Rocco has a few observations:
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.”
And then there are the shoes:
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 Radioreported 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.
There’s much more. Check it out.
I was struck by what may be a telling liturgical detail during his first Mass in the Sistine Chapel: eschewing the now-familiar “Benedictine altar,” with candles arrayed atop the altar and partially obscuring the celebrant, Pope Francis chose to have the candles arranged to each side, at an angle, so he could see the cardinals — and they could more clearly see him.
And there’s this: buried at the bottom of the papal schedule for next week, the Vatican notes that Francis has canceled his first General Audience, for Wednesday March 20 — the very day after his installation.
Reason: to meet with delegates of the Eastern rite Churches.
We’re quickly getting a sense of the new pope’s priorities.