If the plans for his inaugural Mass — expected to attract 1 million people to St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday — are any indication, it seems Pope Francis is setting three key themes for the event: simplicity, ecumenism and mercy, Joshua J. McElwee writes in the NCR.
In what may also be signposts into the pope’s wider focus, the Vatican announced Monday that the events surrounding the Mass will see:
- Combined prayer between the pontiff and representatives of the Eastern Rite churches at the tomb of St. Peter;
- Proclamation of the Gospel being made in Greek, “in order to simplify the liturgy”;
- The pope wearing a simple new ring of office, a gold-plated silver band, either recycled from or based on a model from the era of Pope Paul VI (1963-1978); and
- Adoption of the Latin phrase Miserando atque eligendo as the pope’s motto, a reflection on Christ’s mercy in choosing Matthew, who was a tax collector, as an apostle.
News of the pope’s plans for the event came Monday at a Vatican press conference.
The pope is to pray with the Eastern Rite church leaders before the Mass begins at the crypt of St. Peter, where the apostle is thought to be buried and upon which St. Peter’s Basilica is built.
Included in the group will be the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the first of his line to attend a papal inauguration since the year 1054, when the Eastern and Western churches split.
The ring he will wear has been made by an Italian jeweler either from a model of or from a ring worn by Pope Paul VI’s private secretary, Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, the spokesmen said. Unlike Benedict’s ring, which was made of gold, Francis’ will be made of gold-plated silver.
The pope has also approved his official coat of arms, using the same heraldry he used while he was bishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Vatican said Monday.
The coat of arms features a blue background with three symbols focused on the Holy Family: the official seal of the Jesuits, which spells out IHS, the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek; an image of a spikenard flower, traditionally a symbol of Joseph; and a five-pointed star, a symbol of Mary.
The pope’s motto, which he also used in Argentina, is taken from a homily of St. Bede, an eighth-century English monk.
It is probably best translated as “Lowly and yet chosen”.
The pope has decided to use the normal readings for the day instead of special readings for the occasion, the Vatican said Monday.
The first reading will be made in English; the second in Spanish. The pope will homilize in Italian.
Although Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who provides English translation during the press conferences, said a text of the homily would be available to journalists ahead of time, he also said, “As we have noticed over the past few days, there is a certain spontaneity in the pope’s talks.”
The first reading for the Mass will be from the Book of Samuel, recalling the Lord speaking to the prophet Nathan, asking him to tell David that “I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure.”
The second reading will be from Paul’s letter to the Romans, regarding God’s promise to Abraham “on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.”
The Gospel account, taken from Matthew, focuses on Joseph’s uncertainty around Mary’s unexplained pregnancy. Appearing before Joseph, according to the account, an angel tells Joseph to stay with Mary regardless.
Among the petitions are: prayers for government officials, that they may “help build the civilization of love”; and prayers for the poor, that God will “grant them refreshment, comfort, and hope, not least through the love of their brothers and sisters.”
A total of 132 delegations from around the world are expected to attend the event, the Vatican said, including 31 heads of state and two ruling monarchs.
Stressing that the Vatican is not controlling the guest list — which is reported to include controversial Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe — Rosica said all are welcome to attend.
“The Holy See does not invite any foreign delegation … we inform the world that this is taking place,” Rosica said. “Those who wish to come are welcome, no one is refused.”
You can download a PDF copy of the official program from the Vatican’s website.