On June 1st, an audacious event rocked St. Peter’s Basilica as an unidentified Polish man took drastic measures to highlight the Ukraine conflict. In a shocking act, he stripped down and ascended the main altar, carrying a poignant message inscribed on his back, “Save the children of Ukraine.”
Following this incident, on June 3rd, Archpriest Cardinal Mauro Gambetti conducted a penitential rite to reclaim the sacredness of the iconic religious space. The Cardinal made a profound attempt to interpret the protester’s contentious act, stating, “It is the structure of sin that conditions the hearts and minds of people, fuels wars, and provokes such deplorable gestures.”
Cardinal Gambetti urged the faithful to understand the depths of desperation that can trigger such extreme actions. In his address, he said, “We are here to tell the Lord that we recognize this structure of sin conditions the actions of God’s people. Lord, we ask your forgiveness, purify us.”
The solemn Penitential Rite included chanting the Creed, sprinkling holy water, adorning the altar with a tablecloth, candles, a cross, and flowers, and incensing it. The congregation, led by Cardinal Gambetti, recited the Our Father prayer, concluding the ceremony with a blessing and the reverent Salve Regina.
As per the Code of Canon Law 1211, “Sacred places suffer violation through serious actions carried out within them that scandalize the faithful. Actions which the local ordinary deems so damaging and antithetical to the place’s holiness, that worship cannot proceed until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to liturgical norms.”