First Impressions of Pope Francis

Pope Francis made his first public appearance wearing house dress, not choir dress. He doesn’t care much for ecclesiastical pomp and splendor, we read.

Our new pope asked for the people’s blessing before blessing them. Nice touch.

Pope Francis took longer to appear than it had taken Pope Benedict – over an hour. We trust it wasn’t because he was wrangling with Marini over what to wear. Maybe he gave a courtesy call to the pope emeritus? (He called him “bishop emeritus” rather than “pope emeritus,” btw – just a slip of the tongue?)

SJU freshman theology student David Wesson explains:

The official choir dress of the pope is a white cassock with a white watered silk fascia (sash). Over that, a rochet (a surplice for prelates with longer narrower sleeves). Over rochet is worn red-silk mozetta (red shoulder-length cape), then stole, then gold-corded gold pectoral cross.

When Ratzinger was elected pope, they went to put him in choir dress but the simar (cassock) didn’t fit him. (Didn’t help Gamarelli’s reputation any, that.) So they put an alb on him over his black sweater. Over the alb he wore the mozetta, pectoral cross, etc.

When Bergoglio was elected pope, he wore a white simar. But interestingly, he didn’t wear the rochet or mozetta or gold-corded gold pectoral cross – the choir dress of a pope. He simply wore a simar (which has a little shoulder cape) and what appeared to be his own pectoral cross. He put the stole on only for the blessing, and then took it off while still in public.

Not sure what any of this means. Oh, I see Rorate Caeli isn’t too happy:

Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst…. A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass… persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock… or was interested in Summorum Pontificum….

Hmm. We shall see.






35 responses to “First Impressions of Pope Francis”

  1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Rosica on CNN remarked that Pope Francis like JP2 pushed the MC aside and did it his own way.

    Rocco in tweets (his page three) remarked on the contrast between Marini and Pope Francis next to each other, and that the new Pope did not follow the format, including not singing the blessing.

    Rocco also says Note: This ain’t Francis I so much as John Paul I

    CNN reports:

    The new pope took the name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi because he is a lover of the poor, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Tom Rosica told CNN.

    Also, the new pope should be known as Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I, Rosica said.

    1. Peter Rehwaldt Avatar
      Peter Rehwaldt

      @Jack Rakosky – comment #1:
      Given my earlier post, I’ll take that as a good sign.


  2. Chris McDonnell Avatar
    Chris McDonnell

    In some ways Pope Francis reminded me of the first address of John Paul I from the balcony of St Peter’s, simple and unfussy, above all a pastor of his people. This Bishop of Rome has started well, long may it continue

    1. claire bangasser Avatar

      @Chris McDonnell – comment #2:
      I sure hope Pope Francis does not die within 30 days like John Paul I…

    2. john Robert Francis Avatar
      john Robert Francis

      @Chris McDonnell – comment #2:
      Pope John Paul I did not address the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on 26 August 1978. On 16 October 1978, John Paul II broke with tradition, and spoke briefly in Italian. A matter of temperament no doubt, but also an assurance that the first non-Italian pope after more than four hundred years would be at home with the people of his diocese.

    3. Dunstan Harding Avatar
      Dunstan Harding

      @Chris McDonnell – comment #2:
      What a refreshing change in Rome, but let’s hope and pray his papacy outlasts John Paul I’s too.

      Here is something I came across which might give some idea of where his predecessor’s pride and joy, the Anglican Ordinariate could be headed.

  3. Brendan McInerny Avatar
    Brendan McInerny

    The Rorate Caeli combox is an interesting mix of angst and ultramontanism. Either the Holy Spirit did descend on him and the holiness of the office will convert him from his obvious modernist errors, or he’s a heretic (or on the heterodoxy border).

    Benedict’s agency/culpability is creatively handled. Either Benedict is to blame, or Benedict had this all planned out to reveal the shallowness of liberal Catholicism.

    Funny thing is, I don’t get any vibe from my liberal, modernist Catholic friends that they’re excited about this one either. According to them, he’s too conservative, too hard on Liberation Theology, etc., etc.

    I don’t which despair to believe in.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      @Brendan McInerny – comment #4:
      Oh, I think the “liberals” are rejoicing. He’s “conservative” on doctrine and morals but everyone expected that.
      Every sign is that he doesn’t care about pomp and ceremony, which we’ve had rather a lot of these past 7 years. It’s a switch, I think.

  4. Dale Rodrigue Avatar
    Dale Rodrigue

    The pendulum has swung!
    A Jesuit!!! Alleluia, Alleluia and Alleluia!

    Order of business:
    First: fire Sodano
    Second: fire him again in case he didn’t get it the first time
    Third: Requiem mass for the Reform of the Reform.
    Fourth: Take the Church off life support because the Church is baaack!

    This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

    1. Richard Malcolm Avatar
      Richard Malcolm

      @Dale Rodrigue – comment #5:

      Hello Dale,

      First: fire Sodano
      Second: fire him again in case he didn’t get it the first time

      Well, Sodano *is* retired, so there isn’t much to fire him from, save for being Dean of the College.

      But I share your enthusiasm. Cardinal Sodano seems to be a uniter, not a divider, across the Catholic theological spectrum.

      I don’t know who Pope Francis will keep in the Curia, but I expect that Cdl. Bertone, Sodano’s unpopular successor, is the least likely to stick around.

  5. Nathan Hetrick Avatar
    Nathan Hetrick

    I am grateful that they elected a non-European, (sort of, were not his parents born in Italy?). I also think it is interesting that he is a Jesuit, although I would have preferred a Benedictine with a similar charism of the wonderful monks in Collegeville. I’m reserving judgment on him until we see him in action beyond what we saw today. And since I am usually a wallflower on this blog, I’ll add that I am generally very liberal.

    1. Richard Malcolm Avatar
      Richard Malcolm

      @Nathan Hetrick – comment #7:

      I am grateful that they elected a non-European, (sort of, were not his parents born in Italy?)

      He seems – if I may use the express – like a twofer: Italian enough to not feel like a stranger to Romans; but Argentinian enough to claim Latin American provenance, albeit from a very European (Mediterranean) part of Latin America.

      Perhaps that’s as far afield from Europe as many of the cardinals felt like going at this point in time.

  6. Michael Wurtz Avatar

    Three thoughts….

    A) Knowing very little about the newly elected pope, I initially (hesitantly) would think that perhaps he might help move us away from binary and also tribal thought, the type that plagues USA politics. And therefore he might help us to see that “issues” are more complex than left/right, conservative/liberal, FOX/MSNBC.

    B) Commentary of both the TV and online variety seem so far to be mostly projection. I.E., “Were I king (pope)”.

    C) A might be my own pathetic version of B.


  7. David Anthony Avatar
    David Anthony

    Sad tidings on Slate:

    Liturgical traditionalists (myself included) can only be depressed by this election–it is almost the worst result possible for those of us who think the new liturgy lost the theological profundity and ritual beauty of the Tridentine Mass. Benedict’s liberation of the traditional Latin Mass and revisions to the new vernacular Mass have not been implemented at all in Cardinal Bergoglio’s own diocese. Already some of the small breaks with liturgical tradition at the announcement of his election are being interpreted as a move toward the grand, unruly, and improvisational style of John Paul II; an implicit rebuke of Benedict.

    Please pray hard for our new Holy Father!!

  8. Brendan McInerny Avatar
    Brendan McInerny

    Well, of course the terms are extraordinarily crude, and I should have known how on a liturgy blog “liberal” doesn’t mean exactly the same as it does in the halls of an east-coast graduate school of theology that has no liturgy department.

    At any rate, *some* “liberals” (or whatever we/they would like to call themselves) I know are thoroughly unexcited about him. He’s a Jesuit from South America, sure, but he’s not been overly friendly with Liberation Theology – though, of course, no fan of capitalism, either.

    Though less pomp liturgically, I don’t see a great pendulum swing.

  9. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    There is a quantity of online material, a number of interviews at 30giorni. He spoke very favorably to the need for baptizing children of unmarried parents, citing the “the supreme law is the salvation of souls.”

    This seems very good.

    I also liked that he got the mic back for a final word.

  10. Fr. Neil Xavier O'Donoghue Avatar
    Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue

    Pope Francis’s liturgical style is definitely very different to Pope Benedict’s. Here is a sample of a children’t liturgy he presided in Buenos Aires:!

    1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky

      @Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue – comment #11:

      A very interesting Mass, indeed.

      There are certainly things (the out sized host and chalice, extended elevations, and incensing by the deacon during the EP) that are traditional much like his traditional use of the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

      But the balloon release at the Sanctus, the cheerleaders in front of the altar??? And were those puppets in the crowd???

      Yes, it seems liturgical traditionalist are not going to have a hero in this Pope, and may feel uncomfortable around him. A good lesson for us all not to place our hopes too much in Rome but rather work for the things that we believe in at the local level in charity and humility.

    2. Richard Malcolm Avatar
      Richard Malcolm

      @Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue – comment #12:

      Pope Francis’s liturgical style is definitely very different to Pope Benedict’s. Here is a sample of a children’t liturgy he presided in Buenos Aires: !

      A dismaying spectacle, Fr. Neil. But I’m not sure it’s measurably worse than some of John Paul II’s stadium masses.

  11. Mark Binzer Avatar
    Mark Binzer

    Humility never hurts.

  12. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    Let’s wait and see and give the guy a chance. If Rorate Caeli is complaining, then, at least, that is a good sign and blessing upon Francis.
    Three comments:
    – he was the Jesuit provincial at the time and subsequent to the Argentina military dictatorship and oppression. As in many nations during a period of revolution, you could find priests on either side (including key Jesuits who opted and spoke out in favor of armed resistance – i.e. Peronistas vs. anti-Peronistas. Not unlike what we saw during the Spanish Civil War. As Jesuit Provincial, he re-imposed order within the Jesuit province)
    – supposedly, he spoke with Benedict and will meet with him tomorrow. Like the fact that he called him bishop emeritus – that is what he is; retired bishop of Rome. Pope is an office; not a sacrament. Ratzinger is the bishop emeritus. Goes along with the fact that we speak about *resignation* not *abdication*.
    – not sure what happens in terms of the *cultural war issues*. He lives a simple lifestyle marked by solidarity with the poor; he has spoken out against the Argentine government and business community in terms of unrestrained captialism, globalization and its impact on the poor. He corrected his priests who refused to baptize children of unmarried parents (called it gross clericalism). He toes the line on sexual issues but has reached out to victims of AIDS. Going forward, wonder what happens when his pastoral sense supported by his intellectual honesty runs into a situation.

    He is latino; from both the Americas hemisphere and the southern hemisphere. He is Jesuit (so, tradition that the reform orders played in the church after Trent). His liturgical style will not be European; it will be pastoral.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @Bill deHaas – comment #14:
      ‘His liturgical style will not be European; it will be pastoral.’

      This is a preposterous non sequitur dripping with bias and judgment which have no logical foundation. (Resentful, too!)

      1. Brendan Kelleher svd Avatar
        Brendan Kelleher svd

        @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #25:
        When a semi-colon is used to separate two clauses a “non sequitur” is grammatically permissible.
        His liturgical style will probably show Latin American influences, see the link to the young peoples Mass, therefore it will be not necessarily be “European”. And as the same young peoples Mass shows there is a strong pastoral sensibility in evidence, and this was not always characteristic of the liturgies celebrated by Benedict XVI.

      2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #25:
        Perhaps we just substitute “European” and call it aristocratic. We have aristocratic liturgy here and there in the States too. Don’t need it.

  13. Mark O'Meara Avatar
    Mark O’Meara

    I found it a very moving Urbi et Orbi address.

    There is a debate as to whether Pope Francis asked for the people’s blessing, or whether he asked the people to pray for God’s blessing? The latter, I think. I am not sure why it should matter, but clearly (on looking at another blog, much less interesting than this one) it does seem to matter to some people.

    It is a rather convoluted sentence in the original Italian. I think the words were: “… vi chiedo che voi pregate al Signore perche mi benedica la preghiera del popolo chiedendo la benedizione per il suo vescovo”, which I take to mean: “I ask that you pray to the Lord that He blesses the prayer of his people as they ask blessing for their Bishop”.

    The bit about ‘bishop emeritus’ (rather than ‘pope emeritus’) seems logical and correct if one considers that, at that moment, Pope Francis was identifying with the people of Rome (as their new Bishop) and talking with them (“fra noi”) about “nostro vescovo emerito, Benedetto XVI”.

    I write as a layman, lurking in this most interesting website. I am half-Italian, despite the Irish-sounding surname.

    1. Richard Malcolm Avatar
      Richard Malcolm

      @Mark O’Meara – comment #15:

      There is a debate as to whether Pope Francis asked for the people’s blessing, or whether he asked the people to pray for God’s blessing? The latter, I think.

      That seems to be borne out by the transcript we had (I could barely hear him on the broadcast myself):

      “And now I would like to give the blessing, but first – first I ask a favor of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.”

  14. Christopher Douglas Avatar
    Christopher Douglas

    From my Traditionalist perspective:

    1. Things not looking so good on the liturgical front.

    On the other hand, he seems to be of sound doctrine:

    2. Here is a quotation from a letter he sent to Carmelite nuns, in June, asking them to pray to stop the gay marriage legislation:

    “Here, the envy of the Devil, through which sin entered the world, is also present, and deceitfully intends to destroy the image of God: man and woman, who receive the mandate to grow, multiply, and conquer the earth. Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a “move” of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.” [Full text at Rorate Caeli]

    “Devil” “Grow, multiply, and conquer the earth” “father of lies” “deceive the children of God.”

    At least doctrinally, Pope Francis is my kinda guy. Doesn’t mince words. Speaks the truth in love. Sounds pastoral, caring for the children of God.

  15. Paul Schlachter Avatar

    I also agree with other posters that the electors were looking back 35 years to Msgr. Luciani (the first John Paul) and the example of simplicity and straight talk they and we had hoped he would give the church over many years. They must have seen something similar in Msgr. Bergoglio (Francis) that captured many of their votes already in 2005. And they must have judged that his age was secondary; after all, we live longer now and Msgr. Roncalli (John) achieved wonders in his short term.

    From my long association with the Society of Jesus, I appreciate how its members have to keep in uneasy balance their creative gifts and their vow of obedience. May Francis encourage in all spheres of the church, including the liturgical sphere, the work of the Spirit wherever it breathes, to accompany the obedience on which the Benedictine pontificate insisted almost exclusively.

    So let us pray that God grant him time to proclaim some Years of the Poor in Spirit, the Hungry for Justice, and the Peacemakers.

  16. Charles Day Avatar
    Charles Day

    I am excited, and I don’t even know the man. But, it does appear that one of the “expected” choices were not chosen, and I take that as a sign that the Holy Spirit was at work here. I also like traditional liturgy, but have always thought that while form is nice, it never trumps substance. We know this to be true from the Eucharist: it has the form of bread, but its substance is quite different. I can’t wait to find out more.

  17. Crystal Watson Avatar

    I’m hopeful he’ll be an improvement over the last pope. It’s odd that he’s a Jesuit – not many Jesuit bishops or cardinals – but that seems positive. He’s very conservative, though, on many of the issues on which I’d hoped for change – women’s ordination, attitude towards LGBT people, married priests, etc.

  18. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    Cardinal George provides more than a glimpse into what happened in the Conclave on Wednesday, hinting also that there may have been more than four ballots on that day.,0,3061567.story

  19. Gerry Davila Avatar
    Gerry Davila

    How I miss my German Shepherd now!

  20. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh Avatar
    Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh

    I am intrigued that Pope Francis trained in chemistry. As a former biology student, studying fresh water insects in graduate school before entering seminary, I am grateful for the logical, rational process of thinking that science has given me. It could be fascinating to see how Francis’ background may influence his style as the Servant of the Servants of God. Peace and Blessings, Your Holiness!

  21. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    His Holiness, Pope Francis visited St. Mary Major this morning and stopped to pray by the tomb of St. Pius V! Maybe he is reassuring those who are befuddled today not to be too befuddled in terms of “counter” reform in continuity. Wikipedia says this about Pope Pius V:

    “Pope Pius V (17 January 1504 – 1 May 1572), born Antonio Ghislieri (from 1518 called Michele Ghislieri, O.P.), was pope from 1566 to 1572 and is a saint of the Catholic Church.[1] He is chiefly notable for his role in the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation, and the standardization of the Roman rite within the Latin Church. Pius V declared Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church and patronized prominent sacred music composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

    As a cardinal, Ghislieri 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 and subsidise a nephew from the Papal treasury.

    In affairs of state, Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I of England for schism and persecutions of English Catholics during her reign. He also arranged the formation of the Holy League, an alliance of Catholic states. Although outnumbered, the Holy League famously defeated the Ottoman Empire, which had threatened to overrun Europe, at the Battle of Lepanto. This victory Pius V attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory.”

    Instead of Fr. Z’s motto, “brick by brick” perhaps Pope Francis will rebuild the Church through chemistry, chemical by chemical!

  22. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh Avatar

    From FORBES magazine: “From the numerous profiles that I’ve read of the new Pope, it doesn’t appear that he pursued the sciences after becoming a priest. Still, it’s encouraging to know that he has that background. That’s because that knowledge of science will help face many of the challenges facing the Church – many of which have to do with the new ethical terrain that has to be traveled in the wake of new technologies and discoveries.

    Another aspect of being a scientist that I think is important for the Pope is that one of the great virtues of the sciences is humility. Being a scientist means that you have to embrace the fact that you don’t know everything. That you need to be constantly searching for the truth. It’s hard to stay humble as Pope in the extravagant confines of the Vatican. But from all accounts, the new Pope has humility in spades. He lived in an apartment rather than the Archbishop’s palace. He traveled by bus rather than chauffeured limousine. Humility makes one open to change – and change is something that the Church desperately needs now.”

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