Act of reparation performed on altar of St. Peter’s Basilica

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St. Peter's Basilica altar
Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, uses incense to bless the main altar in the basilica June 3, 2023, as part of an act of reparation after a man climbed on the altar naked. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, celebrated a penitential rite at the basilica’s main altar June 3 after a man climbed up on it naked before being apprehended.

The man, a Polish citizen, had written on his bare back “Save children of Ukraine.”

He had climbed up on the altar June 1 shortly before the basilica closed for the day to visitors and tourists, many of whom took photos they shared on social media.

The basilica’s ushers said the man, who was in an altered emotional state, did not resist when they forced him down and told him to put his clothes back on.

Vatican police handed him over to Italian state police who issued an expulsion order, forcing him to leave the country, Vatican News reported June 3.

Although his act was not considered an act of desecration, it did prompt officials to plan the penitential service as an act of reparation.

Cardinal Gambetti and the priests belonging to the basilica’s chapter recited the prayers at midday June 3, blessing the altar with holy water and with incense.

The altar is built over the place where, according to tradition, the Apostle Peter is buried. Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s massive, sculpted canopy, called a baldachin, rises above the altar.

Cindy Wooden

Cindy Wooden is a journalist with Catholic News Service.