Notes from Rome: the first general audience, the Chrism Mass, more

Blessed Pope John Paul II’s 1996 Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis ordained that, “After the solemn ceremony of the inauguration of the Pontificate and within an appropriate time, the Pope will take possession of the Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Lateran, according to the prescribed ritual” (UDG, n. 92). On March 27, Vatican Information Service announced the date for that event. In an official bollettino of the Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, the Vatican announced that “The solemn celebration of the Eucharist during which Francis will take possession of the cathedra of the Bishop of Rome will take place in the Lateran Basilica on April 7th, the Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, at 5:30pm.” Unlike Universi Dominici Gregis, the Press Office’s bulletin laid the stress on the ‘cathedra of the Bishop of Rome,’ not the ‘Patriarchal Archbasilica of the Lateran.’ It is well-known that Francis favors the title ‘Bishop of Rome’ over the title ‘Pope.’ He uses the first title much more often than the second one. For instance, on the night of his election, Pope Francis used the title ‘Bishop’ some six times, but did not use the title ‘Pope’ once.


Pope Francis addressed crowds in Italian at this week’s General Audience, which was held inside St. Peter’s Square on March 27. After his address, assistants read translations of his remarks in various national languages. Then, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims in Italian. Although Francis speaks Spanish, French, German, and English, he has decided to address crowds in Italian, the language of the Bishop of Rome and his people. This custom differs from that of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Both men used to address crowds in various languages.

Oftentimes, Pope Francis will address crowds in colloquial or Roman Italian. In the course of his first Angelus address, he called Cardinal Walter Kasper a theologian “in gamba,” which is akin to the German “Mensch.” At the same time, he takes note of Roman or Italian customs, wishing pilgrims a good pranzo. And, he identifies with Roman religious practices. On the morning after his election, he visited the image of the Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Pope Francis is making a conscious effort to appeal to the Roman people as their new bishop.  


On March 27, the Vatican’s Sala Stampa confirmed that Pope Francis will continue residing at the Domus Sancta Marthae. The Pope announced his decision at the conclusion of a Mass celebrated there on Tuesday. That structure was built in 1996 with considerable financial assistance from the Pittsburg-based American casino-owner John E. Connelly. The businessman offered $13 million toward construction of the site in exchange for contractual rights to sell Vatican art in the United States.

The domus is oftentimes described as a Vatican hotel. It housed the 115 cardinal electors who attended the 2013 conclave. Currently, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul administer the $20 million edifice, which contains some 106 suites and 22 single rooms on five floors. Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Director of the Sala Stampa della Santa Sede, called the living arrangement an “experiment,” since popes have not lived outside the Apostolic Palace since Saint Pius X took residence there in 1903. Since his election, Pope Francis has moved out of his conclave room and into Suite 201, which is statelier and includes a reception hall.

Some Vaticanistas describe the decision as indicative of Pope Francis’ collegiate approach to the papal office. At the domus, he will be sharing a common life with other clerics residing there.


This morning, Pope Francis celebrated the annual Chrism Mass inside St. Peter’s basilica. It was the first time he celebrated Mass inside the basilica as pope. Unlike either the Mass of Installation on March 19 or the Mass for the Passion of the Lord on March 24, the Chrism Mass had a distinctive Roman or Italian feel about it. The first and second readings were proclaimed in Italian while the Gospel was sung in Latin. There were no general intercessions in multiple foreign languages. Some 1600 secular and religious priests of the Diocese of Rome and the Roman colleges renewed their clerical vows in Italian. A considerable number of the euchological texts were read in Italian. Eucharistic Prayer III was used. That text focuses on various Antiochene and Roman themes. Permanent deacons of the Diocese of Rome distributed communion to the faithful inside the basilica. And, the blessed oils of the sick and the catechumens as well as the oil of chrism were prepared and set apart for use in the Diocese of Rome alone, according to liturgical custom.

In his sermon at the Mass, Pope Francis said that “We need to ‘go out,’ then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the ‘outskirts’ where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.”


Tonight, Pope Francis will seek to do that. He will celebrate the Mass for the Supper of the Lord – or, Cena del Signore – at the Istituto Penale Minorile di Casal del Marmo, a juvenile detention center. According to an official statement from the Vatican’s Sala Stampa, Pope Francis has selected 46 juveniles to participate in this evening’s Mass: 35 of them are male and 11 of them are female; their ages range between 14 and 21; 8 of them are Italian and 38 of them are foreign. In 2012, the juvenile detention center housed some 251 inmates, 172 were male and 79 were female. The Pope will concelebrate the Mass with Cardinal Vallini, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, Fr. Greco – the chaplain of the juvenile detention center, and one of Fr. Greco’s confreres, who has not been named. In accordance with the wishes of the Pope himself, the Mass will be simple. The feet of twelve men and women of different nationalities and religious confessions will be washed. And, the inmates themselves will proclaim the readings and offer the general intercessions.

The Vatican Information Service (VIS) announced that “After the Mass, the Pope will meet with the youth and the IPM’s personnel in the Institute’s gym. Around 150 persons are expected to attend, including the Minister for Justice, Paola Severino, accompanied by the Head of the Department of Justice for Minors, Caterina Chinnici, the Commander of the Institute’s Penitentiary Police, Saulo Patrizi, and the Institute’s director, Liana Giambartolomei.” At the meeting after the Mass, “The youth will give the Pope a wooden crucifix and kneeler, which they made themselves in the Institute’s workshop. The Holy Father will bring Easter eggs and ‘colomba’ (the traditional Italian Easter cake in the shape of a dove) for all.” The VIS also indicated that the international news media will not be admitted to the Mass or the event following it: “Given the intimate nature of the pastoral visit, journalists will be restricted to the area outside the building and no live coverage will be transmitted.”

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About John Paul Shimek 0 Articles
John Paul Shimek is a Roman Catholic theologian and a specialist on Vatican affairs. In March 2013, he reported from Rome on the election of Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope in the history of the Catholic Church.