(VATICAN CITY) Earlier today, Pope Francis offered the traditional Sunday Angelus prayer, as well as blessings on the citizens of Rome. At least 150,000 crowded into St. Peter’s Square and the Via Conciliazione to hear the new pontiff offer some spontaneous thoughts before and after the Angelus prayer, speaking only in Italian — a bit of a break from recent tradition. “In just five days,” writes CBS News (via The Week), Francis’ straightforward, spontaneous style has become immediate hallmark of his papacy”:
Earlier Sunday, he made an impromptu appearance before the public from a side gate of the Vatican, startling passers-by and prompting cheers, before delivering a six minute homily — brief by church standards — at the Vatican’s tiny parish church.
I had actually heard about the plan for Francis’ homily late yesterday. In fact, I went to Mass there on Saturday morning before lining up for the papal audience, and we went once during our last trip to Rome. The church is beautiful, with plenty of astonishing artwork, but very small. I doubt it could seat 100 people, and even getting in early would have been an impossibility. As it turned out, the combination of the planned Angelus and the city’s annual marathon forced the suspension of bus service in the center of the city, so I walked a mile to get to another church nearby the Vatican so I could cover the papal address. I had to walk back, too, and the planned sightseeing bus tour will have to wait for another day.
Instead of offering the entire event, which lasted around 13 minutes, the video below is of Pope Francis’ post-Angelus remarks, with still shots of the crowd during and immediately after the speech interspersed. There are plenty of banners and flags, and be sure to see if you can spot Pakistan’s flag in the crowd, apparently representing the small Christian community there:
I shot this from the top of the left colonnade, part of the beautiful architecture that embraces the piazza from the basilica, and that’s a story in itself. The top of the colonnade is around three or four stories up, and the only way up is a construction-style lift that normally panics me. A kind photographer from National Catholic Reporter kept me calm, and it was well worth the journey. I was able to get much clearer photos of detail on the basilica, and two of the images you will see in the video. I’d guess that there were 200-300 media people up there with me, and I was probably in the first 50 to go back down at the end.
(Side note: I’ll have to go back up again, I believe, for the installation Mass on Tuesday, but I won’t shoot video; I’ll stick with still shots.)
To wrap this up, let’s check in with David Gregory on Meet the Press, talking with Cardinal Francis George about Pope Francis. George tries to emphasize the pastoral focus of the new pontiff, but Gregory’s more interested in talking about American politics — which earns a rebuke from Cardinal George, as The Corner’s Patrick Brennan reports:
When asked about the tension between the Church’s teachings and contemporary attitudes, George emphasized that the pope “simply has to preach the Gospel,” even in a context so secularized that it seems “there is no god and Freud is his prophet.” He lamented that “for the sake of sexual liberation, we’re willing to let a lot of other liberties go.” The cardinal said he was “not sure we realize what’s going on,” but that Pope Francis “will help us to realize it better.” Gregory pushed him about the Church’s role in American politics, but the cardinal rejected that Catholic teachings are easily mapped onto American politics: “The categories you use are conservative and liberal, you’ll be using them today, our categories are what is true and what is false.”
Sounds like the media isn’t moving on from its initial focus in this papal transition. Too bad.