BLOG WATCHING:  THE RETURN OF A HUMBLE POPE, POPE FRANCIS I

MANILA, MARCH 25, 2013 (ANDREA AYRES BLOG) BY Andrea Ayres-Deets in Culture, Religion - PHOTO ABOVE: Pope Francis met with former Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo for the first time.

The meeting is a historic event and marks the first time in 600 years that two popes have met one another. The two prayed and then spoke of the future of a church in transition.

Upon Francis’ arrival the two embraced one another prior to going inside the chapel at Castel Gandolfo for prayer.

Francis presented Benedict with an icon of Madonna called the "Madonna of Humility." Francis told the former pope, "You gave us so many signs of humility and gentleness in your pontificate."


Once inside the chapel, the 85-year-old Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeling bench used by the pope. Francis declined to use the bench alone, "We’re brothers, we pray together." The two knelt together side by side, their hands folded, deep in prayer.

The pair then travelled back to the papal villa where they were greeted by onlookers who could be heard chanting, "Francesco! Francesco!" The meeting was private, but many presume the most-likely topic of conversation concerned the future of the embattled Catholic Church.

Both popes have had to deal with the challenge of modernity and technology. How to reconcile a document and religious structure steeped in tradition while remaining relevant for future generations? Does Pope Francis possess enough humility to admit the wrong doing of the church? To come completely clean about the decades of cover up and abuse would be the very fist step towards being a truly humble pope.

What Pope Francis must do now is entreat the faithful to join him in a dialogue about the future of the church. Many of the churches problems come from a disconnect people feel from the man they call pope. The Vatican is an autocracy and that absolute power has come at a price for the church. The pope may be the absolute ruler but he cannot rule those who will not follow. The church expects followers but it does not do anything to keep them. Part of what made John Paul II so popular among the people is that he, despite his many other errors, understood this.

Pope Benedict built up a wall around the church higher than the wall that surrounds the Holy See. Pope Francis must dismantle it, and he has shown signs of doing just that. He has reopened the morning mass to allow members of the public. He has also called for greater outreach to the poor and people of differing faiths.

Pope Francis must go out and meet Catholics, hear their grievances, their hopes, and fears. Then, he must act on them. That might mean putting aside thousands of years of dogma, but what could possibly be more humbling than that?

FROM BBC NEWS UK

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo David Willey BBC News, Rome

The BBC's Alan Johnson: "We will never know the details of their talks" -  Newly elected Pope Francis has met his predecessor for lunch, the first time such a meeting has been possible for more than 600 years.

Pope Francis was flown by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo for the private lunch with Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Benedict has lived at the lakeside castle south of Rome since last month, when he became the first pope in six centuries to resign, citing ill health.

Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio was elected to succeed him on 13 March.

No known precedent

There was no official communique on the results of the Pope's brief lunchtime visit to Castel Gandolfo, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome.

There had been intense speculation about how Vatican protocol would deal with the first face to face meeting since the election of Pope Francis between the new Pope and the retired Pope. It was a carefully calculated mixture of formality and informality.

Emeritus Pope Benedict embraced his luncheon guest on Pope Francis' arrival at the helipad at the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo, which has become Benedict's temporary home. Benedict, who stepped down from the papacy at the end of February, wore a white padded jacket and looked rather frail in comparison to 76-year-old Pope Francis, nine years his junior.

The two white-clad clerics then prayed together in the villa's private chapel where Pope Francis insisted on kneeling side by side with his predecessor, rather than using the padded papal kneeler prepared for him. "No! we are brothers, we pray together!" Francis told Benedict in a gesture of humility.

On the agenda, some delicate handover details, including a top secret document prepared by the former pope on last year's scandal involving leaked documents, our correspondent adds.

The new head of the Catholic Church is usually elected after the death of his predecessor, and there is no public record of any previous meeting between an incumbent pope and a former pope.

In 1294, former hermit Celestine V resigned after five months as pope. Boniface VIII was elected days later, and had his predecessor imprisoned. Celestine was dead within a year.

In contrast, Pope Francis has spoken warmly of his predecessor.

One of his first acts as Pope was to call Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, where the former pontiff had been following proceedings on television.

The pope emeritus is expected to stay on at the papal summer residence until new accommodation being prepared for him inside the walls of Vatican City is ready at the end of April.

For his part, Pope Francis will begin the Church's most important liturgical season on Sunday with a Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square.

He will then lead six more liturgies during the week, culminating with the Easter Sunday Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing.

New style

The new Pope chose the name Francis in honour of St Francis of Assisi - the 13th Century Italian saint who spurned a life of luxury to work with the poor.

He has called for the Roman Catholic Church to be closer to ordinary people, especially the poor and disadvantaged.

Continue reading the main story Castel Gandolfo retreat Picturesque lakeside "castle town" in the Alban hills, 15 miles (24km) south-east of Rome Dates back to the 17th Century; its gardens occupy the site of a residence of the Roman Emperor Domitian Benedict is staying at the palace while a permanent residence is readied inside the Vatican City walls He has a staff of two secretaries and four women helpers, and is guarded by Vatican police officers

And, only 10 days into his pontificate, he has made some subtle but significant changes in the lifestyle of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, says our correspondent.

He dresses very simply, preferring to wear plain black shoes under a simple white habit rather than the red leather loafers and ermine-trimmed cape worn by his predecessor.

The first Latin American Pope spurned a special car to take a bus with his cardinals after he was elected, and insisted on returning to his Rome hotel the next day to pay his own bill.

And Pope Francis places himself on the same level as his guests, rather than greeting them from a throne on an elevated platform, which is seen as a powerful gesture after centuries of Vatican pomp.

The former archbishop of Buenos Aires has also started inviting guests to his early morning Mass - including Vatican gardeners, street sweepers, kitchen staff and maids working at the hotel where he is currently staying. David Willey BBC News, Rome

Who, What, Why: What does a pope do? By David Willey BBC News, Rome

(A part of BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer questions behind the headlines)


Pope Francis has celebrated his inaugural mass in the Vatican, and he has assumed the responsibility of leading the world's Catholics. But what exactly does a pope's job entail?

After Pope Francis' solemn inauguration mass, attended by six reigning monarchs, 31 heads of state and representatives of 132 governments, he will become head of state of the world's smallest sovereign enclave, Vatican City, as well as spiritual leader of an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics scattered over every continent.

The duties of the 266th successor to the throne of Saint Peter are wide-ranging.

THE ANSWER:

1. Weekly blessings in St Peter's Square
2. Celebrates mass each morning in private chapel
3. Travels throughout Italy and the world
4. Meets each of his more than 5,000 bishops at least once every five years - about 20 a week
5. Receives visitors such as heads of state

His regular Vatican appointments are:

:A weekly blessing for tourists and pilgrims every Sunday from the window of his private study overlooking Saint Peter's Square
:A weekly general audience for some 5,000 pilgrims in a modern audience hall in winter and in the open air in Saint Peter's Square in summer.
:The Pope normally presides over religious celebrations of all the major church festivals of the year inside Saint Peter's, including Christmas and Easter, when he also appears on the same balcony where he was proclaimed pope after his election to deliver his "Urbi Et Orbi" message to the city of Rome and to the world.

Past popes have celebrated Mass every morning in their private chapel before settling down at their desk to deal with correspondence.

The Pope has a small personal staff of nuns to run his household, to cook and clean, and a personal valet or butler. Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul both had two personal secretaries. He also has a team of speechwriters.

While Pope Emeritus Benedict lived a secluded life inside the Vatican (and plans to live an even more secluded existence in the former convent which is being prepared as his new home in a corner of the Vatican Gardens), Pope John Paul II lived a more gregarious existence, often inviting personal guests to attend his early morning mass and to share his breakfast. He also gave frequent lunch and dinner parties for visiting clergy and friends.

One of the duties of a pope is to meet at least once every five years with his more than 5,000 bishops from around the world - roughly 1,000 a year, or 20 a week.

Under church law they are obliged to visit Rome to report to the Pope on the state of their dioceses in what is called an "ad limina" (on the threshold of Saint Peter) visit. Benedict XVI had just finished this exhaustive series of interviews with every Catholic bishop in the world, and was embarking on a second round just before his retirement.


Pope Benedict before his retirement Foreign travel is also, these days, among the Pope's duties.

In contrast to the 19th Century Pope Pius IX and his immediate successors, Pope Francis is unlikely ever voluntarily to confine himself to his micro-state.

Pius' pontificate lasted for 32 years, the longest of all time. Although he was forced to leave Rome and seek temporary refuge at nearby Gaeta when revolution broke out in Rome in 1848, he angrily declared himself a "prisoner in the Vatican" when forced militarily to forfeit his temporal rule over the former papal states of central Italy after Italy became a unified state in 1870. He remained inside the walls of the Vatican until he died.

Pope Francis has already made several sorties into Rome in an unmarked car and is likely to continue the regular worldwide and Italian travels of his immediate predecessors. His first foreign visit is expected to be to his home country Argentina, and also to Brazil for a Catholic youth festival in Rio De Janeiro in July.

His first visit inside Italy could be to Assisi, the birthplace of the much loved patron saint of Italy, Saint Francis, by whose name the new Pope chose to be called.

The Pope also receives many visitors.


Pope John Paul II meeting the Queen in 2000 Traditional papal protocol is complicated and serves to isolate the Pope except when he officiates at these public ceremonies.

The Apostolic Palace, a fine Renaissance building next to Saint Peter's Basilica, has suites of official reception rooms on its second floor, below the papal apartments. Here the Pope receives heads of state and official guests in his private library - groups of visitors range in size from four or five, to several hundred at a time.

Popes traditionally live in the spacious apartment reserved for their use on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. This may not suit the new Pope who, as absolute monarch, is free to live where he will. When appointed archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis refused to live in the archbishop's palace, preferring more simple accommodation.

Up to now he has chosen to work from a hotel room inside Vatican City, rather than move directly into his palatial official quarters, which he finds excessively large.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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