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Diocese of Rockville Centre

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The Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci Print E-mail

Titular Bishop of Satafis in Mauretania & Auxiliary to the fourth Bishop of Rockville Centre

Biography 

Peter Anthony Libasci was born November 9, 1951, to the late William and Florence Libasci in Queens, N.Y. He attended St. Margaret School, Middle Village, N.Y., followed by Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, Elmhurst, N.Y. 

Throughout middle school, he helped clean the church on Friday afternoons. He says this is where he began learning about the Liturgy. He also sang for the parish choir. Throughout high school, he was active in the parish leadership program.

Bishop Peter A. LibasciLibasci earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s University, Jamaica, N.Y., and a Master of Divinity degree from St. Meinrad Seminary, St. Meinrad, Ind.

Father Libasci was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on April 1, 1978 by Bishop John R. McGann. He was first assigned to St. Raymond parish, East Rockaway, N.Y., and then to SS Cyril and Methodius parish, Deer Park, N.Y. In 1988, he was assigned to Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, Inwood, N.Y., where he served for 11 years as administrator and then pastor.

Since 1999, Father Libasci has served as pastor of St. Therese of Lisieux parish in Montauk, N.Y. He presided over the construction process of the new church, which was dedicated by Bishop William Murphy on March 31, 2007.

On December 10, 2004, Father Libasci was named Honorary Prelate to His Holiness Pope John Paul II with the title of monsignor.

On April 3, 2007, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI appointed Msgr. Libasci auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He was installed on June 1, 2007 at St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre, N.Y.

Bishop Libasci will assist Bishop Murphy in leadership of the 1.4 million Catholics on Long Island and will serve as Episcopal Vicar, or the Bishop’s representative, for the Eastern Vicariate (Suffolk County). Bishop Libasci is the ninth auxiliary bishop named in the 50-year history of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He will join two active auxiliary bishops, Bishop John C. Dunne, 69, and Bishop Paul H. Walsh, 69. Auxiliary Bishop Emil Wcela retired in April 2007 and Auxiliary Bishop James Daly retired in 1996.

Bishop Libasci will move next month to Southampton, N.Y., where he will reside at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary parish.

Bishop Libasci is bi-ritual and celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Ruthenian Catholic Church.

He has a close relationship with his brother, two sisters, nieces and nephews.

Bishop Libasci celebrated his first Mass as bishop on Saturday, June 2,2007 at 5:00 p.m. at St. Therese of Lisieux parish, Montauk, N.Y.

 

The original Monsignorial design of the Libasci Coat of Arms can be explained as follows:

The base of the shield has been rendered in green representing both Christian charity and the rejuvenation of one’s soul through good works.  Green is also the color of everlasting life and the ordinary time in the Church (thereupon a secondary color of priesthood).  Upon this field appears two charges or emblems.  In the dexter (or left side as one views the shield) there appears a garb, or bundle of wheat, rendered in gold.  Monsignor Libasci’s paternal ancestry is deeply rooted in Sicily where his great-grandfather made his living as a wheat merchant.  This wheat garb stood for the monsignor’s Sicilian roots.  Wheat also represents the Eucharist and the role of the priest in sacred liturgies.  Upon his garb is found a Latin Cross representing Peter Libasci’s canonical standing as presbyter of the Latin Rite.  It has been rendered in blue in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Opposite his Sicilian heritage and Latin Rite standing is found (in the sinister) a pinecone rendered in gold.  This charge represents the Slovakian, maternal heritage of the Monsignor Libasci’s family. 

Initially, (then) Monsignor Peter Libasci desired a Pinus Cembra pine tree indigenous to the Tatra Mountains of his ancestral homeland and known as the Queen of the Tatras, and later he thought perhaps the Pinus Nigra genus would do (as it is also known as the Austrian Black Pine and his ancestral homeland was long a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), but as inclusion of the pine in its true form would not present the balance that ecclesial heraldry requires, the cone from the Cembra species of fir tree was selected in its place.  Upon this pinecone was charged the Eastern Rite, or Byzantine, Cross, also rendered in blue representing both honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary and his role as canonical standing as Presbyteral of the Ruthenian Rite of the Roman Catholic Church.

The bottom of the shield of the monsignorial design was reserved for special reverence and honor to Pope John Paul II.  Here on a field of gold appeared « The Apostolic Rose », a heraldic device specifically created by Heraldic Designer James-Charles Noonan, Jr in honor of the life, vocation and death of John Paul ‘the Great’ (as pope: 1978-2005).  This rose emblem also honors the office of the papacy and all those who came before Benedict XVI, Gloriously Reigning. 

At the top of (then) Monsignor Libasci’s armorial achievement, in the field known heraldically as “the chief,” appeared a gold field on which stood a black raven.  The raven represents the Abbey of Santa Maria in Einsiedeln, the great baroque Benedictine abbey church in Switzerland that holds profound spiritual import for Peter Libasci who was trained by the Benedictine Fathers at the daughter house of Saint Meinrad Abbey in the Mid-Western United States.  The Einsiedeln arms incorporate two ravens in flight and bears the image of the Blessed Virgin and the Child Jesus.  Taking inspiration from this ancient design, the armorial achievement of Monsignor Libasci symbolically incorporated these elements by placing the raven in chief in his arms.  In the earliest design, which the bishop shall now lay aside, the raven represented the abbey and the Benedictine Fathers.  In its talon, or claw, appeared the silver staff of a queen, in this case the Queen of Heaven, and at its tip a blue Fleur de Lys, the emblem of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But as we have seen, Bishop-Elect Libasci desired a more simplified version of the original design, one in keeping with the heraldic traditions of bishops in the United States of America, and as such several adaptation have been made to the original.  It should be noted that the original has not be abrogated, it has, rather, been adapted to reflect customs present in the Office of Bishop to which he has now been called.

 

The Libasci Epicopal Design

The design of the armorial achievement of Bishop Peter Libasci, incorporating original elements in a simplified form, shall therefore be described in the following manner:

The shape of the new shield has been altered to one commonly used by prelates in the Church in America, but ironically, this shape original came to American church heraldry through Italian, in particular, Sicilian armorial and thus indirectly honors the Bishop-Elect’s Sicilian heritage as other emblems did previously.  Liabsci Coat of Arms

There are always lines of division within each coat of arms’ shield.  Each has a particular purpose.  The new episcopal design for Bishop Libasci makes use of a division line that is almost never seen in American heraldry.  It is known as the ‘Pile Enarched’, which is very similar to an exaggerated “V” shape, which originated in Eastern Europe, thus a similar symbolic tribute to that part of the bishop’s ancestry, his Slovak roots.  There is a secondary symbolism to this choice of division within the shield.  When color and metal are added to the design, this “V” form suggests to the viewer of the coat of arms a similarity to a modern Gothic chasuble, the liturgical vestment for both priest and bishop.  This symbolic reference is intended as a tribute to the bishop’s vocation—as both priest and now as bishop of the Catholic Church.

The shield is rendered in real gold, the rarest of metals and the most precious and the metal assigned symbolically to the Petrine Office to which Bishop Libasci is so devoted.  Upon this gold field, split almost from top to bottom by the ‘Pile Enarched’ are two stylized crosses known in heraldry as the Cross Bottony.  These crosses have been rendered in heraldic red, the tincture, or color, representing martyrdom and the Precious Blood in Christian symbolism.   Within each of the red Cross Bottony appears further symbolic references.  On the dexter side (that is to say the side appearing on the left as one views the design) the Cross Bottony has been marked with the Cross of Calvary, the emblem of the Christian Faith, particularly within the Latin Rite.  Its appearance herein is commemorative of Bishop Libasci’s role as priest of the Latin Rite.  In the terminus of the arms of Cross Bottony appears the letters in monogram « I• H• S » the Christological cipher representing the first three letters in the name of JESUS in the Greek alphabet but also said to represent Jesus, of men, the Savior from the Latin: Iesus, Hominum, Salvator.  This monogram is likewise worked in liquid gold, the metal symbolizing the omnipotence of God and His Divine mercy.

In the field opposite this Cross Bottony, that is to say in the Sinister side as one views the design, a second red Bottony Cross appears.  Within it, however, is rendered the Ruthenian Rite Cross in gold along with the Greek Christological monogram « IC• XC » which appears in either side of the terminus of the transverse arm and which translates from the Greek as Christ Conquers All Things.  This charge, or emblem, represents Bishop Libasci’s esteemed bi-ritual standing as a valid priest in the Ruthenian Rite of the Catholic Church.  The two crosses also bring balance to the design which is fundamental to all proper ecclesial and civil heraldry and which the rubrics of Rome demand. 

In the field created by the line of division known as the ‘Pile Enarched,’ the use of the heraldic tincture Vert, or green, was intentionally selected as it was this color that dominated the largest field of the original monsignorial design for Bishop Libasci’s coat of arms and both tradition and the law required that it be retained.  As we have seen, this green represents both Christian charity and the rejuvenation of one’s soul through good works—both aims and responsibilities of members of the clergy, in particular for those in the teaching office of bishop.  Green is also the color of everlasting life and the ordinary time in the Church and as such honors the priesthood in a particular way.  Upon this field, appears the « Apostolic Rose », which was created by James-Charles Noonan, Jr. in the months following the death of Pope John Paul II, Servant of God as a way to honor the late pontiff and to honor the Petrine Office.  Peter A. Libasci was the first priest to ever bear this image in a presbyteral coat of arms and now, as bishop, he shall be the first to ever bear it in an episcopal design.

 

The Apostolic Rose

The Apostolic Rose consists of twelve petals, alternating gold and silver, the colors of the Petrine Office and the Holy See.  The number twelve represents the Twelve Apostles, the select of Christ, actually honoring the original eleven and the one chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.  Six external petals are worked in silver representing light and truth and represent ‘the Truths’ (dogma) as taught by the Magisterium of the Church.  The six internal petals are worked in gold, representing the sacred and the divine; and the sacred post entrusted to the papacy as ‘Vicar of Christ’.  Golden yellow is also the color specifically associated with Saint Peter.  He has always been depicted wearing a mantle of gold cloth representing the majesty of the Petrine Office, which bears his name. 

In place of the standard bud of the heraldic rose is a field of sanguine, or blood red, on which appears the Bark of Saint Peter, a tossed and turned galley of the First Century with one mast and sail representing the journey taken by the first pope from the Holy Land to Rome to establish the See of Rome.  Upon this sail is charged the Petrine Cross, an upside down Latin Cross worked in red.  Red represents the blood of Peter’s martyrdom and the upside down cross his chosen means of crucifixion.  Emanating from the Bark and in between each petal are veins of the sanguine representing the physical martyrdom of so many of the popes of the first centuries of Christianity.  Each vein likewise represents the spiritual and personal sacrifice of every pontiff since.

The designer, James-Charles Noonan, Jr, must specifically grant inclusion of the « Apostolic Rose » in any new design, as this image is closely restricted to those that have demonstrated a staunch fidelity to the papacy and fond loyalty to the memory of the late pontiff.  The original painting of the  « Apostolic Rose » was given to Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, the late pope’s private secretary for more than forty years, and it now hangs in the Jan Pawel II Center in Krakow.  Three other hand painted copies were rendered, one each for Pope Benedict XVI , for Cardinal Angelo Sodano, retired Secretary of State, and one for Monsignor Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki who served as secondary secretary to the late pope and also to the current Holy Father.

 

Motto

In heraldry, a motto has been both a personal philosophy of life as well as a family dictum, and sometimes even a cry for battle.  But in Church heraldry, a cleric’s personal motto has always been intended to represent his personal spirituality and theologically based philosophy of life and is most frequently grounded in Sacred Scripture or in a prominent prayer or litany.

In the original monsignorial coat of arms design of Peter A. Libasci the choice for a motto was scripturally based.  The monsignorial design likewise further honored the (then) monsignor’s maternal ancestry as it was translated into the Slovak language.   The words “I have neither silver nor gold but what I have I give you.  Arise and Walk” can be found in the Acts of the Apostles (3:1-10): ”Now Peter and John went up into the temple at the ninth hour of prayer.  And a certain man who was lame from his mother’s womb was carried:  whom they laid everyday at the gate of the temple, which is called Beautiful, that he might ask alms of those that went into the temple.  He, when he had seen Peter and John, about to enter the temple, asked to receive alms.  But Peter with John fixing his eyes upon him said:  ‘Look upon us.’  But he gazed deeply upon them, hoping that he would receive something from them.  But Peter said—‘I have neither silver nor gold but what I have I give you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  Arise and walk.’”

The first design incorporated the bishop’s choice of a motto from Acts (3:1-10) but rendered it in Slovak appearing as Striebro a zlato nemám ale čo mám to ti dávam, the text traditionally read in the liturgy of the Church on the Wednesday of the Octave of Easter.

As a bishop, the same scriptural passage forms the motto of the new episcopal arms of Peter A. Libasci, but in keeping with his desire to assume a very simple form of episcopal design and to bear a motto readily open to all who see it, not just his Slovak family, the last three words of the original monsignorial motto, Arise and Walk, have been selected by the bishop as his episcopal motto and have now been rendered in English.

 

The Externals

There are external elements to every coat of arms design that must also be explained.  This is also so in ecclesial heraldry.  Surmounting the episcopal shield of a titular bishop is the pilgrim’s hat, the heraldic emblem for all prelates and priests of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church.  For the rank of Bishop, the pilgrim’s hat is always worked in medieval green, the true color of the Office of Bishop.  For this rank and office, there are six tassels suspended on either side in a pyramidal style, also worked in green.  Vatican heraldic law also requires that the interior of each class of galero be rendered in blood red as a reminder to each priest and prelate of the martyrdom of so many of the earliest popes, bishops, and priests.  The bishop’s galero color differs from that in the new bishop’s original coat of arms design, where the hat was then worked in black, the true color of the priesthood, while the tassels and cords were worked in violet of the honorary prelature, which the rubrics require for the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness.

This hat is properly known as the galero and the tassels take the name fiocchi. 

Heraldic law regarding the Office of Bishop requires that the episcopal, or processional, cross appear behind and above the shield and below the galero of each residential and titular bishop.  It is the custom of the heraldic designer, James-Charles Noonan, Jr., to create a newly designed cross for each new bishop named, each processional cross linked to the symbolism of the prelate named.  The episcopal cross incorporated into the Peter A. Libasci coat of arms has been entitled the « Petrine Cross », which is rendered in gold, once more representing divine sovereignty.    It is so called as the cross incorporates elements traditionally associated with the life and apostolate of the first pope, Peter of Bethsaida, who is Bishop-Elect Libasci’s patron saint.

First amongst these Petrine symbolic emblems are wards of the keys of the Kingdom, the handle of the renaissance style key, that appear at the terminus of each arm of the Petrine Cross.  Although there are three displayed on this cross, (while only two keys are incorporated into the Petrine imagery), the ward at each terminus of the cross actually represents the gift of the powers given Saint Peter by Christ rather than the actual number of keys presented by Christ.  Within each ward is found a Roman Cross representing the See of Rome. 

The center of the cross bears a cabochon ruby worked in the deepest blood red.  This is the stone traditionally associated with martyrdom, especially the martyrdom of the first pope and so many of the popes that followed him.    The setting for the ruby of martyrdom is worked in the golden links of a chain to commemorate Saint Peter’s imprisonment prior to his reverse crucifixion in c. A.D. 64.

Mention has been made in this history to the institution known as the Papal Chapel because of Bishop Libasci’s earlier admittance into this body as a Chaplain of His Holiness.  As a Titular Bishop and Auxiliary to the Residential Bishop of Rockville Centre Bishop Libasci continues to formally belong to this papal institution and thus its history and the history of the title of Chaplain of His Holiness may be of interest to those that gather to honor him on the day of his consecration.  Thus an explanation is herein provided for both:

 

The Papal Chapel

The Papal Chapel, known properly as the Cappella Papale, comprises the most senior staff of church dignitaries resident at the Holy See as well as those officials posted to the Roman Curia and certain clerics throughout the world elevated by title to the privilege.   These officials are honored to assist at the great pontifical functions.  Those enjoying this privilege include all members of the Sacred College of Cardinals, the Patriarchs of East and West, the Major Archbishops, Archbishops, Bishops, certain Abbots and Prelates, and members of all the monsignorial classes (the Protonotaries apostolic de numero and supranumerary, Prelates of Honor of His Holiness, and the Chaplains of His Holiness).  Also included in this privileged group are the Prelates of the Roman Rota and Apostolic Signatura, Assistants to the Papal Throne (lay and ecclesial), officials of the Papal Household, and officers of the Pontifical Swiss Guard and all familiars of the reigning pontiff (the pope’s personal household staff).

The original Papal Chapels (i.e. formal liturgical gatherings in the presence of the pope) took place at the Lateran.  It was here that the popes resided for nearly a millennium.  When the papacy sought refuge at Avignon, the Papal Chapel re-assembled there as well and when the papacy finally returned to Rome, it followed, once more residing at the Lateran.  For several centuries the papacy resided at the Quirinale Palace, now the home of the Presidency of Italy and for many years the pre-eminent papal residence.  After the fall of the Papal States and the reunification of Italy under the House of Savoy in 1870, the popes sought refuge at the Vatican, which had until this time served merely as an occasional retreat and as the repository of the vast wealth and collections of the Petrine Office.

Finally established at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Pope Pius IX (and his immediate successor Leo XIII) transferred the ceremonial of the papacy to the Vatican as well.  The Papal Chapel thereafter was permanently seated in the Pauline Chapel although nearly all of its gatherings took place in either the adjoining Sistine Chapel or within the Vatican Basilica downstairs.

 

Chaplains of His Holiness

The office of Chaplain of His Holiness was created by Pauline motu proprio decree in 1968 to replace a collection of ceremonial clerics appointed to the Papal Court beginning in the Renaissance.  It is currently the first grade awarded to honorary prelates bearing the title of monsignor, serving either in the Roman Curia, the Vatican Diplomatic Service or in Diocesan priesthood.  Prior to the modifications to the Papal Court made in 1968, this class of monsignors were known as Chamberlains of His Holiness and belonged to one of several classifications depending upon the role they served within the Church.

The Chamberlains of His Holiness were once accorded the honorific style of “Very Reverend Monsignor” but they also lost their title, rank, and privileges at the moment of death of the pontiff who had created them.  Traditionally, the succeeding pope renonimated them in post.  Every once and a while, a Chamberlain of His Holiness lost and regained his position numerous times as popes in past ages tended not to reign too long.