PHOTOS: Cardinal Rugambwa takes possession of Rome’s ‘Church of the Artists’ — By: Catholic News Agency

Cardinal Protase Rugambwa at Santa Maria in Montesanto, Feb. 18 / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Feb 19, 2024 / 12:30 pm (CNA).

Cardinal Protase Rugambwa took possession of his titular church, Santa Maria in Montesanto — one of the twin churches that sits in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo — on Sunday.

The Rite of Possession of a titular church takes place within the context of a solemn high Mass. After the procession of the cardinal into the church and the opening liturgical prayers, a papal bull assigning the titular church to the cardinal is read aloud.

Cardinal Protase Rugambwa at Santa Maria in Montesanto, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

A titular church is located within the geographic boundaries of the Diocese of Rome and is assigned to a cardinal, symbolizing the bond between the cardinal and the pope, as well as the communion between the local and universal Church. 

During the Feb. 18 ceremony, Cardinal Rugambwa was joined by priests from the Diocese of Rome as well as by senior prelates including Cardinals Arthur Roche, Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, and Robert Sarah. Also in attendance was Sister Raffaella Petrini, the Secretary General of the Governorate of the Vatican City, the first woman to hold the position. 

Santa Maria in Montesanto is one of the “twin” churches that sits in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. The piazza, or square, is one of the main arteries in Rome and is also known as the “Trident,” as it is where the three main streets of Via di Ripetta, Via del Corso, and Via del Babuino intersect. 

Procession at Santa Maria in Montesanto, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The Baroque church was constructed in the second half of the 17th century over the site of an earlier church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and under the care of the Carmelite Friars. 

The original plan was designed by the architect Carlo Rainaldi, under the patronage of Cardinal Girolamo Gastaldi and Pope Alexander VII. Though work was interrupted following the death of Pope Alexander in 1667, it resumed several years under the supervision of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

Santa Maria in Montesanto was entrusted to the Carmelites until 1825 when Pope Leo XII ordered its restoration and it was subsequently given the little of minor basilica. 

In 1951 Pope Pius XII established the Mass of the Artists and the church was selected as its seat. The tradition of the Mass of the Artists continues in this church today and is held every Sunday from the end of October to the end of June. 

Reflecting this bond between the Church and artists, the church has also been the location of numerous art installations and has been the place of numerous funeral services of prominent Italian artists. It was also the place of the 1904 episcopal ordination of Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope St. John XXIII.

Pope Francis elevated Rugambwa to the College of Cardinals in the consistory held on Sep. 30, 2023. On Nov. 10, 2023, Rugambwa was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Tabora. 

Cardinal Protase Rugambwa at Santa Maria in Montesanto, Feb. 18, 2024. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

He is Tanzania’s second cardinal elector. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Tanzania’s other cardinal elector, will turn 80 on Aug. 5, 2024, and lose his privilege to vote in future conclaves. 

Rugambwa’s ecclesiastical career is characterized by an experience in different pastoral positions, as well as his experience in the Roman Curia. 

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Rulenge-Ngara, on Sept. 2, 1990, by Pope St. John Paul II, during his 10-day apostolic visit to Tanzania and several other African countries. 

Following his ordination he served as parish vicar of Mabira, was a professor of liturgy at the minor seminary of Katote, and also served as chaplain of Biharamulo Hospital. 

Rugambwa left Tanzania to go to Rome where he earned a doctorate in pastoral theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in 1998. He subsequently returned to his native Tanzania where he served as spiritual director of seminarians and director of vocations for the Diocese of Rulenge. From 2000 to 2002 he was Vicar General of the Diocese of Rulenge. 

He was called back to Rome where from 2002-2008 he worked in the then-Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (now the Dicastery for Evangelization). 

In January 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Rugambwa as the bishop of the Diocese of Kigoma and in 2012 he was appointed as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and president of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

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