CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Monsignor Edward Sadie unveiled a sign of the times Thursday when he pulled the cloth off a sign above the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart's front doors.
The purple cloth that covered a sign reading "Sede Vacante" -- which means "chair is empty" in Latin -- was removed at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Sadie chose the time to coincide with the time Pope Benedict XVI officially became the pope emeritus of the Roman Catholic Church, after becoming the first pope in 600 years to resign the office.
After he descended the steep ladder leading to the sign, Sadie led the fifth-grade Sacred Heart Grade School students gathered on the sidewalk in prayer for the Catholic cardinals tasked with electing a new pope. The sign will remain in place until the new pope is chosen.
Sadie commissioned local artist Cathy Dery to make the sign shortly before the death of the last pope, John Paul II, in 2005.
"I did it before he died to have it ready, knowing that we all have to die sometime," Sadie said. The sign hung at Sacred Heart for the 17-day interim until Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI.
Banners and signs reading "Sede Vacante" hang now in Rome, but the practice is not common in the United States. Sadie hung the sign because he wanted to commemorate Sacred Heart's ties to Pope Benedict XVI, who granted Sadie and the church special honors during his papacy.
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Sadie to the rank of monsignor. In 2007, he designated Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral the title of Diocesan Shrine of Santo Nino. In 2009, he elevated the church to the rank of a minor basilica, one of about 60 in the United States.
"Those are all distinct honors," said Sadie. "It's a symbolic gesture recognizing our connection to the pope. I like to talk about our Roman connection,"
The time between a pope's death or resignation and the election of a new one is referred to as Interregnum, meaning "between reigns," and is represented by a distinct seal. Dery included the sea -- which features an umbraculum or canopy, one of which is displayed in Sacred Heart's sanctuary -- on the sign.
"That symbol will be visible on this church during the interregnum. I hope it will remind people to spend time in prayer for the Cardinals who will be charged with the responsibility of choosing a new pope," Sadie said. He said he hopes people of all faiths in the area will pray for the selection of a pope who will be a unifying force.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.