Preparations were made for a gala classical concert recently where Pope Francis was supposed to be the guest of honor. Among other things, a white papal chair was set up for him where he would be among high ranking cardinals and Italian dignitaries to be entertained.
The concert is said to have been planned to honor the next pope, whoever he might be, after his election in March.
Minutes before the concert was due to start, however, an archbishop told the waiting guests and the crowd that an “urgent commitment that cannot be postponed” would prevent Pope Francis from attending. Thus, his white papal armchair remained empty during the show.
“It took us by surprise,” an unnamed Vatican official said. “We are still in a period of growing pains. He is still learning how to be pope, and we are still learning how he wants to do it. In Argentina, they probably knew not to arrange social events like concerts for him because he probably wouldn’t go.”
This is in fact an understatement as far as I am concern.
Pope Francis need not have to learn the intricacies of the papacy for he assumed the position like a fish thrown to the water.
His non-appearance was in fact Francis’ way of driving home his point and inculcating in the minds of people, including the Church officials, that the papacy is not about grandstanding and pomposity, much less being photographed and featured all the time in society pages.
The picture of the empty chair was the subject of many Italian papers referring to the non-attendance of Pope Francis as “a show of force” to illustrate the simple style he wants Church officials to embrace.
It has been reported that since his election on March 13, Francis, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, has not spent a single night in the opulent and spacious papal apartments.
He has preferred to live in a small suite in a busy Vatican guest house, where he takes most meals in a communal dining room and says Mass every morning in the house chapel rather than the private papal chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
The day before the concert, Francis said bishops should be “close to the people” and not have “the mentality of a prince”.
These emphatic words by the pope should be the guiding principles to be followed by the Catholic Church officials all over the world.
This is how lasting respect for the Catholic priests and the Catholic religion is earned, especially in the wake of sex and bank scandals and the alleged corruption and infighting in the Curia.
Long live Pope Francis!