pius XII in the Jubilee Holy Year of 1950, and two years following the personal pilgrimage he made to the shrine of Our Lady (honoring her Immaculate Conception) in Lourdes, France, in the 1954 Marian Year, to, as he said to his Catholic priest and ever-present confidente Rev. J. Francis Tucker, O.S.F . (known as “Fr. Tuck”), “…pray to the Holy Mother for a woman with whom he could enter freely into a sacred union.” A mystery of divine coincidence, which makes Monaco’s history all the more spiritually intriguing, is that St. Bernadette Soubirous (aka: St. Maria Bernarda, in Latin,), the French maiden to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God appeared in Lourdes, France was the patron saint of Princess Grace of Monaco.

Once when Prince Rainier’s private chaplain Father Tuck was telling Princess Grace the story of their pilgrimage to Lourdes, France in 1954 to pray that the Blessed Mother would send Prince Rainier a suitable wife, Princess Grace in surprise retorted to Fr. Tuck that as a child, she had chosen St. Bernadette as her patron saint during her Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation. Years later Princess Grace and Prince Albert II would make a similar pilgrimage to Lourdes, France in 1979— the year marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Prince Rainier III’s trip to the same shrine in 1954.

Later, in the years following their marriage, as Catholic sovereigns who embraced the role the Catholic Church played in their personal and public lives, Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco would subsequently make state visits to the Vatican for audiences with Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and Pope John Paul II (1978-2005). Monaco, a centuries-old Catholic country, has had a permanent papal legate accredited to the Holy See almost as long as France and Spain—these two being the first of the old “Catholic countries” to establish permanent diplomatic legations to the Holy See in the late 1860’s.

Today, under the reign of their son and only male heir, H.S.H. Prince Albert II, the Roman Catholic Principality of Monaco forges a new chapter in its national history with a focus on proactive diplomacy, climate change and environmental protection, and financial accountability. The problem remains however, that whenever a lifestyle journalist or travel guide writer profiles the culture of Monaco, the focus of their coverage is always on the secular glamour, wealth and luxurious living, shopping and playing that is available in the principality and very little else.

In addition to the Principality’s own websites, there are a multitude of non-governmental individual-created-uploaded-and-hosted internet webpages boasting of Monaco’s glistening yachts, exquisitely plush hotels, quaint villas, expensive restaurants, and its haute couture dress shops displaying the newest fashions from Paris, New York, and London crowned, of course, by the infamous annual Grand Prix auto race and the Monte Carlo casino—both of which draw wealthy and not-so-wealthy tourists from all over Europe to the French Riviera, located along the southern coast of France—an eight-hour train ride from Rome.

It is rare, at least in English, to read of, and find quality in-depth scholarly articles on the intellectual, social, religious, political and diplomatic life of the principality. Despite the small size of the microstate ...

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1 - 1 of 1 Comments

  1. Margarete Papst
    6 years ago

    Prince Albert II is a very good hearted human(dont want to use the word person) he has sure to fulfill a (work)position in which one must be born in,and he is.I do have a lot of faith in this.And like the following prayer: Prayer for Monaco is that Prince Albert II will have the moral courage to inaugurate Catholic Faith, Justice and Reconciliation...Bless him, Monaco- and the Government, and the whole family for a long life in peace health and joy.

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