On March 19, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass commemorating the inauguration of his pontificate. Of course, Pope Francis became the head of the Catholic Church after accepting his election inside the Sistine Chapel. And so, the Mass did not mark the actual beginning of his reign. Some details about the events of March 19 appear below:
In advance of the Mass of Installation, Pope Francis broadcast a message to pilgrims gathered inside Plaza de Mayo in the Monserrat barrio of central Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pope Francis reiterated themes similar to those that surfaced in his sermon at the Messa Per L’Inizio Del Ministro Petrino Del Vescovo Di Roma. Zenit’s unofficial translation of the address follows:
Dear children, I know you are in the square. I know you are praying and saying prayers, I need them very much. It is so beautiful to pray. Thank you for that.
I want to ask you a favor. I want to ask that we all walk together, to take care of one for the other, take care of each other, do not hurt each other, take care of yourselves, take care of your lives. Take care of the family, take care of nature, take care of children, take care of the elderly; that there may be no hate, no fights, leave aside envy, do not speak ill of anybody. Dialogue among each other, so that in all of you may live the desire to care for one another.
That your hearts may grow and come close to God. God is good, He always forgives, understands, do not be afraid of Him; He is Father, be close to Him. May the Virgin bless you, do not forget this bishop who is far but loves you very much. Pray for me.
The Vatican’s Press Office states that Pope Francis telephoned Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after the Mass of Installation, around five in the evening on March 19. Pope Francis wished his predecessor a blessed Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Joseph is the patron saint of the retired pope. The two men spoke at length. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI continues to reside at Castel Gandolfo and a meeting between the two men is expected on March 23. Although Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did not attend the Mass of Installation, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Chaplain of His Holiness and Prefect of the Papal Household, was in attendance.
Numerous media outlets, including US News and World Report and Politico, confirm that Vice President Biden and Congresswoman Pelosi received communion at the Mass of Installation. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden were seated near the altar. During the Mass, I was stationed on top of Bernini’s Colonnade, alongside the Vice President’s staffers and secret service detail, who spent most of the Mass glued to their smartphones.
While China and Zimbabwe sent their chief executive heads of state to the Mass, the United States did not. In the hours after the Mass, the Vatican gathered quite a bit of critique for inviting Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. However, Vatican spokespersons explained that the Vatican did not invite a single head of state. Instead, the Vatican communicated the election of Pope Francis and the logistical details regarding his Mass of Installation to the world. Then, various world leaders announced their desire to attend.
For the first time since the Great Schism of 1054, an ecumenical patriarch – Bartholomew I – participated in the installation of a Bishop of Rome. Representatives of the Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Western Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Hindu communities were in attendance, as well.
The Gospel was intoned in Greek and introduced according to the Eastern liturgical custom, which involves an acclamation addressed to Wisdom.
After Easter, and sometime in April, Pope Francis will take possession of the Patriarchal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. This will occur in the context of a prescribed ritual, a special liturgical celebration. Blessed Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (n. 92) mandates this event.