Here on WDTPRS we had a POLL about whether or not the sedia gestatoria should be revived for the sake of the security of the person of the Roman Pontiff, at least in the Basilica of St. Peter.
1190 69% of all votes
539 31% of all votes
Total Votes: 1729
People posted interesting comments with arguments for and against the revival of the sedia.
I find today on the site of the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, that there is an article arguing in favor of the revival of the sedia gestatoria for the sake of security. The writer is a security consultant.
My emphases and comments and with my edits:
The sedia gestatoria would protect the Pope
Security expert Dominic Scarborough urges the Vatican to draw on tradition to prevent a repeat of the Midnight Mass attack on Benedict XVI
8 January 2010
One only has to look at old black and white footage of pontiffs prior to Paul VI to see how popes always used to enter the basilica being carried shoulder high in the sedia gestatoria. Not only that, but there was always a throng of people around the chair, not only the actual bearers but numerous chamberlains and nobility and a large number of guards: Swiss Guards, uniformed Gendarmes, the Palatine Guard and Noble Guard. These comprised the old papal court which Pope Paul VI abolished and which formed a kind of buffer zone between the Pope and the crowds, no doubt as much a practical defence measure as a piece of ceremony. [That was one of my own arguments in favor.]
The use of the sedia continued until very recently and many are unaware that the last pope to use the sedia was actually Pope John Paul I. While the abolition of this ancient form of transport may have since been considered appropriate in the context of the late 20th century and the need to democratise the appearance of papal ceremonies, [This was part of an argument used by those against the revival.] the reality has left the Pope an isolated and vulnerable figure separated from the deacons ahead and the MCs behind, one who appears all too often like the figure in the Third Secret of Fatima: a victim walking alone simply waiting to be attacked.
While there are bound to be some who would see the return of the sedia as yet another example of this Pope "turning the clock back", [specious] in fact not only would it save an elderly man’s tired legs but it would allow more of the crowd to see him. [A classic argument in favor.] Most importantly, it would actually insulate him from the kind of physical assault we saw at Christmas by virtue of the mob of people surrounding it (who could these days be swelled by Swiss Guards and the gendarme officers in suitably formal garb) to work alongside the suited officers at the perimeter.
Naturally, the risk of attack from a gunman or explosive device would still be present and indeed potentially magnified by the sedia [Some against raised this.] but the use of X-ray machines at the entrance to the basilica and physical searches of congregants should by now be mandatory at such events to confront these risks which are no more heightened by the Pope presiding at Mass from an elevated platform, as he does, than from being carried in a chair. [Exactly.]
It was being reported earlier in the year on several Catholic blogs that the Vatican was actively considering a return for the sedia gestatoria for ceremonies in St Peter’s, more because of the Pope’s age than as a protection against attack. Perhaps the latest incident will persuade them that what tradition hands down frequently has a practical origin beyond merely the visually impressive spectacle that to sceptical modern eyes it had appeared to have become.
Dominic Scarborough is a regular commentator in the press and internet on Catholic affairs. His company, Proteus Risk, advises companies on security issues
For the record, I am in favor of the use of the sedia gestatoria, not for any sort of triumphalism, but rather because a) it is really hard to see the Pope when he enters in the Basilica and b) it would create a buffer zone of strong and well-prepared men around him.