On November 11, after the general audience, Pope Francis received a basket of products from the Cervia, Italy, salt works, donated by the municipality.
The mayor of Cervia, in Emilia-Romagna, accompanied by Fr. Pierre-Laurent Cabantous, parish priest of the city’s cathedral, a representative of the saltworks, and some pilgrims, were to have met Pope Francis after the general audience to hand over in person Cervia salt, a salt known to be sweet and complete.
Due to sanitary constraints, unable to travel, they “sent a ‘panira’ (food basket) to the pope, as tradition dictates,” Fr. Cabantous told the I.Media agency.
This tradition dates back to the 15th century, when Cervia, a town next to Ravenna in Italy on the Adriatic Sea, was part of the Papal States. The salt of Cervia was then, properly speaking, “the salt of the pope.”
When he was appointed Bishop of Cervia in 1444, Cardinal Pietro Barbo offered a “flower of salt” to Pope Eugene IV, his maternal uncle. Elected pope in turn in 1464, Cardinal Barbo, who became Paul II, insisted that the tradition be maintained.
Since then, every year Cervia has sent salt to the Vatican and distributed it to all the parishes of Rome.
In 1870, the tradition was interrupted along with diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the nascent Kingdom of Italy. In 2003, Bishop Mario Marini, then at the Vatican Secretariat of Worship, brought the tradition up to date, under the pontificate of John Paul II.
Although Cervia is no longer a papal state, “it was the salt of the pope and remains so,” says the parish priest of Cervia.