With break in style, Pope Francis shuns tradition


PURE AND SIMPLE Pope Francis, admired for his humility, urges the faithful to lead a simple lifestyle in the first Mass he celebrated as leader of the Catholic Church. AFP

VATICAN CITY—On his first day as shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis picked up his luggage at a Vatican hotel, personally thanked each member of the staff and even paid his own bill. Then, at his first Mass, he delivered a short, unscripted homily—in Italian, not the Latin of his predecessor—holding the cardinals who elected him responsible for keeping the church strong.

Pope for barely 12 hours, Francis brushed off years of tradition and formality on Thursday with a remarkable break in style that sent a clear message that his papacy is poised to reject many of the trappings enjoyed by now-retired Benedict XVI.

That was hardly out of character for Francis. For years, as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentine pastor took the bus to work, kissed the feet of AIDS patients and prayed with former prostitutes, eschewing the luxurious residence that would have been his due as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Global spotlight

But now he is Pope—the first from the New World and the first Jesuit—and his style both personal and liturgical is in a global spotlight.

On his first day, he couldn’t have signaled a greater contrast to Benedict, the German academic who was meek and generous in person but formal and traditional in public.

The differences played out on Thursday in the Sistine Chapel as the 76-year-old Francis celebrated his first public Mass as Pope.

Whereas Benedict read a three-page discourse in Latin, Francis had a far simpler message. Speaking off-the-cuff for 10 minutes in easy Italian, he said all Catholics must “build” the Church and “walk” with the faith.

New style

The new style was evident even in Francis’ wardrobe. Rather than wear the new golden pectoral cross he was offered after his election on Wednesday, he kept the simple crucifix of his days as bishop. He also turned down the red velvet cape that Benedict wore when he was presented to the world for the first time in 2005, choosing the simple white cassock of the papacy instead.

“It seems to me what is certain is it’s a great change of style, which for us isn’t a small thing,” Sergio Rubin, Francis’ authorized biographer, told The Associated Press.

Rubin said the new Pope “believes the Church has to go into the streets” and be one with the people it serves and not impose its message on a society that often doesn’t want to hear it.

For this reason, as Cardinal Bergoglio, “he built altars and tents in the squares of Buenos Aires, and held Masses with former prostitutes and homeless people in the street,” Rubin said. “He did this to express the closeness of the church to those who are suffering.”

More changes

Rubin said he expected to see more changes—even substantive ones—once Francis gets his footing.

“I think the categories of progressive and conservative are insufficient,” Rubin said. “Pope Francis is someone with a great mental openness to enter into dialogue. He is very understanding of different situations. He doesn’t like to impose.”

Marian devotee

Francis began on Thursday with an early morning trip in a simple Vatican car—not the papal sedan—to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where he prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

Like many Latin American Catholics, Francis has a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary, and his visit to the St. Mary Major basilica was a reflection of that. Laying flowers on the altar, he then prayed before a Byzantine icon of Mary and the Infant Jesus.

“He has a great devotion to this icon of Mary, and every time he comes from Argentina he visits this basilica,” said the Rev. Elio Montenero, who was present for the Pope’s arrival. “We were surprised today because he did not announce his visit.”

Francis himself had foreshadowed the visit, telling the 100,000 people packed into rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square after his election that he intended to pray to the Madonna “that she may watch over all of Rome.”


The new Pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires’ slums, had charmed the crowd when he emerged on the loggia and greeted them with a simple and familiar: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”

On Thursday, members of his flock were charmed again when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he stayed before the conclave to pick up his luggage. But that wasn’t the only reason he made the detour.

“He wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,” said Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, a guest at the residence. “He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.”

Good example

Francis then paid his bill “to set a good example,” Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

“People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car,” Rytel-Andrianek said. “Even when he went to the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future Pope.”

Francis displayed that same sense of humility immediately after his election, spurning the throne on an elevated platform that was brought out for him to receive the cardinals’ pledges of obedience, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

“He met with us on our own level,” Dolan said.

Later, he traveled by bus back to the hotel along with the other cardinals, refusing the special sedan and security detail that he was offered.

Gospel of simplicity

Francis, said US Cardinal Donald Wuerl, has signaled his adherence to a “Gospel of simplicity.”

“He is by all accounts a very gentle but firm, very loving but fearless, a very pastoral and caring person ideal for the challenges today,” Wuerl said.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, agreed.

“He’s just a very loving, wonderful guy. We just came to appreciate the tremendous gifts he has. He’s much beloved in his diocese in Argentina. He has a great pastoral history of serving people,” Collins said in a telephone interview.

Sense of humor

And he has a sense of humor.

During dinner after his election on Wednesday, the cardinals toasted him, Dolan said. “Then he toasted us and said, ‘May God forgive you for what you’ve done.’”

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  • Mario_Garcia

    Fratello Sole Sorella Luna :

    Dolce è sentire
    come nel mio cuore
    ora umilmente
    sta nascendo amore
    dolce è capire
    che non son più solo
    ma che son parte di una immensa vita
    che generosa
    risplende intorno a me
    dono di Lui
    del Suo immenso amore
    Ci ha dato il Cielo
    e le chiare Stelle
    Fratello Sole
    e Sorella Luna
    La Madre Terra
    con Frutti, Prati e Fiori
    il Fuoco, il Vento
    l’Aria e l’Acqua pura
    fonte di Vita
    per le Sue Creature
    dono di Lui
    del suo immenso amore
    dono di Lui
    del suo immenso amore


    For sure the writer of this article doesn’t mean the new Pope is shunning to the “Sacred Tradition” but the style of delivering the message only…or he is to ignorant to put the title of the article.
    Hahahahahahahaha! No Pope would shun to the Sacred Tradition, mind you!

  • virgoyap

    Instead of being entangled with doctrines I dare our Bishops to do the same as what Pope Francis did. He is more of an action Pope than the blah blah of many of our Bishops.

  • ever green

    lead by example… kung si Kristo nga mapagkumbaba lalo na dapat ang mga nagsisilbi para sa Kanya….ano kaya ang masasabi ng mga taga CBCP ??? hmmmm……

  • Max Tandan

    Pajero bishops are you listening, obeying or play acting?


    KUNG hindi nawalay si Joaquin Bernas na SJ din sa kay Francis nung pinanganak sila at napadpad sa PH si Bernas, baka Cardinal na din si Bernas at naka-suot na ng Communist-red na umiporme. :)


    Beware of bible-toting, bible-quoting CHARLATANS that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Pagans pretending to be something else by using the bible as a tool to mask their evil schemes. CAVEAT!

    • GKLer

      Beware of FOOLS called atheists who talk about God and the Bible.

  • F alonso

    Iniwan na ni Woody Allen ang showbiz para maging Pope?

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