“Vatican Insider” takes a look at what changes have been and will be made during Francis’ pontificate
What has Bergoglio done in the two months since he was elected Pope and what kind of a Pope has he been?
Fondness and confessions
The wave of affection for the new Pope is undeniable, with requests to attend papal audiences skyrocketing. Bergoglio has made contact with the crowds a focal point of his papacy. He spends a great deal of time among the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, getting out of the pope-mobile to greet them. During last Wednesday’s General Audience he dedicated almost half an hour to talking about contact with people and faithful. Some are sceptical and even irritated by this “honey moon” between the Pope and the people, expecting things to turn sour any minute. This could happen for example is the Pope adopts a rigid stance in the field of sexual morality. It would be a mistake to believe that this new relationship is being blown out of proportion by the media. Pope Francis spoke of mercy right from the outset and this triggered something deeper than mere fondness in the hearts of faithful. So many approached the Catholic faith again after decades of estrangement from the Church and they themselves say Francis’ words are to thank for this.
The Sanctae Marthae residence
Although he is now Pope, Francis has not really changed since his days as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. His style is still the same and this has contributed to alterations being made to the Vatican’s set protocol. His personal style has been leading the Catholic Church in the direction of a sobriety and simplicity that faithful recognise and appreciate. Some have labelled this “pauperism” because it questions the Church’s use of money and the ostentation of ecclesiastical symbols and jewels. The Pope’s decision to stay in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence (St. Martha’s House), where cardinals stayed during the Conclave is certainly unusual. His choice had nothing to do with “sobriety” but with the sense of “isolation” he felt when he entered the papal apartment. By staying in the Sanctae Marthae residence, Bergoglio dented the Apartment’s status to a certain extent, it being the real centre of papal power and a sort of filter for the Pope’s closest collaborators. The Sanctae Marthae residence allows him to have more direct contact with people and more fraternal exchanges with guests. For example, living under the same roof, Francis had the chance to meet the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I informally on a number of occasions and hold long conversations with him.
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Another thing that is new about this papacy is the brevity of the Pope’s homilies (which never last more than ten minutes) during his morning masses in the Sancta Marthae residence. The masses are co-celebrated with visiting prelates or Curia representatives, with the congregation composed of Vatican employees and other guests. The Pope gets up at 4:30 each morning and prepares these homilies after praying and meditating on the Scriptures of the day for almost two hours. He has spoken about the sickness of autoreferentiality and careerism in the Church – subjects that were close to Benedict XVI’s heart. He has also invited faithful to “go out to the geographical and existential peripheries” and let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The content of the homilies the Pope gives off-the-cuff during these private morning masses is not always transcribed in full or broadcast on the radio. The Pope has shown a strong keenness for improvisation in his sermons and speeches. One notable example was when he quoted St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” This suggests the Word of God must be announced and testified in real life.
On 13 April, just a month after his election, the Pope set up a council of eight cardinals who have been given the task of studying the reform of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, which regulates the Roman Curia and its various bodies. Seven of the council’s eight members are not members of the Curia, but archbishops from five continents. The council is there to advise the Pope on matters of Church government, on a permanent basis. So the reform of the Curia is being studied by cardinals who do not form part of it. All that is known so far is that the Holy See’s administrative apparatus needs to be simplified, streamlined and less bureaucratic. One thing is certain though. The relationship between the Pope and the heads of dicasteries has changed. They used to have to wait up to eight months before they were granted an audience but they will now enjoy more direct, immediate and constant contact with the Pope.
Source: Andrea Tornielli, Vatican City
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