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 principality, it is only 370 acres--approximately the size of New York's Central Park--one has to wonder why it is that the Principality of Monaco is repeatedly plagued by this biased unilateral and myopic media coverage of its secular social and cultural life, while its more serious political, diplomatic, moral/religious and intellectual life is summarily ignored by the global media.
The Principality of Monaco is an official sovereign nation, actually a constitutional monarchy, which became a voting member of the United Nations in 1993, and a member of the Council of Europe ion 2004, with moral, legal, diplomatic and political fiduciary obligations and responsibilities to its citizens, the Church and the world. Thanks to a revision of its 1918 treaty with France in October 2002 under Prince Rainier III, Monaco now maintains formal diplomatic relations, active and passive legation at the ambassadorial level, with a host of nations, including the U.S., the Holy See, Japan, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, among others.
The Principality even has its own university, the International University of Monaco, formerly known as the University of Southern Europe. Monaco also has a world famous oceanographic museum dedicated to oceanographic research and marine exploration, founded by the scientist-prince, and Prince Rainier's great-grandfather, Albert I in 1910, and formerly directed by the famous oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The museum will mark its 100th anniversary in the year 2010 with a host of public events dedicated to oceanographic exploration and marine preservation. There is, however, intricately more to Monaco than meets the eye.
Monaco is one of the few remaining sovereign nations in the world which has chosen to retain the Roman Catholic religion as the official religion of the state. Moreover, Monaco's decision to retain the Roman Catholic religion as its state religion, obligates the Government of the Principality, and indeed the whole nation, to work to preserve, protect and enforce the Catholic rule of faith in the life and public works of the state. The year prior to Prince Rainier's death, in July 2004, the Holy See's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. The purpose of this publication was to synthesize and make accessible to every Catholic, in one official document, the official moral and social doctrinal teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Compendium outlines the Catholic Church's posture on the most important international issues of our time, including, human rights, and the urgency to protect the dignity of each human person from the moment of conception to natural death, the need to fight for social justice, the obligation to work to end poverty and to defend the weakest of the global human family, i.e., women, children, the elderly, the ill, the immigrant and the refugee, the necessity for financial equity among nations, the imperative to protect the environment, accurately evaluate the use of armed conflict, human cloning, and biotechnologies, among others.
Thus, Monaco, as an officially Catholic nation, has the highest moral obligation to ensure that its society, rooted in the Catholic Faith and its Traditions, is not only a society of secular glamour and indulgent entertainment, but that it is also a faith-based society accountable, and in transparent compliance with its Catholic social, moral, political and diplomatic obligations, especially the ecclesiastical human rights rule of law.
Complementing the commitment to the ideals of the Catholic Faith exhibited by Prince Rainier III, Princess Grace was also consciously aware of her sovereign role as a Catholic public witness to Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Faith in the affairs of the Catholic monarchy of Monaco, and she became involved in the social, moral and humanitarian matters of the monarchy early on in her reign. Due to her involvement the new constitution of the Principality promulgated in 1963 hailed as a "Coup de Grace," gave women full voting rights for the first time, and made the women citizens of Monaco eligible to hold office in the National Council. These interventions would be the first of many socio-political developmental and human rights accomplishments to be attributed to Princess Grace in her lifetime.
But, one asks, what progress has been made in promoting the social, moral and political Catholic witness of Monaco as a Catholic nation since the reign of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace? This is the question upon which Prince Albert II, Monegasque statesmen, politicians, diplomats, civil servants, businessmen, social elites, and a new generation of Catholic Monegasque citizens and Monaco inhabitants need to prayerfully meditate.
Since Monaco has been blessed with an exceptionally stable economy, religious-political peace, a formidable geographical landscape and France's intimate diplomatic friendship and military protection, the people of Monaco owe a great debt of gratitude to God for the many blessings He has bestowed on their country. Without a doubt, in this year marking the 800th anniversary of the founding of the order of Franciscan Friars in 1209, by St. Francis of Assisi, the "saint of peace" one of the first initiatives Prince Albert II must absolutely prayerfully contemplate undertaking, in order to repay Monaco's debt of gratitude to God for the peace and prosperity it has enjoyed, is to take out those deadly and violent swords wielded by the Franciscan Friars in Monaco's royal coat of arms, and substitute the symbol of an olive branch and a crucifix.
It is a high moral crime, a religious sacrilege and an act of ecclesiastical malfeasance against the Franciscan Order and the life and legacy of St. Francis of Assisi--the saint associated with peacemakers--for Monaco to memorialize in its heraldry the political and moral deceit orchestrated in 1297 by Francesco Grimaldi, (called "Il Malizia", the Cunning) and his small army who deceptively disguised themselves as Franciscan Friars to violently seize the fortressed citadel-like castle of Monaco. Monaco must recall the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ to St. Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, in Sacred Scripture, when St. Peter drew his sword and stroke the servant of the high priest when Christ was violently taken by the Roman guards. Our Lord Jesus Christ said to St. Peter, "Put again thy sword into its place; for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
Ironically, 2009 also marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Francesco Grimaldi in 1309. Prince Albert II would do well to take the lead in letting Francesco Grimaldi's deception and deceit die with him by charting a new course in Monaco's national religious, political and moral reconciliation history that is both penitent and redemptive. One of the first acts Prince Albert II must execute in recommitting the souls of his Catholic subjects--and indeed the whole Catholic Monegasque nation to God is to end the historic spiritual curse that prevails over the people of Monaco by removing the raised swords of violence from over his subjects' heads, literally.
By removing the swords from Monaco's royal coat of arms and substituting them with an olive branch and a crucifix, respectively, Prince Albert II would be proactively reviving the precious Catholic legacy bequeathed to him by his parents, Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace, from three critical perspectives; 1) from a national sovereign perspective, by taking out the sword symbols as a sovereign act of historical and political penance, he would be ending the history of the nation's old royal coat of arms that shamefully recapitulated the dastardly act of ecclesial deceit perpetrated under the cloak of night by his ancestor, Francesco Grimaldi, 2) from a Catholic ecclesiastical perspective, by substituting the new symbols of an olive branch and a crucifix, he would be making public spiritual reparation for Francesco Grimaldi's using the habit of the Franciscan Friars--a Catholic religious order dedicated to peace and peacemaking--to wield a terrorist act of barbary and violence upon a Catholic state; and 3) from a diplomatic irenological perspective, by officially inaugurating a whole new coat of arms that incorporates an olive branch and a crucifix, Prince Albert would be redeeming the future of the Roman Catholic Monegasque nation by reconsecrating the royal soul of Monaco and all its subjects and inhabitants to the mercy of God, through an act of true and holy peace diplomacy, which would put Monaco under the prayerful protection and grace of the Sacred Passion, Precious Blood and Holy Cross of Christ for the cause of the moral excellence of peace. For Prince Albert II to keep those swords of violence incorporated into the heraldry of Monaco's royal coat of arms and raised up over the heads of the people of Monaco is to continue to formally condemn and curse his Catholic nation to spiritual demise by royal decree, and to sanction and impose upon his people, (who are also more importantly God's people), the recompense of the capital sins, i.e., covetousness, anger and envy; three of the seven deadly sins, that first provoked this historical legacy, and that incurs the wrath of God upon himself, his Monegasque subjects and all other inhabitants of Monaco.
My prayer for Monaco is that Prince Albert II will have the moral courage to inaugurate an era of True Catholic Faith, Justice and Reconciliation in the Principality that becomes as infamous as the faces of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace, and the glamour, luxury, beauty, opulence and aristocratic elegance of the Principality of Monaco. Maybe one day Prince Albert will have the overwhelming popular support of a truly loyal Catholic nation to even close the Monte Carlo casino--for no truly holy, devout Catholic country could or would have a casino as the moral and monetary heart of its economy. Does not the Catholic community in the Principality of Monaco realize how ethically incongruent it is to have a gambling casino funding a Catholic state? Maybe in time with the global financial crisis this too will change.
Indeed, as the legacies of Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace reflect, the sacred spiritual vocation of a monarch, most especially a Catholic monarch is to love his/her subjects more then they love themselves with a selfless and divine love that is for the Highest Good of the Nation and for the Greater Glory of God, to whom the monarch, in the end, must render an account. For all the reasons that money has the biblical reputation of being the root of all evil, a moral conversion will be an especially challenging and controversial endeavor for the Principality of Monaco and its monied inhabitants. Nonetheless, we are reminded of the scriptural admonition found in the Gospel of St. Luke that "nothing is impossible for God."
Thus, for this precious remnant Catholic petit-nation and its Sovereign, Prince Albert II, we solemnly pray to God and to his Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Monaco, pray for us.
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe
http://www.catholic.org OH, US
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe - Vatican/Monaco Scholar, 202 679-1438
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