JP in Rome: Pope Francis’ First Angelus

This afternoon, Pope Francis delivered his first Angelus address. He appeared at the window of his papal apartment, which is still being prepared for him. Crowds started arriving inside St. Peter’s Square hours in advance of the event. When the Pope appeared, crowds numbered around 100,000-200,000. The crowds were larger than those inside the square on the night of the Pope’s election. In his remarks, the Pope spoke about God’s mercies, setting the tone for a kinder, gentler Catholicism. Thus far, the Pope’s themes have been simple, appealing to the affective lives of everyday Christians.

In a surprising move, Pope Francis mentioned Cardinal Walter Kasper. It was the Pope’s first reference to a living theologian. The German cardinal is the President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Kasper served as an assistant to the controversial theologian Hans Küng. And, Kasper has entered into debate at times with the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The two men often debated the relationship between the universal and particular Church.

Associated Press

Associated Press

Pope Francis called Cardinal Walter Kasper “un teologo in gamba,” which caused Italians in the crowd to chuckle. Their reaction elicited confusion from non-Italians. After the Angelus, I spoke with some native speakers of Italian. Each one told me that the expression “in gamba” is colloquial. A priest told me it is Italian street language. The expression means something along the lines of a “good” or “clever” man. One Italian – fluent in English – explained to me that the expression is equivalent to our “dude” or the German “Mensch.” Use of the expression indicates something about Pope Francis’ closeness to the Roman people. He isn’t someone who hides behind the grandeur of his papal office; his presence is immediate – he connects with common people. As the BBC explained, the Pope is a natural communicator.

Such closeness was in evidence toward the end of the Angelus, as well. At the conclusion of his remarks, Pope Francis wished the people a “buon pranzo!” or “good lunch.” It was a small gesture, to be sure. But, it indicated the Pope’s closeness to the life of the Roman people. He is familiar with their lives and he shirks whatever stuffiness might separate the Bishop of Rome from his people. Perhaps, that is the reason Pope Francis refused to don the ermine mozzetta on the night of his election.

An anecdote is going around Rome. One religious sister in full habit told me that – before his appearance at the central loggia – Cardinal Marini tried to convince Pope Francis to don the ermine mozzetta. Pope Francis responded to him, “You put it on. Carnival is over.” It is becoming clear that the Pope desires a simpler and more immediate papal presence.

The Pope’s speeches communicate that desire, too. He speaks off the cuff and in the manner of a parish priest, using simple language. The BBC compared the Pope to a parish priest speaking at his lectern. Oftentimes, Pope Francis’ speeches are unavailable to the media ahead of schedule. There have been few embargoed copies of the Pope’s speeches. Instead, the Pope speaks to the people first and then his remarks are made available to the media.

But, Pope Francis has turned more than the Sala Stampa upside down. He has been keeping Vatican and Italian police on their toes, as well. After Pope Francis celebrated the Eucharist at the Vatican’s Sant’Anna parish this morning, he started heading toward the Vatican gates and the streets of Rome. He wanted to walk among the people. But, Vatican police worked overtime to convince the Pope to remain inside the Vatican. Not wanting to inconvenience a nervous police squad, the Pope agreed to remain inside the Vatican … for now. However, the morning after the election, Fr. Lombardi told the world’s media that this Pope is going to be more accessible to the people. And, he reminded the media that the police work for the Pope, not vice versa.


Categories:Pope Francis Vatican

  • Tim

    The remark he supposedly made about the mozzetta is now debunked along with a few other things.

  • Marcia Tindell

    I’m glad to see that Pope Francis will be a people pope; however, that is going to keep his security force busy.

  • Ken Martin

    Pope Francis I, S.J.!!! Yes the former Cardinal from Argentina is in keeping with many Jesuits around the world. Jesuits are “of the people” much like Christ. When I was a Student at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska, ( A Jesuit Univ) The President Fr. Mike Morrison, S.J. would sit on the steps of the Administration Building at mid day ( his white collar piece stuck in the pocket of his collarless black shirt) and visit with the students. He made himself accessible. I am not surprised that Pope Francis is doing the same among his flock. This Jesuit will rock the World and shake up years of the old guards hold on the Vatican. Viva Papa Frances!

  • Susan Abel

    Why don’t you leave Pope Francis’ REASONS for doing what he does to our imagination.

    “He isn’t someone who hides behind the grandeur of his papal office” you could have left off and said only, “his presence is immediate – he connects with common people. ”

    “he shirks whatever stuffiness might separate the Bishop of Rome from his people” is annoying to me. O.k., people hope for a more approachable pope. He has a unique personality for engaging the people. It’s personality. It has not a shred to do with his love for the people vs. the love of those viewed as “stuffy” or “hiding behind grandeur.” This is VERY disturbing to me. I have heard enough of it already. There is NO place for comparison, and I’m quite certain Pope Francis would be the first to agree.

    • Joe M

      Susan. What is your complaint exactly? That the Pope isn’t being complimented in a way that you prefer?

      What on earth is “disturbing” about suggesting that the Pope is approachable out of being loving?

    • Patrick Cullinan, Jr.

      Your penetrating observation is absolutely, totally correct. Everybody knows that journalism school instills little, if any, knowledge and regard of history, manners, or culture. Keep writing, Susan

      Patrick Cullinan, Jr

      P.S. I initially replied to the wrong post, owing to layout.

  • Antonio A. Badilla

    John, “He is familiar with their lives and he shirks whatever stuffiness might separate the Bishop of Rome from his people. Perhaps, that is the reason Pope Francis refused to don the ermine mozzetta on the night of his election.”

    Are you stating that Pope Benedict XVI was stuffy and separated from the people of Rome because he wore the red mozzetta all Popes have wore in the XXth Century? Was the new Pope implying Benedict and his predecessors were playing “carnival” when they wore their ermine mozzeta?
    You should really be very careful in the way you use your words to write about this Pope, especially when his predecessor lives and is respected by millions, including many who like CV.
    Your words remind me of the ugly comparisons people made between Venerable Pius XII and Blessed John XXIII.

    • Joe M

      No. I think you have to want to accuse the author of something in order to accomplish the mental gymnastics of that conclusion.

      It has been widely reported that Pope Francis turned down better accommodations available to his previous position. Complimenting him about his well documented humility is to say nothing negative about anyone else.

    • Patrick Cullinan, Jr.

      The blatant innuendoes of the piece have soared way over your head, or burrowed under your feet, as the case may be.
      Kindest regards,

    • Patrick Cullinan, Jr.

      I take that back.


    Hi John ~ A kinder, gentler Catholicism, YES! However, we should all pray for the Swiss Guard, the Corps ‘d Gendarmes and the Carabinieri. They have their work cut out for them. ~ Pax, Greg



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