5. 00 A.M.
PALACE OF HOLY OFFICE, ROME
The College of Cardinals sat down on the cushions that were arranged in neat four rows. Some of the cardinals are fingering their rosary, while some others occupy themselves with silent meditation and prayer.
The expansive chapel of the Holy Office was gracefully designed with frescoes depicting scenes from the Old Testament on its vaulted ceiling. The walls were awash with lush mosaics with lurid details depicting the twelve apostles, each represented with his symbol of apostleship. A gold chandelier, which was ornately designed with lapis lazuli gems and glass, held over 50 scented candles whose reflection on the gems gave the chapel a peaceful aura and a prayerful atmosphere. Stained glasses served as louvers and separated the vaulted ceiling from the stucco walls.
In front of the chapel is an ivory life-size crucifix and the ‘INRI’ sign above is engraved in gold.
Fredrick Cardinal Bernozio stood up and quietly walked to the Cardinal Dean, Joseph Cardinal Franzio.
“A moment, please,” he whispered.
“The Holy Father is yet to arrive for the divine office. I wonder if something is wrong,” Cardinal Bernozio said in an exasperated voice when they got to the adjoining corridor.
The septuagenarian Cardinal Dean shrugged.
“I’ve been worried myself. The whole cardinals are almost becoming impatient.”
“I wonder what the Curia would think of this. They have always been on his neck endlessly for incompetence.”
“Leave the Roman Curia out of this, brother,” he said with a shrug.
“Why not contact the Chief of the Swiss Guards?”
“I thought about it. I just hope it’s not something serious. It gives room for serious concern. Papa Georgia is never late to any function,” he paused as a Swiss Guard rounded a corner and came into view. Their attention turned towards him.
“Morning, my Lords,” he greeted, kneeling in reverence.
“Any news?” they asked.
“The Holy Father wants to see you, my Lord, the Cardinal Dean.”
“Myself? I hope all is well?”
“Si, grazia a Dio. He demands urgent attention, my Lord.”
“I’ll be there right away, Dio vi benedica,” he said, making the sign of the cross.
“Thank you so much, my Lord,” he said and briskly walked away.
“Obviously, neither you nor the Pope would be present for this morning’s divine office,” Cardinal Bernozio said.
“I suggest you go on with it, let me run along and know why the Holy Father is seeking my attention.”
“With all pleasure, brother,” he said and made his way back to the chapel.