Monday, March 18, 2013

On "Launch" Eve, Rings and Arms

This afternoon, the Holy See formally rolled out Pope Francis' coat of arms – a design that, yet again, adapts the papacy to its new occupant, not the other way around.

Reflecting the simplicity for which the 266th bishop of Rome has already become rather renowned, Jorge Bergoglio chose three charges for himself on his 1992 appointment as an auxiliary of Buenos Aires: the sun marked with the Holy Name of Jesus, the historic symbol of his Jesuit community; a star for the Madonna, and a "nard flower" representing St Joseph, on whose feast he'll liturgically launch his ministry as Roman pontiff. 

The background is blue – the color traditionally affiliated with Mary – reflecting Francis' intense devotion to her, something evidenced in Rome early on the morning after his election, but one rooted at home under the mantle of Argentina's patroness, the Madonna de Luján, a Virgin cloaked in blue.

Taken from an 8th century homily on the call of St Matthew, Papa Bergoglio's mottoMiserando atque eligendo: "Lowly and yet chosen" – likewise remains the same, and the striped miter introduced by B16 to replace the tiara has been retained. 

The keeping of a new Pope's personal shield following his election maintains the practice of recent pontiffs.

Meanwhile, the focus turns to tomorrow's "grand opening" for the new Petrine ministry. English translations included, the "libretto"/worship aid for the rites is posted as a mega-pdf, and at today's briefing it was revealed that – in keeping with the now-scripted investiture of the Pope with a "Fisherman's Ring" – Francis has chosen not to receive a new model, but one (above) initially designed for and held by the late Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, the longtime private secretary to Venerable Paul VI. 

While Paul's well-remembered affinity for modern art is echoed in the pewter pectoral cross Francis has continued to use following his election – and now, a ring to go with it – it's just as conspicuous that Macchi was born in Varese, a Lombard town bordering Italy's Piemonte region, the ancestral home-turf of the Bergoglios.

Though the Mass itself begins at 9.30 Rome (4.30am ET), clad in just the white cassock, Francis will tour around the crowd – expected to run as high as a million – in the Popemobile starting at or near 8.45am, returning to the basilica sacristy to vest before the liturgy begins.

Among other notable touches decided by the first Pope Francis, the superiors-general of both the Franciscans and the Jesuits will be concelebrants of the Mass alongside the cardinals, and the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in communion with Rome. 

Speaking of which, last night – hours after stunning the operator at his community's Borgo Santo Spirito headquarters with an unexpected phone-call – Francis met with Fr Adolfo Nicolás... that is, the first-ever Jesuit pontiff received the "Black Pope."