Friday, March 15, 2013

Il Poverello del Vaticano

Cobbled together from what's floating around, a couple more notes on the new Franciscan Style, all of 36 hours in.

Beyond scaling back the pomp surrounding his early morning stop at St Mary Major – where he spent a solid half hour in prayer before the protectress of Rome, the ancient image of the Salus Populi Romani – this morning's La Repubblica reports that the new Pope wanted his retinue to ensure that the basilica would be kept open to the public during his visit.

"I'm a pilgrim, and I just want to be one among the pilgrims" Papa Francesco reportedly said. 

As the paper notes, though, the plea proved futile – while the Vatican spokesman subsequently said that papal security exists for the Pope, not the other way around, Christendom's oldest church dedicated to the Mother of God was kept shut during the visit. Still, Francis did get to greet some of the staff and the confessors of the basilica, whom he urged to "be merciful to souls [who come to you] – they need you."

Meanwhile, in an act that resonates across one of the more fraught lines of the last pontificate, the pontiff wrote quickly to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, inviting Italy's ranking Jewish leader to his Installation Mass on Tuesday and promising "a spirit of renewed collaboration" in light of his "lively hope to contribute to the progress" of relations between the two faiths in the spirit of Nostra Aetate. 

As cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio was said to have enjoyed an extremely warm relationship with Argentina's Jewish community, even to the point of taking part in a interfaith celebration of Hanukkah last year, for which he donned a black yarmulke (hair-clips included) as he helped light a menorah.

And lastly, to use one of Fr Tom Rosica's legion of money-quotes over the course of this transition, "there is the all-important matter of the shoes." 

Indeed, it's already been remarked upon that PF, or F1 – we haven't figured out the shorthand just yet – has not taken up the red or brown kicks of his post-Conciliar predecessors, which were ready in a variety of sizes in the "Room of Tears," but kept to a black set.

Then again, shirking the trappings has seemed to become an early leitmotif of this reign. Beyond turning down the Mercedes, the motorcade and the ermine mozzetta to appear in the simple white house cassock, the new Pope likewise declined to use one of the bejeweled pectoral crosses from the Papal Sacristy that were set out for whoever emerged from the Conclave, choosing to retain the simple silver cross he wore into his election, and his usual, unadorned silver ring with it. (At yesterday's Mass, Francis likewise opted against a miter from the Vatican collection in favor of his preferred one from home – a minimalist headpiece, and notably one trimmed and lined in brown: the traditional color associated with the Franciscans.)
Back to the shoes, though, there's apparently a story to them – Vatican Radio reported that the then-cardinal's friends, seeing that the pair he was wearing "were not in very good shape," bought him a new pair as he prepared to leave for the Conclave. 

So it seems, the barely month-old gift's still being put to good use... just now, in the sight of the world.

His well-defined tastes already having turned parts of the papal apparatus on its head, what's likely to be another telling indicator of Francis' gentle determination to adapt the office to his emphases will come in the final shape of the plans for the St Joseph's Day liturgy marking his "inauguration" as the church's Universal Pastor.

While the basics of the outdoor Mass have essentially remained intact since its 1978 invention to replace the coronations of old, the full details of the Tuesday morning liturgy remain to be released pending the new Pope's sign-off.

And on one final symbolic-yet-substantive note, the pontiff has already taken it on himself to extend the simplicity outward. 

Defying standard Vatican protocol – as the USCCB's eminent Sister Mary Ann Walsh first noted – Papa Bergoglio called on the cardinals to leave their red choir cassocks aside, and instead wear the less-formal black robes under their albs for last night's Sistine Mass. 

Albeit not vested as concelebrants, the request was likewise hewed to by the two archbishops in attendance as the Pope's retinue: the Almoner Guido Pozzo, and the prefect of the Household Georg Gänswein, who remains private secretary to B16.