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ROME -- At his first meeting with the media, Pope Francis continued to impress, charming the five-thousand-plus journalists in attendance with gestures of humility, his sense of humor, and suggestive comments about the direction he wants to lead the church.

He was introduced by Archbishop Claudio Celli, who heads the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Celli spoke in Italian and English, praising the press for the "positive role" it played "once again" in reporting the church to the world. He also highlighted the "freedom and autonomy of those who work in the media," thanking them for "their human and intellectual passion." The "diversity of media professionals," he continued, "adds to our understanding of the richness of reality." Francis listened intently from his chair, about twenty feet from Celli. And when the archbishop finished speaking, Francis stood and walked over to Celli to thank him for the remarks. (Popes don't really do that.)

Francis spoke in Italian and from a text, though he ad libbed throughout the address -- noting at the outset that "you have been busy." Of course the press ate it up. But he also reflected on the difficulty of covering an event like the election of a pope. "The nature of the church is spiritual, not political.... Christ is the center, not the successor of Peter."Going off script, he explained how "the bishop of Rome came to call himself Francis." As it became clear that he was about to be elected pope, his friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes comforted him:

"He hugged me. He kissed me. He said don't forget about the poor," Francis said. "And that word went in here," he said, pointing at his head. "And that's how in my heart came the name Francis of Assisi...for me is a man of poverty, a man of peace, a man who loved and protected creation. Right now our relations with Creation are not going very well." Francis of Assisi "gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man who wanted a poor church," the pope explained. "How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor."

Some cardinals had joked that he should have taken other names.

Ah, you should have called yourself Adrian, no, because Adrian VI was a reformer and we need reform! And another said to me, No, no you should have called yourself Clement. But why Clement? Clement XV -- so you would have taken revenge on Clement XIV, who suppressed the Society of Jesus!

But Francis also had a serious message for the world's media. He spoke of "the trinity of communication: truth, goodness and beauty." "We are not called to communicate ourselves. The church exists to communicate truth, goodness and beauty."

He concluded in rather stunning fashion. Instead of offering his apostolic blessing aloud, he gave it in silence, acknowledging (in Spanish) that "not everyone present is a member of the Catholic faith, and others do not believe." He continued, "I respect the conscience of all of you, knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you.

As he walked off stage, uproarious applause filled the room.

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I'm with Jean: beautiful, hopeful, surprising, etc., but I don't want to get carried away until some actual decisions happen.

The shoes of the Pope:http://sullydish.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/163792383.jpgIts encouraging to see someone who presents himself as a real person rather than as a character playing a role.

A proper piece of journalism here.Nice job!

I'm surprised the press hasn't investigated this lead: the name Francis may have been taken as a tribute to Francis I, Francois Premier, autocratic King of France (1494 - 1547). He strengthened the monarchy and made overtures to Muslims. Look for more of the same.

From Marco Politi, vaticanist of La Repubblica, analysis that I dearly hope is not just wishful thinking:

Pope Francis described Pope Benedicts resignation as a courageous and humble gesture. Benedict has demythologized the figure of the Supreme Pontiff, has taken away its sacralization, humanizing it and making it more humble. He has thus stressed its character as service and not as idolatrous power incarnate in a quasi-supernatural person. In the breach opened by Ratzinger, Pope Bergoglio is proceeding on this path, convinced that to enter into communication with contemporary humanity requires a resolute return to the essence of the Gospel. From his first moment Francis has presented himself as Bishop of Rome, consistently referring to the cardinals, most of them archbishops of dioceses throughout the world, as brothers. It is the representation of a bishop-pope and not of an emperor-pope who with his red mantle and his purple shoes appeared for more than a millennium as an absolute monarch. The triple crown of the triregno symbolized that the pope was above any earthly authority. Thus gradually Francis is dismantling the power-papacy of Gregory VII, the absolutism of the Council of Trent, the claimed infallibility of Pius IX. The emphasis in his first speech to the crowd in St. Peters Square that the Church of Rome presides in love over all the Churchesa formula from the first centuries of Christianitypresents the Holy See not as the center of bureaucratic power but as an instrument of unity: a concept fit both for realizing the principle of collegiality within the Catholic Church and for favoring dialogue with the other Christian Churches. For this remodeling of the papacy in the direction of collegiality and thus of a government of the Catholic Church effected by the pontiff in close collaboration with the episcopates, the American wind that blew over the Conclave played a role. If German and French theologians put their mark on the Second Vatican Council, the role of the American cardinals was central in making room in 2013 for a more modern conclave and pre-conclave. It was because of their energy and communication-skillsalthough not exclusivelythat the preliminary meetings of the cardinals were marked by great concreteness in the analysis of situations and of the evils of todays Church. Its because of them that in the conclave tactical games were set aside and the victorious candidate was quickly identified. They became a point of reference for the many episcopates that are seeking to participate in the strategic decisions of the papacy. Next Tuesday, with the inaugural Mass, begins, then, a strongly innovative phase for the pontificate as an institution and for the Catholic Church as a whole. The next months will tell whether Francis will also succeed in creating a team to support him in this strategy.

Thank you, Grant. Another display of simplicity and humanity. The end of the papal court continues. And courtiers.---The Vatican issued a communication today that states that Pope Francis has provisionally (donec aliter provideatur) confirmed all present curial heads of departments in their various offices (prefects, presidents, and secretaries [the number two slots]). BUT, he wishes to have time for prayer and reflection before making any final decisions. This is significant.

" this remodeling of the papacy in the direction of collegiality and thus of a government of the Catholic Church effected by the pontiff in close collaboration with the episcopates "Vatican II promised that and so did Paul VI and it did not happen. Will it happen now? Or will we get a cosmetically adjusted centralism?

"BUT, he wishes to have time for prayer and reflection before making any final decisions. This is significant."How is that different from the usual procedure?

Lovely article, Grant. It must have been thrilling to be there.So many good signs already, including the silent blessing.

Joseph O'Leary:It is different in that the official "Comunicato" makes this explicit. It could have ended with the bald announcement of the provisional re-appointments. I stand then by my decision to highlight "but."

@Patrick Malloy. What a disappointing comment.

Loved: "Christ is not the successor of Peter"! Thanks Grant.

Wow.

The Forward has a short account of Francis's only book: A dialogue with a rabbi in Spanish.http://forward.com/articles/173039/pope-francis-i-speaks-on-holocaust-is...

Well, he knows how to work a room with poise and dignity. No snarky remarks about press coverage, I assume from Grant's report. Acknowledging that those of all faiths are children of God was lovely. Is the Pope of Everybody back?But this is the "honeymoon," no? Pope Francis can certain use these early days to set a tenor for his papacy. What he is able to accomplish and how has yet to be determined. But as a disaffected Catholic, I feel inspired to look into my own heart and ask what I have done lately to focus on the poor and marginalized.

I don't think that's his only book, Margaret. CNS says he has written "books on spirituality and meditation."But it's this one that is flying off Amazon's shelves:#1 in Books > Libros en espaol > Religin y espiritualidad > Estudios Religiosos#1 in Books > Libros en espaol > Religin y espiritualidad > Judasmo#1 in Books > Libros en espaol > Religin y espiritualidad > Cristianismo > Teologahttp://www.amazon.com/Sobre-tierra-Spanish-Edition-ebook/dp/B007KD7D4Q/r...

Thanks for this piece, Grant. Very interesting to see how the press corps reacted.

Le Monde reports on the press conference:Francis will have lunch with Benedict next Saturday at Castelgondolfo. He will take some time for "thought, prayer and dialog" before naming new people to curial posts or reappointing those who previously served.He would like a "a poor Church for poor people"http://religion.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/03/16/le-pape-qui-embrasse-veut-une...

Donec aliter provideatur:"Vatican City, 16 March 2013 (VIS) Holy Father Francis has expressed the desire that the Heads and members of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, as well as their Secretaries, and also the President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, continue "donec aliter provideatur", that is, provisionally, in their respective positions. The Holy Father wishes to reserve time for reflection, prayer, and dialogue before any final appointment or confirmation is made."http://www.news.va/en/news/holy-father-provisionally-confirms-heads-and-...

You should set up camp in Rome, Grant.

Thank you, John Hayes, for the English version of the Vatican's communication. I wrote too quickly, and left out the important word "dialogue."

Francis I of France also was a great patron of the arts. His love of beauty had a great influence on French culture, and Pope Francis also sees the importance of beauty in every human life. Wouldn't it be great if his appreciation of beauty lead to a new aesthetic -- one that values simplicity but without the sterility of the minimalism we find today.

Reporters were enamored by JFK and also gave him a round of applause after his first news conference. The difference is that Bergoglio did not act any different than he has been for the last few decades. Most people have a sense of justice. I think that is why so many are drawn to Francis. Rome has usually devoured a reformer like Francis. The difference today is that communication is instantaneous so it will be hard to act in secret. Francis has certainly electrified most everyone. These months will be exciting.

Thank you Grant, and thank you Fr. Komonchak for the Politi article. Speriamo, as they say in Rome. Perhaps we can drop the term "ecclesial communitie," and get back to calling the institutions of our fellow Christians "churches."I also read somewhere that Archbp. Bergoglio never got around to instituting the new liturgical translations in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires. I don't know whether the Spanish translations were as ghastly as some of the English, but if he could get away with that in his pre-papal condition, why could not we in the US? Francis strikes me as the sort of man who woudl call a "cup" a "cup," and would not feel the need to promote it (or demote it, if you will) to "chalice."There's been one miracle already, and that is that after a few initial blunders with the name Bergoglio, American broadcasters seem finally to have been learning how that "gli" works in Italian.

Sandro Magister has some wonderful quotes from the new pope:http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350469?eng=y

Anthony Andreass,Apologies - I thought my comment was so obviously made tongue in cheek that it needed no emoticon. I was wrong. Next time I'll use this:: - Jhttp://pc.net/emoticons/smiley/tongue_in_cheekFor the record, I don't believe Pope Francis is in any way a covert devotee of Francis I of France.

I wish I could find this story somewhere oher than the Daily Mail. If it's true, its strange that no one else has reported it:"So when the appearance of a disgraced cardinal threatened to cast a shadow over his first engagement, Francis I made sure it couldnt happen again - by banning him from his own church.Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as Archbishop of Boston in 2002, after being accused of actively covering up for a litany of paedophile priests.'Despite the scandal which exploded to engulf the entire church, he was given an honorary position at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, in Rome.Though now retired, the cardinal still enjoys a grace and favour apartment in the cathedral complex.So hearing that the new Pope was offering prayers at the very same church, it seems he couldnt resist a discreet peak.But when Pope Francis recognised him, he immediately ordered that Law be removed, according to Italian media reports. He went on to command: He is not to come to this church any more.One of the new Popes first acts will be to arrange new cloistered accommodation for the disgraced cardinal, the Italian daily, Il Fatto Quotidiano, reported.Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2293785/Pope-bus-Francis-shows-h...

Fr. Rosica says it didn't happen:"The Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, however, reported that Francis had told Law to stop appearing in public at the basilica, where he retired as Archpriest in November 2011. The report also said that the new pope, as his first act of purification, is preparing to dispatch the 81-year-old Law to a cloistered monastery.Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, whos acting as an assistant Vatican spokesperson during the papal transition, told NCR today that those reports are "completely and totally false"http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/report-pope-exile-law-totally-false...

Can someone interpret this photo in the NY Times of March 16, 2013?http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2013/03/16/world/0316VATICAN02.html----It shows a new placard affixed to a wall in Buenos Aires, a photo of the Pope, titled Francis I, Argentino y Peronista.Is that an approbation or an accusation? What meaning is behind it?----Juan Peron died in 1974, four years after Jorge Bergoglio was ordained. I presume some Peronistas survive, but I don't know whether they currently are considered left or right or whatever.

It did not happen.

The story was "reported" widely by people who should have known better. It was never believable.

" How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor.my Franciscan parish allows the homeless to sleep in the pews from 6am to 12 noon when the Mass starts on weekdays. . [and there have been critics.] Now the nearby Jesuit parich wants to meet with the director of the Gubbio Project to see what's involved. Volunteers clean pews and floors daily www.thegubbioproject.org/video.a short video of what the new Church will look like!!

Thanks, Joseph, 3:09:Quoting de Lubac! And the reference to the Japanese Christians.

Somehow, Monty Python and the Cup just doesn't seem to be worth the effort.

Naive dope that I am, I was really hopeful when I saw in the news that Francis had dismissed Law. Now I'll go back to being my usual cynical self :(

"I respect the conscience of all of you..."Telling.Promising?(the "trads" must be cringing)

Guardian gives an English language review of Francis's book "Sobre el Cielo y la Terra":""The idea that celibacy produces paedophiles can be forgotten," he says. "If a priest is a paedophile, he is so before he becomes a priest. But when this happens you must never look away. You cannot be in a position of power and use it to destroy the life of another person."Bergoglio says he has never had to deal with such a case, but when a bishop asked what he should do, he told him the priest should be sacked and tried, that putting the church's reputation first was a mistake."I think that is the solution that was once proposed in the United States; of switching them to other parishes," he says. "That is stupid, because the priest continues to carry the problem in his backpack." The only answer to the problem, he adds, is zero tolerance.The church, he says, has been through worse times. "There have been corrupt periods. There were very difficult periods, but the religion revived itself."He also recognises that the church must move with the times and be in constant transformation. "If, throughout history, the church has changed so much, I do not see why we should not adapt it to the culture of the [our] time," he says.But he sticks to Catholic dogma on key issues, writing off gay marriage as "an anthropological reverse".Abortion is a scientific problem that is separate "from any religious concept"."Preventing the development of a being that already has the genetic code of a human being is not ethical," he says.Some of his harshest words are for ultra-conservatives who put obedience of church rules above everything else. "There are sectors within the religions that are so prescriptive that they forget the human side," he says.That may explain why, according to a leaked cardinal's diary from the 2005 papal conclave, he allegedly once criticised anti-condom zealots as wanting to "stick the whole world inside a condom".Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/15/pope-francis-book-radical-pr...

There is a story that before Cardinal Bergoglio left Buenos Aires his friends told him that he needed new shoes. He rarely buys anything for himself. And so they gave him the shoes as a gift.Also, the miter that he wore for the Mass with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday is the one he brought with him, rather than one from the papal sacristy. You can find pictures of him wearing the same miter in several instances when he was celebrating Mass in Buenos Aires. Perhaps it's the only one he has.Even though he spoke (off-the-cuff) in Italian, just watching him explain why he chose the name Francis is very moving. I would recommend the video found on the La Repubblica site, though I'm not up to linking it. (The pope's Italian is good, but not pitch perfect. It gets corrected in the texts found on the Vatican site.)

Patrick ==You don't have to be a "devotee" of someone to recognize a very special virtue in them. The poor need beauty as much as anyone else, probably even more. Depriving people of beauty is as bad as depriving them of bread. One of the terrible things about being poor is being constantly surrounded by ugliness and decay. Food and health are not enough for a decent human life, and I won't be surprised when Francis reminds us of this.

John Hayes: here is a Spanish source:http://www.periodistadigital.com/religion/vaticano/2013/03/15/francisco-... person who sent it to me later indicated that it is being reported (but I don't know where) that it is a made-up story in a type of supermarket tabloid.That doesn't mean that it is or isn't true, but that it needs reputable research. The story has evidently gone viral, however.That just proves how hopeful people are for substantive change. First moves on Francis' part will be so very indicative of what and how he thinks. I hope he doesn't blow it by being overly cautious.

Thanks for the link to Magister, JAK. Francis' statements about not being bound by one's preconceptions of what is right is very hopeful. Given his emphasis on empathizing with the poor including poor women hopefully he might get around to looking at contraception again.

Jim McCrea:The story has been denied by the Vatican press spokesmen, and Grant Gallicho, who is in Rome, has denied it twice above.---Yes, we have to see what decisions eventuate over time. The pope is a moderate conservative, as are pretty much all the cardinals. No surprise.But he has, I submit, already made several decisions.1. From his appearance on the balcony, he has continued to speak of himself as "bishop of Rome."2. An evident preference for the poor and being a pastor, and a resistance to being put on a pedestal.3. Simplicity in his liturgical style and in his style of dressing. By the rules of the game, he should have appeared on the balcony wearing the red shoulder cape trimmed in ermine that Benedict XVI brought back after several decades of disuse. He should also have worn a more elaborate cross on a gold chord. It is said by a number of sources that he simply refused.4. His decision today not to automatically re-appoint the Curial heads, as Benedict XVI did.Something is adding up here. Major changes, probably not. But more compassion in applying current teachings.Save one, a preference for governing WITH the bishops, particularly in respecting the role, much diminished in recent years, of bishops' conferences. The conferences and the periodic Synods of Bishops will be favored over the now lopsided power of the Roman Curia.I think he will have to act quickly so as not to allow opponents to out-manuever him.We'll see, but it will be good to pray for "Francis, our pope" at Mass tomorrow.

Here is the ritual for he installation of Francis on Tuesday. Interesting that it identifies him as "Bishop of Rome" http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2013/20130319_inizi..."Mass for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of Francis, Bishop of Rome" The Mass is in Latin with the first reading in English, responsorial psalm in Italian, second reading in Spanish and the Gospel read in Greek. Eucharistic Prayer I is used

In one of the profiles of Bergoglio before the conclave, an anonymous cardinal was reported as saying that "Four years of him would be enough to change things" (or words to that effect). The Guardian's report from the neighborhood where Pope Francis grew up has this interesting section:

As a Jesuit an order founded by a general and organised on military lines Bergoglio demands discipline. When he was made vicar general of Flores in 1992, he insisted that church authorities reveal the properties they owned. The senior padre in charge of episcopal finances, Jose Luis Mollaghan, tried to block the initiative. Bergoglio did not forgive or forget. When he became archbishop, he shuffled Molaghan out of his post, along with another cleric who opposed him, Hector Aguer...."Slowly and strategically, he will introduce changes as he becomes more powerful and others become weaker. Until now, no pope has been able to do that," said Bresci, who predicts the transformation to be the biggest in half a century or more."He will be strict on finance. There will be zero tolerance of sexual abuse and homosexual liaisons by priests. This is his style. It comes from Flores."

Denial isn't always the same as the truth. We shall wait and see.

http://mundabor.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/when-solidarity-goes-wrong/The hatchets are already coming out from some who question the new pope's commitment to the preferential option for the poor. From what I've seen of Pope Francis so far, he seems up to handling the criticism that could shorten his honeymoon (no pun intended) period.

Looking good:"Earlier, Francis celebrated his first Sunday mass as pontiff in the Vatican's small and simple parish church, rather than in St Peter's Basilica.Before he entered the church, Pope Francis, 76, greeted well-wishers who had lined up outside a nearby Vatican gate shouting "Francesco" - his name in Italian....At the end of the Sunday Mass, he waited outside the church and greeted people as they left, like a parish priest, asking many of them to, "pray for me".http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21820478

Refusing elaborate dress he is reported to have said: "The carnival is over."\He also refrained from a polyglot display at the Angelus, another break withthe "carnival".

I'd suggest for the time being treating our Pope more like a Barolo, let the man breathe.

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