PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The College of Cardinals met Monday, but they have yet to decide when they will begin the conclave to elect a new pope.
Once the conclave begins, the 115 cardinals eligible to vote for a new pope will be sequestered inside the Vatican.
And every morning they will attend mass at a chapel with a Pittsburgh connection.
For centuries, the conclave of cardinals has met in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope.
And for centuries the cardinals were housed in the halls outside the chapel.
“Pope John Paul is the one who said, ‘we can no longer have the cardinals sequestered on bed cots and curtains between and them and bedpans. It’s not going to work for when I pass away and the next conclave,’” Pittsburgh architect Lou Astorino said.
So now, instead of the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals stay in a modern hotel on the other side of St. Peter’s Basillica called The Doma Sanctae Marthae.
And nestled next to the hotel, in a tiny space, is “The Chapel of the Holy Spirit.”
It is a chapel built by Astorino.
Astorino was involved in building the hotel with the late John Connelly of Station Square and the Gateway Clipper fleet.
And it was during the planning for the hotel when he received a call from the president of the Vatican.
“John and I went to his office, and he said, ‘you know, Astorino, after we have seen your work and who you are and what you’ve done, there’s a little piece of property next to the Doma Sanctae Marthae that needs to have a chapel,’” Astorino said. “’And we would like you to be the sole architect.’ And I said, “Oh my goodness.””
But the piece of land he had to work with was not quite an architect’s dream.
“Oh certainly not,” he said with a laugh.
Astorino says the piece of land is triangular in shape and wedged between the 30 to 40-foot-tall Leonine Wall and the hotel which is five or six stories high.
“I looked at the site and said, you want to put a building here?” He asked. “A chapel no less? But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because that site inspired the design.”
And that design is a series of triangles, symbolic of the trinity – the father, the son and the holy spirit.
And he found a way to use the 1,200-year-old Leonine Wall.
“And put a clear glass wall along one side of the chapel that allows you to look at the Leonine wall,” Astorino said.
The chapel is closed to the public, only visiting clergy who stay the hotel make use of the chapel, as did then-bishop of Pittsburgh Donald Wuerl in 2004.
But now Bishop Wuerl is Cardinal Wuerl and along with 114 cardinals, he will be in the chapel with a Pittsburgh connection every day of the conclave.
“Everyone leaves the hotel and all the cardinals come and they are sequestered in Doma Sanctae Marthae,” Astorino said. “Say mass first thing the in the morning in the chapel, have communion in the chapel, and then go directly to the Sistine Chapel to vote.”