Friday, March 22, 2013

Il "Giardino" del Papa – Friday In the "Garden" With Francis

Continuing his outreach into his new world, the Pope started this last Friday of Lent by celebrating a quiet Mass for the employees of the Vatican's gardening and sanitation services in the chapel of the Domus Sancta Marthae, the Vatican guest-house where he's remained since his election.

The simple rite moved the 30 or so in attendance – "we're the invisible ones," one worker told Vatican Radio, noting that his colleagues "were all teary-eyed" when he looked around the room.

Giving his homily off-the-cuff while standing at the chapel's ambo, Francis – who didn't use a miter for the liturgy – spoke of the day's Gospel, which recounted the attempted stoning of Jesus.

According to the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, the Pope said that "if we have a closed heart, we have a heart of stone... and we go on to stone Jesus Christ in the person of our brothers and sisters, especially the neediest."

Following the Mass, the Pope took a moment of private prayer at the rear of the chapel (above) before greeting his congregation individually at the door (photos). Lombardi added that the Mass was the second of its kind; yesterday, Francis celebrated his morning Eucharist with the employees of the Domus.

Even following his election, the new pontiff has reportedly been using the airy modern chapel of the "Conclave hotel" for his daily meditation regardless of whether others are present. Said to be in the habit of waking before 5am, Papa Bergoglio starts his day with some two hours of quiet reflection before Mass.

While Francis started receiving official visitors in the study of the Papal Apartment in the Apostolic Palace on Wednesday, he seems to be cool to the secluded top-floor suite, of which he reputedly said on his first tour that it "has enough room for 300 people."

In any event, the low-key liturgy managed to wrest the spotlight from what was supposed to be the marquee item of the new Pope's day – his inaugural address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, who now hail from over 180 countries.

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Before veering into his first Holy Week with Palm Sunday's outdoor Mass, the Pope will mark ten days since his election tomorrow with an unprecedented moment as he spends the afternoon making a heavily-anticipated visit to his predecessor, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. 

Francis is slated to leave for Castel Gandolfo by helicopter at noon. On arriving at the Alban villa that serves as the Pope's "Camp David" – B16's temporary digs until his new home in the Vatican Gardens is finished, likely in May – he'll share lunch with the retired pontiff and linger through the afternoon.

Since arriving at Castel hours before his resignation took effect, Joseph Ratzinger has only been spotted once, in a long-distance shot taken by paparazzi as he strolled through the residence's gardens.

As scheduling goes, the Pope's return-time to the Vatican has not been announced – in deference to the historic nature of the encounter, photos are expected.

PHOTOS: FotoVat(1); Reuters(2)