(VATICAN CITY) It’s been three days since I’ve been able to tape a Vatican Dispatch, thanks to enhanced security measures at the Vatican during the conclave and the election of Pope Francis last night. The only video update I have been able to do was the quick and noisy video in St. Peter’s Square with an interview of an American couple on vacation in Rome last night. Today I got out early, but unfortunately as you’ll see and hear, I had a problem with my microphone, so the camera microphone was the only audio I got. You can hear me … until I got pre-empted by the cardinals going into a special Mass with Pope Francis in the Sistine Chapel:
The TVs in St. Peter’s Square, left over from the smoke watch, broadcast the live video of the Mass to the several hundred people in the piazza. It was quite beautiful, although I had to leave shortly to catch my bus. Unfortunately, the problem with the microphone didn’t become apparent until it was too late to reshoot, but it has been corrected now.
During the briefing today, the Vatican expressed gratitude to the media for telling a good story honestly, which prompted applause from the Italian-speaking journalists who heard it first. However, they did want to clear up a point that made the rounds last night about the health of the new Pope, especially the report that he only has one lung. While it is true that Francis had an operation on one lung, only a portion of the lung was removed — and that happened 55 years ago, when then-Jorge Bergoglio was 21 years old. He has had no complications since then, and his overall health is good, the Vatican insisted.
The Vatican also confirmed — emphatically — that Pope Francis chose his papal name in explicit reference to St. Francis of Assisi, and not Francis Xavier or Francis de Sales. The Pope wants to emphasize humility and pastoral service, and a couple of anecdotes perhaps makes that more clear. First, Francis insisted on riding on the bus with the cardinals back to the lodgings after the end of the conclave, rather than ride in his own vehicle as he was entitled to do. At dinner that evening at the Domus Sancta Marthae, while cardinals offered toasts to him, Francis jokingly replied at one point, “May God forgive you for what you have done.”
One final anecdote is especially worth relating. The pontiff prayed at Santa Maria Maggiore this morning, one of the most important churches in Rome, but afterward returned to where he had lodged before the start of the congregations that took place before the conclave. Why? He wanted to pick up his luggage and pay his bill, and wanted to do it himself. The Vatican briefing noted that we will likely see a much different style from Pope Francis than what we’ve seen from his predecessors, a much more spontaneous and personal Pope. That will be a challenge for his security detail, but as Father Federico Lombardi pointed out, the security detail exists to serve the Pope and not the other way around.
For more on the meaning behind the choice of Santa Maria Maggiore, be sure to read Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s analysis. Pope Francis may have been sending a signal about the direction of his pontificate:
The first thing Francis does is go to St Mary Major to pray at the tomb of Pius V. So who was Pope St Pius V? He was a reforming pope who reigned from 1566- 1572. He cleaned up the curia, excommunicated heretical bishops, cleaned up the immorality in the church and swept the church clean paving the way for the great surge in the church we call the Counter Reformation. He excommunicated the tyrant Elizabeth I and formed the Holy League which eventually defeated the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto. He also instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victories (nor the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary).
Will Pope Francis hear the call from Christ to “re-build my church” and not only be a new Francis but a new Pius V? It may be that we will see some high drama in the months to come. Certainly if his reputation in his native Argentina is anything to go by, we may well see a Pope who is uncompromising in his proclamation of the fullness of the Catholic faith. He stood up against an aggressive secular authority when they tried to impose same sex marriage and abortion. He also stood up to his clergy and led by example with an austere life committed fully to the gospel.
Be sure to read it all. I promise there aren’t any microphone malfunctions there.