Was Pope Francis ‘anointed’ today? (UPDATED)

Was Pope Francis ‘anointed’ today? (UPDATED) March 19, 2013

The New York Times has run, at last count, 10 pieces in the past six days bringing up the allegations that the new Pope assisted the old Argentine junta in the “Dirty War” period. Which is quite a lot for a story based on hearsay and supposition as opposed to evidence, no?

You can read George Conger’s post about other media outlets pushing the story.

Pope Francis was installed earlier today during a mass that received quite a bit of media interest.

One reader noted something about a CNN story on the matter. Here’s the relevant portion:

The Vatican geared up for the inauguration of the pope on Tuesday, a ceremony ushering in a new era for the Roman Catholic Church.

Anticipation mounted among the faithful across the globe awaiting a joyous and solemn chapter of Christian history. St. Peter’s Square will bustle with tourists, locals and pilgrims during the official Mass to install Francis as the bishop of Rome.

The choice of day to anoint him as the holy father of the Roman Catholic Church carries a rich symbolism: It is the day that Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph to honor Jesus’ father on Earth, the carpenter Joseph. It also happens to be Father’s Day in Italy.

So is it right to say that today he was “anointed” as the holy father of the Roman Catholic Church? Anointed has a few definitions. Let’s look at the Merriam-Webster offerings:

1: to smear or rub with oil or an oily substance
a :to apply oil to as a sacred rite especially for consecration
b : to choose by or as if by divine election; also : to designate as if by a ritual anointment

From the reader:

OK, maybe, just maybe, they’re using the word “anoint” figuratively, but it does get used literally in the Catholic setting. Priests are anointed with oil on their hands and bishops are anointed with oil on their heads. Pope Francis will not be anointed at all because he’s already a bishop. He became the Bishop of Rome once he uttered the words, “I accept.” That was it. As has already been discussed, this Mass will only be a formal and public starting point for his pontificate, but nothing more.

Most media outlets are using the term “install” for what occurred today. That seems a wise choice. Did you see any particularly good or bad coverage of the installation or new pope?

UPDATE: Not so fast, fine readers! The inimitable Ann Rodgers comments:

Actually the Vatican is quite vociferous about saying that the word is NOT “Install.” He was installed as pope the moment he said “yes” to his election. The Mass was an “inaugural” Mass for his ministry, in which he was presented with the symbols of his office. But he’s been in that office for almost a week.

Inaugurate away.

Anointing oil picture via Shutterstock.

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13 responses to “Was Pope Francis ‘anointed’ today? (UPDATED)”

  1. The pope is NOT anointed. He receives the Pallium and the “Fisherman’s Ring.” If any journalist would actually bother to take a look at the entire service provided at Vatican.va he or she would know this.

  2. “Install” seems the appropriate word, as he is taking his seat as Bishop of Rome. But then surely it should be in the Lateran?

    • Pope Francis takes possession of his diocese as Bishop of Rome later when he will celebrates Mass and take possession of the diocese at St. John Lateran Basilica, the “cathedral” of the diocese; St. Peter’s Basilica is the seat of the Catholic Church but not that of the Diocese of Rome. There are two separate actions: he is “installed” as Pope when he accepts his election and inaugurates his Petrine ministry (as he himself stated so well in his homily yesterday) with the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica; at a later date he takes possession and is “installed” as Bisop of Rome in a ceremony at St. John Lateran Basilica. But this important nuance seems too complicated for most journalists.

  3. A Catholic blog used anointed: Pope Francis — God’s Anointed http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=766454 Then there’s http://catholicradiodramas.com/saints/h-j/jerusalem-catecheses/anointing-with-the-holy-spirit/

    An NPR blog used inaugurated: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/03/19/174713672/for-pope-francis-a-simple-mass-and-a-call-to-protect-the-poor

    I’ll let others debate semantics and the best word, but from what I’ve found, I can see decent arguments for use of all the words if used properly.

    • The use of “anointed” in the blog is a theological reference, not a reference to what happened at the Mass.

      Now I did not read the piece, but if they’re claiming that there’s some special anointing by the Holy Spirit for the Pope, that’s getting a bit out there. There is, as far as I know, no teaching of the Church and no one in authority who claims that the Holy Spirit gives a special charism or grace to the Pope as the Bishop of Rome, since he is already a bishop and has received the fullness of orders. This, of course, is outside of the time that he pronounces on a matter of faith or morals, in union with the bishops of the world in communion with him, ex cathedra, or from his chair, which is the only time that infallibility is invoked, and which has only happened twice since the dogma of infallibility was proclaimed in the mid-19th century.

      So no, “anointing” is not the word to be used.

  4. Good or bad coverage? You decide which category this falls under 🙂

    Apparently, some journo (Matt Lee, Associated Press – who is he?) thought it would be a wizard wheeze to ask the State Department at the daily press briefing “Does the United States regard the election of the Pope to – that election to have met international standards for the election of a world leader?”

    And since the State Department spokesperson has to be reasonably polite to the press, she didn’t tell him to stop wasting her time. No, in fact, the next day she even had sort of an answer for him:

    “QUESTION: Vatican.

    MS. NULAND: What about the Vatican?

    QUESTION: Well, do you regard it as a free and fair exercise in electing a leader of a country?

    MS. NULAND: We did a little bit more digging on this. We consider Vatican City a sovereign juridical state. As some of you know – I think Matt knows – that sovereign juridical state has about 600 resident citizens. I would simply note that in the context of the election for the Pope, they were electing the head of a religion. He’s also the head of this sovereign juridical state.

    It’s interesting to us that since this is a European state, we have never had a request for ODIHR monitoring of the election, ODIHR being the election-monitoring entity in the European space. So, obviously, were that to come forward, we would take it very seriously.

    QUESTION: So, wait, who requests that?

    MS. NULAND: The – it can be requested by citizens. It can be requested by parliament. It can be requested by the opposition, as it was in the case of Belarus.

    QUESTION: So if – (laughter) – such a request was made, would – the Vatican would have to open up its voting process for that kind of state?

    MS. NULAND: If such a request were made for ODIHR monitoring of the voting, then the Vatican would have to consider whether it would open itself to ODIHR monitors.

    QUESTION: Okay. But – all right. That’s very interesting. Now —

    MS. NULAND: And as I said yesterday —

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS. NULAND: — we would – if you wanted to be a monitor, we could see if we could arrange it, Matt. (Laughter.)

    QUESTION: That would be great. I would love to spend a week or two in Rome.

    MS. NULAND: Exactly.

    QUESTION: But – what – now – but that —

    QUESTION: Can women be monitors?

    MS. NULAND: Say again?

    QUESTION: Can women be monitors?

    MS. NULAND: In the Vatican City context, I don’t know. We’d have to work on that. Jill, do you want to monitor?

    QUESTION: So this just brings me —

    MS. NULAND: Jill’s volunteering, too. We could have a whole roomful of monitors.

    QUESTION: Yes.

    QUESTION: Is it then correct that the U.S. does not take a position on whether the election of the Pope was free and fair and transparent?

    MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday —

    QUESTION: Without universal suffrage, without —

    MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, we don’t have any reason to question the process.

    Thank you very much.

    QUESTION: Thank you.”

    Ms. Nuland was treating this humorously, but I’m half-afraid our intrepid investigative reporter is or may be serious! Watch out, Southern Baptist Convention – U.N. monitors for your next election of a president? And honestly, does Mr. Lee not know the difference between the head of state and the head of a religion, or that some heads of state are not elected directly by the population, e.g. the Captains Regent of San Marino, who are nominated by the Grand Council, or not elected at all, e.g. Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Head of State of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms?


  5. Actually the Vatican is quite vociferous about saying that the word is NOT “Install.” He was installed as pope the moment he said “yes” to his election. The Mass was an “inaugural” Mass for his ministry, in which he was presented with the symbols of his office. But he’s been in that office for almost a week.

  6. True Will, to answer your question: The inauguration today of the “Petrine ministry” of Pope Francis, since it includes bishops, clergy and pilgrims from all over the world, as well as many world leaders, and leaders of other religions, is intended as an inauguration of his role (his “service” as he said) in regard to the Catholics of the world, and the world at large. In his role as bishop of Rome, he will, sometime in the next couple of weeks, take possession of his cathedra at St. John Lateran, just as all diocesan bishops do after they’re appointed. This is the normal custom for a Pope.

  7. I still don’t see it. The Episcopalians (or do I mean “Episcopals”? ) do not eschew announcing the “Installation” of the new ordinary (or indeed, rector) because he has already been elected.

  8. Will, since an Anglican/Episcopalian bishop or rector does not claim to be THE vicar of Christ on earth (even in the UK where he might be called a vicar), precise language may not be as crucial.
    But the point here is, surely, that Roman Catholic events should be described by competent journalists in terms that reflect Roman Catholic self-understanding, not terms that reflect some other church’s understanding and practice.

  9. If anybody is still reading: Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, but he did not become President until his Inaugural event where he was sworn in and installed as President. On the other hand, Elizabeth II became Queen when her father died, but was formally crowned and consecrated later – there is no interregnum.

    In the Catholic Church, a man becomes a bishop when he is designated on an official document signed by the Pope, although that is subject to the acceptance of his people. I have been at 3 installations of bishops. The local priests inspect the paperwork and accept that it is not a forgery and this document is then held up for the people who show their acceptance by clapping. With the election of a Pope, the Cardinals were physically present at the election representing the clergy of Rome (that’s why each of them have a titular church in and around the city of Rome) and the Pope actually goes out on the balcony to be accepted or not by the people of Rome – it isn’t just a photo op. That is why Francis kept referring to himself as the Bishop of Rome during that first short speech to the gathered people who were approving him as their bishop with their joyous welcome.

    BTW Nobody noticed that Francis told the folks to go home and have a nice dinner much like John XXII is famous for telling the people of Rome to go home and hug their children. Very nice homey touches that Romans love.

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