Installing a new pope
Every time a new Pope is elected, there's a whole lot of rituals and ceremonies that have to be gone through, in accordance with tradition. Well, there's one tradition that very few people know about.
Shortly after the new Pope is enthroned, the Chief Rabbi seeks an audience. He is shown into the Pope's presence, whereupon he presents him with a silver tray bearing a velvet cushion. On top of the cushion is an ancient, shriveled parchment envelope.
The Pope symbolically stretches out his arm in a gesture of rejection.
The Chief Rabbi then retires, taking the envelope with him and does not return until the next Pope is elected. John Paul II was intrigued by this ritual, whose origins were unknown to him. He instructed the best scholars of the Vatican to research it, but they came up with nothing. When the time came and the Chief Rabbi was shown into his presence, he faithfully enacted the ritual rejection but, as the Chief Rabbi turned to leave, he called him back.
"My brother," the Holy Father whispered, "I must confess that we Catholics are ignorant of the meaning of this ritual enacted for centuries between us and you, the representative of the Jewish people. I have to ask you, what is it all about?"
The Chief Rabbi shrugs and replies: "But we have no more idea than you do. The origin of the ceremony is lost in the traditions of ancient history."
The Pope said: "Let us retire to my private chambers and enjoy a glass of wine together, then, with your agreement, we shall open the envelope and discover at last the secret."
The Chief Rabbi agreed.
Fortified in their resolve by the wine, they gingerly pried open the curling parchment envelope and with trembling fingers, the Chief Rabbi reached inside and extracted a folded sheet of similarly ancient paper. As the Pope peered over his shoulder, he slowly opened it.
They both gasped with shock.
It was the check for the Last Supper.
This page was last updated October 1, 1999.