by Margaux Salcedo
photos from Msgr. Jan T. Limchua
as first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer
Today is the 40th day since the passing of my mom, Carmelita ‘Baby’ Vargas Salcedo. I would just like to shout out a huge thank you to all who condoled with us, went to the wake, sent flowers and other expressions of sympathy, offered masses and prayed. We would especially like to thank our Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown and Jesuit Provincial Superior Fr. Jun Viray who not only officiated the funeral mass but walked with us for the funeral procession, as well as all the priests who presided the daily masses and came to bless mom, especially Fr. Benny Tuazon, who also lost his own mother a few days later. We are forever grateful to all of you. We pass on this love as we continue to pray for all the souls of the faithful departed.
Speaking of our Apostolic Nuncio, we also remember Pope Francis as tomorrow, March 13, is the 10th anniversary of His Holiness! (It has been 10 years since the Inquirer historically became the only daily to correctly headline his election, thanks to our very diligent and faithful former editor in chief, the late but forever lovely Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, as the Habemus papam declaration came in the evening Rome time, therefore past midnight Manila time.)
Pope Francis has been an excellent, blessed choice, known for keeping it real; he refused to live in the Apostolic Palace and instead has chosen to live in Domus Santa Marta, which was built as a guest house for visiting cardinals. He refused the ermine-trimmed red velvet mozzetta, gold pectoral cross and red shoes prepared for him when he became pope. He instead wears his simple silver cross and simple black shoes. And most of all, he has passionately fought to save Mother Earth, urging nations to act and address climate change.
Poultry chickens feeding on leftover communion wafers.
The Holy Farm
His Holiness published an entire encyclical on caring for the earth, entitled “Laudato Si,” and spoke at the United Nations General Assembly to make a statement on the “right of the environment” which, he argued, mankind does not have the authority to abuse. In a June 2014 address to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Pope Francis also emphasized that the world must do more to help small-scale farmers, “I appreciate and encourage the efforts of the international community to enable each country to implement the necessary mechanisms to achieve food autonomy, whether through new models of development and consumption or through forms of community organization that preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity.”
Practicing what he preaches, he has supported the farm at the Pontifical Palace in Castel Gandolfo, on the shores of Lake Albano, a 40-minute drive from the center of Rome that serves as the Vatican retreat house. The farm was actually built between 1929 and 1934 by Pope Pius XI. It has fruit and olive orchards, vineyards, hayfields, vegetable patches, aromatic herbs, flower beds and plants that are even used to decorate the papal apartments and meeting rooms in the Vatican.
The farm itself still operates using the agricultural methods of Pope Pius XI’s time and actually produces Pope Francis’ daily menu of hand-made cheeses, milk, eggs and yogurt, which are made fresh daily and put in a basket that is sent to the Vatican. The Pope has also reportedly requested for broccoli and cauliflower. The farm also produces olive oil of high quality from the over 1,000 olive trees at the property and this is distributed to officials who live in the Vatican.
The farm also has chickens that supposedly feed on the remnants of communion wafers made by nuns who live in the property. The 62-acre farm also has free-range hens, ostriches, turkeys, rabbits and cows.
The Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo has its own farm.
Borgo Laudato Si
The papal property at Castel Gandolfo will now also be home of a new scientific and educational center dedicated to promoting integral ecology, sustainability and a circular and generative economy.
Just last February, Pope Francis established the new Laudato Si’ Center for Higher Education “to make a tangible contribution to the development of ecological education by opening a new space for training and raising awareness.” Its papal mandate focuses on developing specific projects that foster people’s holistic development and that promote education and training in economic and environmental sustainability, inspired by the principles in Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.
The initiative is called the “Borgo Laudato Si project,” which aims to combine training in integral ecology, circular and generative economy, and environmental sustainability, and to actively seek ways to involve young people and those who are marginalized as well as the general public.
According to the chirograph or the papal document establishing it, the center will be “placed under [the Pope’s] personal attention,” and managed and run by its own governing bodies and staff.
Beyond research and education, the center’s activities also can include cultural events, hospitality and food services, utilizing traditional and advanced agricultural methods, and continuing the papal farm’s activities such as producing dairy products. The general public will also be allowed to visit to highlight “the natural, cultural and scientific patrimony” of the papal property, according to its statutes.
Laudato Si Movement
It was Pope Francis who opened the grounds of the Pontifical Palace of Castel Gandolfo to the public in 2015. Previously off-limits to all but the most well-connected of horticulture enthusiasts, the Vatican has now made 90-minute guided group tours available to all in several languages, English included.
As we celebrate Pope Francis’ 10th year as Pope, may his passionate care for our Mother Earth resonate, reverberate and inspire all of us!
Happy 10th Anniversary, Pope Francis! We pray for you always!