Today Pope Francis, on the first day after his election, did four remarkable things, and did not do a fifth.
1. Mary. At about 8 a.m., he slipped out of the Vatican in a single, unmarked black car — a Volkswagen, not a Mercedes — without an escort, and drove across Rome to the Basilica of St. Mary Major (painting, below), the largest (and most beautiful) basilica in the world dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.
There, he prayed in front of an ancient icon, called the Salus Populi Romani, or the Protectress of the Roman People, held by tradition to have been painted by St. Luke himself. He also brought flowers and laid them beneath the icon on honor of Mary.
So, the first act of his pontificate was to pray before the Virgin Mary.
2. Pope St. Pius V. While in the Basilica, he went and knelt in front of a tomb of a Pope. Which Pope?
Pope St. Pius V (1504-1572), the Pope who, being a Dominican, declared the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church and commissioned the first edition of his complete works. He also patronized the sacred music composer Palestrina, and, in his the Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum on July 14, 1570, promulgated the 1570 edition of the Roman Missal, making it mandatory throughout the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, except where a Mass liturgy dating from before 1370 AD was in use.
This “St. Pius V” form of the Mass remained essentially unchanged for 400 years until Pope Paul VI’s revision of the Roman Missal in 1969–70. It is this form of the Mass that many today call “the old Latin Mass,” or “the Tridentine Mass,” or, since 2007, the “Extraordinary Form” of the Mass.
It seems clear that by kneeling and praying before the tomb of this great, and holy, Pope, Pope Francis was making a statement of respect for him and his work, and so, by implication, for the form of the Mass that he codified.
Note also that, as a cardinal, Pope Pius V gained a reputation for putting orthodoxy before personalities, prosecuting eight French bishops for heresy. He also stood firm against nepotism, rebuking his predecessor, Pope Pius IV, to his face when he wanted to make a 13-year old member of his family a cardinal.
For a Pope who wishes to end corruption, a prayer before the tomb of Pius V makes a certain sense.
Also, Pius V arranged for the formation of the Holy League, an alliance of Catholic states, which defeated the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Pius V attributed this victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory on October 7. In 1573, Pope Gregory XIII changed the title of this feast-day to the “Feast of the Holy Rosary.” (It is being reported in the Italian press that Pope Francis prays 15 decades of the Rosary daily.)
Once Pius V was elected, he at once proceeded to reduce the cost of the papal court after the manner of the Dominican Order to which he belonged.
According to this precedent, Pope Francis will also proceed to reduce the cost of the Vatican Curia.
Curial officials, tighten seatbelts.
3. Stay home, give to the poor. As reported on the Rorate Caeli website, the new Pope has asked his nuncio in Argentina, where he is from, to ask all the bishops, priests, nuns, and faithful of his home country not to travel to Rome for his installation Mass, but to save the money and give it instead to the poor. Here is a photo of the letter and a translation of the text:
Buenos Aires, March 14, 2013
I have the honor and the satisfaction of turning to you to inform you that the Holy Father Francis has asked me to transmit to all Bishops, Priests, Religious men and women, and to all the People of God his cherished recognition for the prayers and the expressions of warmth, affection, and charity that he has received. At the same time, he would wish that, instead of going to Rome for the beginning of his Pontificate next March 19, you may keep this spiritual closeness that is so much appreciated, accompanying it with some gesture of charity towards the neediest.
I take this joyful opportunity to vouch to you my sentiments of respectful attention.
+Emil Paul Tscherrig
4. First Mass and Homily as Pope. During his first Mass celebrated as Pope, today at 5 p.m. in the Sistine Chapel (it was televised here in Italy), he delivered a 7-minute homily without a prepared text.
He spoke in beautiful Italian, slowly, clearly, eloquently, for about seven minutes, addressing all the cardinals who had just elected him yesterday evening.
He structured his homily around three words: camminare, to walk, edificare, to build, and confessare, to confess or bear witness to the glory of Christ and his Cross. He asked the cardinals to walk with him, and if they fell, to get up and start walking again; to build with him, to build the Church; and to confess Christ with him, but always, Christ with His Cross…
Several things struck observers about this Mass. First, that Pope Francis went away from his throne and over to the pulpit to speak his homily, like a classical preacher; second, his very simply vestments. But, the most striking thing was that he spoke without a prepared text. He could have asked for help from someone to prepare a text for him, and then he could have made small or large revisions, but rather he preferred to deliver a spontaneous meditation, which obviously seemed more direct, more familiar, more authentic…
With regard to the homily, I can only say that Pope Francis used powerful images — the images of children building sand castles at the beach, to describe us building on anything except on Christ — and powerful expressions — he spoke specifically of the devil, of the demon, saying when we do not bear witness to Christ, we are bearing witness to… the devil. And he specifically warned about worldliness, about becoming worldly, about forsaking Christ to focus on the world. Powerful words, stirring words, for Christians.
And he specifically ruled out that the Church can be anything other than the mystical Bride of Christ — ruled out that the Church can be another NGO doing philanthropic work. This was a powerful, pontificate-orienting statement.
Here is the complete text of that first homily this afternoon, March 14, in the Sistine Chapel where yesterday he was elected Pope, spoken without a prepared text:
“When we walk without the cross…”
by Pope Francis
In these three readings, I see that there is something in common: it is movement.
In the first reading, movement in walking; in the second reading, movement in the building up of the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, movement in confession.
To walk, to build up, to confess.
To walk. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and be without reproach. To walk: our life is a journey and when we stop it is no good. To walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that irreproachability which God asked of Abraham, in his promise.
To build up. To build up the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have substance; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build up the Church, the bride of Christ, on that cornerstone which is the Lord himself. This is another movement of our lives: to build up.
Third, to confess. We can walk as much as we wish, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.
When one does not walk, one halts. When one does not build on stone what happens? That happens which happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles, it all comes down, it is without substance. When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: “He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.
To walk, to build/construct, to confess. But the matter is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in confessing, at times there are shocks, there are movements that are not properly movements of the journey: they are movements that set us back.
This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the cross.”
When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we confess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.
I hope for all of us that the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, may grant us this grace: to walk, to build up, to confess Jesus Christ crucified. So may it be.
(The three readings of the Mass “pro Ecclesia,” on which Pope Francis commented, were taken from the book of Isaiah (2:2-5), from the first letter of Peter (2:4-9), and from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19))
5. Curial posts not reconfirmed. The 5th thing Pope Francis did was something he did not do. He did not reconfirm all of the Curial posts that had been “zeroed out” by the renunciation by Benedict XVI of the papal throne. As Rocco Palmo writes in his “Whispersintheloggia ” blog: “As the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia all lost their posts at the sede vacante, the group of prefects and presidents must be reconfirmed by the new pontiff for the governance of the Church to be resumed. While past Popes have traditionally made the pro forma act within 24 hours of their election, this time it remains conspicuous by its absence. (The officials may subsequently be replaced at any time, as they serve at the pleasure of the pontiff.) Then again, considering the in-house storm that preceded the Conclave, perhaps there’s an explanation for the delay – namely, that Francis’ sudden turn-up at the check-in counter won’t be the biggest of his early surprises….”
Rocco also notes that, on the way back to the Vatican this morning, the Pope called for a detour to the Domus Paulus VI, the clergy lodging across the Tiber that was his pre-Conclave hotel, to collect his things, check out and pay the bill himself (see this incredible photo below):
Pope Francis wanted to “set an example” by personally running the errand and settling the tab with his own money, Vatican spokesmen said at today’s afternoon press briefing.
What about Pope Benedict?
Many believe that Pope Francis will soon find the urge to visit or speak with Benedict XVI to be overwhelming.
Francis has a rare opportunity right now. In the past, the prior Pope has been dead upon the new one’s accession; now, however, Francis has the opportunity to seek the counsel of someone he trusts and, if we are to believe some of the news stories, actually supported in the last conclave.
If he is going to “clean house,” as some suspect, Benedict may know who and what in the Vatican is expendable and who and what isn’t.
Will Francis soon seek Benedict’s counsel on these matters?
Francis and the Traditional Liturgy
I have received many letters and emails, and even some phone calls, from people who read a sentence in yesterday’s email which they found worrisome.
I would like to encourage everyone to stay calm, and give the new Pope a chance.
Here is the sentence that I wrote last night:
“Cardinal Bergoglio is hostile toward the Traditional Mass, but he wrote a beautiful letter sent to the Carmelites of his diocese regarding the grave matter of the legal redefinition of marriage.”
Many wrote that they found the sentence itself strange, because the two clauses or concepts don’t appear to be linked in any way.
I was simply trying to address two issues which I had come across in my reading, both issues of concern to Catholics: the new Pope’s views on the liturgy, and his views on marriage and the family.
In my reading, I had come across reports that suggested that he has not promoted, or favored, or been particularly supportive of, the traditional liturgy, in his diocese in the city of Buenos Aires. Some of these reports even stated that he has been “hostile” to the old liturgy.
Without knowing the exact details of the situation myself, personally, I nevertheless took these reports seriously, and as reliable enough to report them.
At the same time, I reported the very strong and eloquent content of his letter in defense of the traditional family and marriage.
Here below is one of several sources for my statement regarding Cardinal Bergoglio’s attitude toward the old Mass. It says, in Spanish, that the new Pope was a “sworn enemy” of the traditional Mass and that he took action against priests who expressed interest in Summorum Pontificum. I deduced from this that Cardinal Bergoglio has been “hostile” to the old Mass, and wrote that. Here is the quote in Spanish, and the link to the source:
“Enemigo jurado de la misa tradicional, no ha permitido sino parodias en manos de enemigos declarados de la liturgia antigua. Ha perseguido a todo sacerdote que se empeñó en usar sotana, predicar con solidez o que se haya interesado en la Summorum Pontificum.”
However, I have since received a large number of other emails containing very different information. Here is one from a respected Catholic philosopher and writer whom I trust a great deal:
I read with passionate interest all the reports you sent us since Benedict XVI (to my deep regret) stepped down. I thank you for them; they were remarkably well done, informative and expressing your love for the Church.
But I was deeply grieved today in reading that you write that Francis I is hostile to the Tridentine Mass. This must be a terrible misinformation likely to do a lot of harm to many of your readers.
Archbishop Bergoglio, upon receiving the information that Benedict XVI (at my repeated requests) had granted a universal indult, designated the Church Michel Angelo as the one place where the traditional Mass would be said. Its pastor, Padre Ricardo Dotro (I might get the name wrong) a well-trained liturgist, was going to say it to those who wished it. It was well-attended; hundred of people with their old missals, even some younger people, ladies wearing Mantillas, and modestly dressed, six candles on the altar, Mass ad orientem, kneeling for communion on the tongue.
I fear you were misinformed. Because the Mass had not been said for 40 years, all the younger priests could not say it. This was well-calculated; if no one can say that mass, that it certain to bury it. But it survived.
I wish you would correct this. Many of your devoted readers will be, like me, deeply grieved, unless you do. In the joy of Habemus papam and thanking you for your great work, I am, dear Robert, yours in caritate Christi.
(end of letter)
So, at this point, I will step back from the entire question to give a judgment regardless of anything that happened in the past, and it is this: in my view, we should have no concerns whatsoever about the continued celebration of the traditional Latin Mass under our new Pope, Francis.
I do not believe Francis will do anything to undermine the freedom Pope Benedict granted to the traditional Latin Mass in 2007.
And, even more, I agree with what one reader writes: “Unlike Pope Benedict, I would not be at all surprised to see Pope Francis publicly offer a traditional Latin Mass some day. He has a deep devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, is said to practice the Five First Saturday Devotions, and prays 15 decades of the Rosary each day. I believe that, after he meets with Pope Emeritus Benedict, reads the 300-page dossier on the Vatileaks scandal, […] he will be a different man than he was as archbishop, then cardinal, in Argentina.”
Pope Francis strikes me as a man who, once he learns something is the Lord’s will, will simply make it his own.
Francis’s Schedule for the next few days
Will Pray Midday Angelus With Faithful on Sunday; No Audience Wednesday
VATICAN CITY, March 14, 2013 (Zenit.org ) — The Vatican press office announced the schedule for some of Pope Francis’ first activities in the coming days:
On Friday, 15 March, at 11:00 am in the Clementine Hall, he will meet with the full College of Cardinals, electors and non-electors, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace. As Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Holy See Press Office spokesman, noted, this will be a familial gathering, with the Pope personally greeting each of the cardinals.
On Saturday at 11:00 am in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope will hold an audience with accredited journalists (permanent and temporary) and those who work in the media.
On Sunday, 17 March at 12:00 pm, he will recite the first Angelus of his papacy from the papal apartments overlooking St. Peter’s Square, as is customary.
On Tuesday, 19 March, the Feast of St. Joseph, patron of the Church, the Mass to inaugurate the new papacy will be held at 9:30 am in St. Peter’s Square. No tickets will be issued for that Mass. All who wish may attend.
On Wednesday, 20 March, he will hold an audience with fraternal delegates representing the heads of the various Eastern rite Churches so there will not be a General Audience.
(The link to this article is posted at the end of the article below.)
Cardinal at press conference upset about indiscretions — Pope Francis will “give some strong signs” in the future
An urgent cleanup is needed within the Vatican, said Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
The Cardinal said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon in Rome that Pope Francis will soon succeed in restoring the reputation of the Vatican. Schönborn appeared upset about a few bad apples that had via leaks discredited the entire Vatican. The Archbishop of Vienna spoke literally of a “scandal” that “confidential discussions of the cardinals in the Vatican were printed verbatim in Italian newspapers”.
At the same time, emphasized the cardinal, that most employees of the Vatican are very loyal and very competent. Also, the cardinals had, at the meetings and discussions, expressed their loyalty to the Holy See.
Schönborn would not comment about speculation that he could soon be a leader within the Vatican Curia. He would only say that he was looking forward now to return to Vienna and he hoped “eventually to find his grave in the cathedral.”
Pope Francis will “give a lot of strong signs” in the future, according to Schönborn. The new Pope will clearly put the “Gospel of poverty and simplicity” in the center and thus give more weight to the new evangelization. Through Francis, the view of Europe and the German-speaking countries were expanded to the global Church, “just because we feel ourselves too often to be the centre of the world.”
“Tu es Petrus”
Given all that is written above, I repeat the ending to this newsletter that I used yesterday:
Tu es Petrus.
Today we have a new Holy Father, Pope Francis.
Let us pray for this simple, humble, charitable man as he takes the helm of the barque of Peter in these difficult times.