Pope Francis’ Inaugural Mass: a guide

[From Austen Ivereigh in Rome*. NB The Mass booklet can be viewed or downloaded here.]

Today’s Mass of Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, beginning 9.30am local time (8.30 UK) and expected to last two hours, marks the official beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate. It is an ancient liturgy, rich in symbols which recall the Pope’s unbroken bond to St PIMG_1243eter, and which takes place in and around the place of his martrydom – St Peter’s Square, once Nero’s Circus.

It is not an ‘enthronement’ (the Pope is not a king, but Bishop of Rome, who “presides in love” over the universal Church) nor an ‘installation’, because the Pope was installed in his office at the moment of consenting to the cardinals’ election. The readings for the Mass are those of today’s Feast of St Joseph.

The Pope will preside at the Mass, which will be concelebrated by the cardinals and the patriarchs, together with two priests: the General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Fr Adolfo Nicolás, and the superior of the Franciscans, Fr José Rodríguez Carballo, who are also, respectively, President and Vice-President of the Union of Superior Generals.

‘Assisting’ at the Mass, seated on the left-hand side of the ‘Sagrato’ (porch of the Basilica) area, will be around 250 bishops and archbishops, ecclesiastics, and delegations from other Churches and Christian confessions.St P's Sq

On the right-hand side of the ‘Sagrato’ will be delegations from more than 130 national delegations, including six sovereigns (including Belgium and Monaco), 31 heads of state (Austria, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Poland, Portugal), three crown princes (Spain, Holland, Bahrain), 11 heads of government (Germany, France, etc.) as well as delegations led by  first ladies, vice presidents, vice prime ministers, parliament presidents, ministers, ambassadors, and other dignitaries.

On the St. Peter’s statue side of the piazza will be more than 30 delegations representing other Christian Churches as well as representatives of the world’s Jewish and Islamic communities. Also seated there will be around 1,200 priests and seminarians.

One significant attendee will be Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Orthodox Christianity — the first time a spiritual leader of world Orthodoxy will attend a papal inaugural Mass since the East-West Schism of 1054.

On the St. Paul’s statue side of the piazza will be seated the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and other civil authorities.

The rest of the piazza will be standing-room for all those without tickets. It is likely to be the largest crowd in Rome since the funeral of Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2005.


Between 8:45 and 8:50 am (all times local) the Pope will depart the Domus Sanctae Marthae and start to move through the crowd in the various sections of the piazza—either in the Jeep or the Popemobile—and greet those gathered. He will return to the Sacristy, via the Pietà side, around 9:15 am. Mass is planned to begin at 9:30 am.

At the beginning of the ceremony, the Pope, having entered the Basilica, will head to the Altar of the Confession (St. Peter’s tomb under the high altar) as the choir sings the “Tu es Petrus” (‘You Are Peter’), taken from Mt 16:18-19. (There are two choirs involved in today’s Mass: that of the Sistine Chapel, and that of the Institute of Sacred Music).

The Pope will venerate the tomb of St. Peter, together with the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (there are ten of them, four of them cardinals). He will then be presented with the two symbols of the papacy, the Pallium  and the Fisherman’s Ring, as well as a Book of the Gospels, all of which have been placed at St. Peter’s tomb the night before.

palliumThe Pallium, which will be placed on the Pope’s shoulders, is made from the wool of lambs. It recalls his pastoral mission, as the Good Shepherd who seeks and carries lost sheep. (The Pope’s Pallium has five red crosses, symbolising the Passion, while that of the archbishops of major sees has five black crosses. The one placed on Francis’ shoulders is the same as Benedict XVI used.) The Pallium is placed on the Pope’s shoulders by the senior cardinal deacon, Jean-Louis Tauran, the one who announced the “news of great joy” last Wednesday night. As the Pallium is placed on Pope Francis’s shoulders, a prayer is recited by senior cardinal priest, the emeritus Archbishop of Brussels, Godfried Danneels.

Pope Francis then receives the Fisherman’s Ring, recalling that St Peter made his living this way before Jesus called him to be a “fisher of men”. The ring is presented to the Pope by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, the most senior cardinal bishop, Angelo Sodano. The ring shows St. Peter with the keys entrusted to him by Jesus. The ring,  designed by Enrico Manfrini, has been recycled: it was in the possession of Archbishop Macchi, Pope Paul VI’s personal secretary, and then Mgr. Malnati, who proposed it to Pope Francis through Cardinal Re. It is made of gold-plated silver.IMG_1242

Pope Francis will then come back up from the Confession to the main floor of the Basilica, from which the procession continues, as the choir sings the “Laudes Regiae” in praise of Jesus (“Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands”) with invocations from the Vatican II document on the Church, Lumen Gentium.

The Litany of Saints begins with the apostles, and continues with the names of all canonised popes, up to the most recent, St Pius X.

Last comes the “Obedience”. While the choir sings Tu Es Petrus, six cardinals, two from each of the three ancient orders of cardinals (bishops, priests, deacons), pledge their obedience to the Pope, representing the whole College of Bishops. (When the Pope “takes possession” of the Cathedral of Rome, St. John Lateran, a similar pledge of obedience will be made by representatives of the various members of the People of God.)

The Mass

Althgough there are litanies, chants and prayers specific to this ancient liturgy, the Mass is otherwise an ordinary celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The Gospel will be sung by a deacon in Greek, as in other very solemn Masses at St Peter’s, to show that the universal Church is made up of the great traditions of the East and the West.

The Pope will give his homily in Italian, using a prepared text which he is likely to depart from.

There are two ‘simplified’ elements, to prevent the Mass being over-long. There will not be an Offertory procession, and the Pope will not distribute Communion, which will be done by the deacons on the “Sagrato” and, in the various areas of the piazza, by some 500 priests.

During the Offertory the choir will sing the Tu es pastor ovium (“You Are the Shepherd of the Sheep”) motet composed by Pierluigi da Palestrina precisely for the Inauguration of the Pontificate.

At the conclusion, the Te Deum will be sung with verses alternating between Gregorian chant and a melody by Tomás Luis de Victoria, assisted by a 14-piece brass ensemble.

Following the Mass

At the end of the celebration, and after removing his liturgical vestments, the Pope will go to the Basilica’s high altar, where he will greet the heads of the official delegations from various countries.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Pope will receive delegations of the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of other religions in audience on Wednesday.
 As of yesterday,  these include 33 delegations representing Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities (14 eastern, 10 western, three international Christian organizations), including the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Patriarchate of Moscow, as well as the Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and the Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Fykse Tveit. The delegations also include 16 Jewish leaders, and delegations of Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jainists, etc.

The Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, yesterday clarified that no leaders were specifically invited to the Mass. The Holy See’s policy was to notify states of the Mass, and welcome whomever came. “No one is invited, and all are welcome,” he said. There is no blacklist, meaning that dictators and democrats are likely to rub shoulders.

The Papal Coat of Arms

papal coat of armsThe Pope’s chosen coat of arms and motto are the same that he used as bishop, with the difference that, instead of the wide-brimmed, red cardinal’s hat atop the shield, it is now crowned by the papal mitre and crossed keys.

The shield has a bright blue background, at the centre top of which is a yellow radiant sun with the IHS christogram on it representing Jesus (it is also the Jesuit logo). The IHS monogram, as well as a cross that pierces the H, are in red with three black nails directly under them. Under that, to the left, is a star representing Mary, Mother of Christ and the Church. To the right of the star is a spikenard flower representing Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church.

The motto, miserando atque eligendo (“seeing through the eyes of mercy, he chose him”) is taken from the Venerable Bede’s homily on the Gospel account of the call of Matthew. It holds special meaning for the Pope because, as a 17-year-old, after going to confession on the Feast of St. Matthew in 1953, he became aware of God’s mercy in his life and felt the call to the priesthood, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

[*Austen Ivereigh will be commenting on the second half of the Mass (after 9.30a.m. UK time) for Sky News].

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