On March 19, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass commemorating the
beginning of his pontificate the so-called Santa Messa Per L’Inizio
Del Ministro Petrino Del Vescovo Di Roma. Afterwards, he received
religious and political authorities inside St. Peter’s basilica,
including a number of the world’s heads of state. Some details of the
Among the official
delegations, Pope Francis welcomed Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Western
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Hindu leaders. In
addition, he received various crowned heads of state, elected heads of
state, heads of government, consorts of the heads of state, vice heads
of state, vice-prime ministers, presidents of parliament, foreign
ministers, heads of international organizations, governmental ministers,
In advance of the Mass of Installation, Fr.
Thomas Rosica, the English-language assistant to Fr. Federico Lombardi,
the Vatican’s spokesperson, told CNN that the Vatican does not invite
heads of state. Rather, “The Holy See never invites people to come to
this [Mass of Installation], but they inform governments we have a new
leader and I think many people will be coming and I'm sure many people
from Latin America, South America will be coming as well.”
and Italian leaders headed the delegations in ordine di precedenza
that is, in the order of precedence. President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner held the highest place of precedence. The reigning sovereigns
of Andorra, Belgium, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and the Order of
Malta followed the Argentinians and the Italians. The United States of
America occupied the 48th place in the order of precedence, after
countries such as Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (#38) and Castro’s Cuba (#46).
Israel (#63), Iran (#76), Iraq (#97), Pakistan (#101), Palestine (#102),
and Afghanistan (#114) sent delegations, which followed the United
States in the official order. That order included members of the Arab
League and UNESCO, as well.
Both Taiwan (Republic of China) and
Zimbabwe sent their presidents. Taiwan sent President Ying-Jeou and
Zimbabwe sent President Robert Mugabe. The United States of America did
not send President Obama. Its official delegation included Vice
President Biden, Congresswoman Pelosi, and two others. In 2008, the
then-Senator Joseph Biden became the first Roman Catholic to serve as
Vice President of the United States of America.
attended the Mass from above Bernini’s Colonnade, on the left side of
St. Peter’s basilica. Throughout the Mass, I was stationed alongside
Vice President Biden’s staffers and secret service detail. Some of his
staffers told me that, “tonight, Vice President Biden is heading off to
the Middle East … this was just another stop on that trip.” Perhaps,
that comment indicates how the Obama administration viewed its
attendance at this morning’s Mass of Installation. For much of the Mass,
the staffers were glued to their smartphones, reading work-related
e-mails and text messages. On the basis of pool coverage, Politico
confirms that both Vice President Biden and Congresswoman Pelosi
received the Eucharist.
In an official statement, Vice President
Biden said that “I am happy to have the chance to personally relay my
well wishes, and those of the American people, when I travel to Rome for
[Pope Francis’] Inaugural Mass." He added that "The Catholic Church
plays an essential role in my life and the lives of more than a billion
people in America and around the world, not just in matters of our
faith, but in pursuit of peace and human dignity for all faiths."
the Laudes Regiae, Pope Francis received the papal pallium and the
fisherman’s ring the two liturgical insignias of the Supreme Pontiff.
But before the initial rites of the Mass (or, Ritus Initiales),
select cardinals offered Pope Francis their obedience. Cardinals from
the order of bishops, priests, and deacons made obeisance to Pope
Francis. Those from the order of cardinal bishops included Cardinals
Giovanni Battista Re and Tarcisio Bertone; those from the order of
cardinal priests included Cardinals Joachim Meisner and Jozef Tomko;
and, those from the order of cardinal deacons included Cardinals Renato
Raffaele Martino and Francesco Marchisano.
About half of the
cardinals offering their obedience voted in the conclave that elected
Pope Francis, the others did not. Going into that conclave, there was a
lot of speculation about the election of an Italian cardinal to the
Chair of St. Peter. The Europeans constituted the largest "voting bloc"
within the conclave; and, the Italians made up the largest national
group within that "voting bloc." Four of the six cardinals offering
obedience were Italian, including Re, Bertone, Martino, and Marchisano;
one cardinal was German, Meisner; and, one cardinal was Slovak, Tomko.
All of the cardinals offering obedience did so on behalf of the entire
College of Cardinals. However, neither Northern nor Latin American
cardinals were chosen to offer their obedience.
and other senior ecclesiastics participating in the morning’s Mass
included the Patriarch of Coptic Alexandria, the Patriarch of
Greek-Melkite Antioch, the Patriarch of Syrian Antioch, the Patriarch of
Armenian Cilicia, the Patriarch of Chaldean Babylonia, the Major
Archbishop of the Greek-Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Latin Patriarch
of Jerusalem, the Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, the
President of the Union of Superiors General, and the General
Vice-President of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). For the first time
since the Great Schism of 1054, an ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I
attended the installation of the Bishop of Rome. Deacon Valter
Volochen from Rome’s Pontifical Greek College intoned the Gospel
according to the Eastern liturgical manner.
most moving part of the Mass was the Pope’s beautiful sermon on St.
Joseph. Bishops of Rome are most often installed on the first Sunday
after their election. Since the Second Vatican Council, no pope has been
installed on another day of the week. But, Pope Francis chose to be
installed mid-week and on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Husband of
the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Joseph is much beloved of the Italian and
Hispanic people. In choosing to be installed on March 19, Pope Francis
was signaling his pastoral closeness to the Italians. In his sermon, the
Pope offered a robust theological understanding of the husband of
Jesus’ Mother, an often neglected figure. A salient passage follows:
together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the
beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of
Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ
conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three
questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my
lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is
service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever
more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the
Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service
which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to
protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole
of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important,
those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the
thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison
(cf.Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In accordance with Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (n. 92), Pope Francis will take possession of the Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Lateran sometime after Easter in April.