Pope Francis Inauguration Could Signal More Than Changing of Guard

Regression instead of progress.

The Inauguration of Pope Francis

The Inauguration of Pope Francis may signal more that just changing of the guard. Traditionally, when a Pope succeeds, his inauguration represents a cleaning up of any of the church’s faults that plagued the previous administration.

However, among analysts around the world, the present transition has engendered the question of whether Pope Francis’ papacy will bring changes to a Church mired in scandals and longstanding disagreements with China.

But what more could such an unforeseen transition offer? Does a inauguration produce an clues?

Before the inauguration of Pope John Paul I in 1978, Popes received a coronation.  The new Pope wanted a simpler ceremony culminating in a simple and symbolic ritual.

Recent Popes have simplified and dignified the ceremony which takes place during Mass (usually in the piazza outside Saint Peter’s Basilica) and involves the formal bestowal of the pallium, the symbol of the pope’s universal jurisdiction, on the newly elected pope by the senior Cardinal Deacon.

Pope Benedict XVI maintained those changes and also shortened the ceremony of homage previously paid at a papal inauguration by each cardinal individually, repeating the “act of homage and obedience” made in the conclave to the new pope before the announcement of his election to the people.

Before the inauguration began, Pope Benedict knelt with the Cardinals at the tomb of St. Peter, the first Pope from whom all other have succeeded, to offer prayers.  Then they marched in procession to St. Peter’s square to celebrate mass.

The Pope then received the pallium and the Ring of the Fisherman. The pallium, that was imposed upon Benedict at his inauguration, was different from that of his predecessors: he reverted to an earlier form practically identical to the ancient omophorion (still used to this day by Eastern bishops). It was wider than the standard archiepiscopal pallium, though not as wide as the modern omophorion. It was 2.4 metres (2.6 yards) long, made of wool with black silk tips. It had five embroidered red silk crosses instead of the six black ones of the normal archbishops’ pallium. He later used a pallium more like that of his immediate predecessors, but with a longer, wider cut and six red crosses.

Instead of having each of the more than one hundred cardinals kneel before the Pope individually to do him homage, twelve people, lay as well as clerical, did so: the senior Cardinal bishop, the Cardinal protopriest, the Cardinal protodeacon, the bishop of Benedict’s former suburbicarian diocese of Velletri-Segni, the priest serving as pastor of Benedict’s former titular church when he was a Cardinal priest, a deacon, a religious brother, a Benedictine nun, a married couple from Korea, and a young woman from Sri Lanka and a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, each of whom had been recently confirmed.

Pope Francis, already displaying humility and showing a preference to eliminate much of the “pomp and circumstance”, may change his Inauguration today.

A question asked by Catholics and non-Catholics alike is “will he officially become Pope after the inauguration”?  No, he became Pope Francis immediately after he received the two third majority and accepted the papacy.  The inauguration is a celebratory event.

Today, Tuesday, 3/19/2013, Pope Francis celebrated his inauguration with a mass lasting about 2 hours.  When the service was over, a pallium of lamb’s wool was placed over his shoulders, signifying he is “Christ’s Shepard”.  The “ring of the fisherman” was then placed on his finger to represent his role of spreading the gospel.

Continuing his position of austerity and simplicity, the ring was second hand, and not made of pure gold.  It is made of gold-plated silver.

The Pope then delivered his homily.  He instructed the faithful on the importance of caring for the poor, the sick, and the natural world.

He noted the significance of the date.  Today is the day Catholics celebrate St. Joseph, Jesus’ father on earth.  He told over 200,000 people that Joseph was not only a father who cared for Jesus and Mary, but of all people.

He spoke too of the need to protect “all creation, the beauty of the created world” as instructed by the Bible and shown by St. Francis of Assisi, whose name he took as pope.

This, he said, “means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”

He warned of the consequences if people do not look after one another.

“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.”

And he urged those in power to live up to their duties, and to all to avoid evil, hatred and pride.

“I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment,” he said.

When Pope Francis finished his homily, 500 priests delivered Communion to the crowd.

Then Pope Francis greeted dignitaries from around the world who came to show their respect.  President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, from Francis’ native Argentina, was the first head of state to step up.

Vice President Joe Biden, leading the U.S. presidential delegation, was also among those to meet the pope, as was Zimbabwe’s controversial President Robert Mugabe.

In his first tweet after his inauguration on the @Pontifex account, Pope Francis said: “Let us keep a place for Christ in our lives, let us care for one another and let us be loving custodians of creation.”

The Pope moved through the crowd in an open vehicle with no bullet-proof glass for about 17 minutes.  People held up babies, and he obliged by kissing them on the head.  At one point he stepped out of the vehicle to kiss the head of a man who was disabled.

Francis then took part in ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica, before emerging once more in a solemn procession before the massed crowds in the square.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi accompanied Biden in the U.S. delegation, the White House said. On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said he would send a separate bipartisan congressional delegation.

There were also groups from the Americas, including Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Canada, and from European nations such as Italy, Holland, Belgium and Germany.

Representatives from across Christianity — Eastern and Western — were also present, along with members of other religions, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism.

The new Pope will be very busy, and very visible for the next couple of weeks.  Easter is one of the most important times of the year in the Catholic Church.

Perhaps nothing can or should be made of his inauguration as it relates to Pope Francis’ actual reign. The election of a dogmatically conservative pope however, brings a certain measure for concern. It is easy to rejoice in the lack of gross glitter as this Pope has attempted to downplay. And why not, as modernity has significantly distracted the church from theological positions as controversial social scandal seem to have run amuck. A kinder, gentler pope who puts the weight of the Roman Catholic hierarchal church behind efforts to prevent divorce, abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage—as Mr. Bergoglio did in his country presents more that a few reasons for fear and anxiety. While he may clean up some of the bureaucratic mess in the curia, the is no evidence that Pope Francis he will be any more responsive than his predecessor to the political challenges which perpetuate oppression, prejudicial treatment towards woman and those that lack means.

There is something dubious about calling the hierarchical church to a simpler way of being and ignoring the many women whose ministerial service would enhance its output. In fact, it appears that nothing in Pope Francis’ history that suggests he will be anymore sensitive in his actions than those he’s preceded.

According to a public article in Religion & Politics, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans people kill themselves because Catholic hierarchs tell them that their sexuality is ‘intrinsically morally disordered.'” The writer further points out the obvious hypocrisy of seeing women die from unsafe, illegal abortions while the Catholic hierarchy spends millions of dollars opposing legislation that would make their choices safer. I guess a changing of the Guard in the case of the new Pope simply means more of the same, which consequently could mark regression instead of progress.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

Pope’s Inauguration Mass: Protect and serve the poor, elderly

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