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'All welcome' for Pope's inaugural Mass

March 18, 2013

At a briefing for reporters on March 18, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, outlined the ceremonies that will take place on March 19, at the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis.

“The correct term for the ceremony is not enthronement but inauguration,” Father Lombardi said, as he began a lengthy rundown of the rituals and their symbolism. But he assured reporters that the entire ceremony will not last more than 2 hours, and that Pope Francis has emphasized his desire for simplicity.

The Mass will begin at 9:30. But Pope Francis will make his public appearance earlier, at around 8:45. He will leave his temporary residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae and arrive in St. Peter’s Square, probably in the “popemobile,” for a tour in which he will greet the people in attendance before entering the sacristy to prepare for the Mass.

The Mass itself will be preceded by a procession into the Vatican basilica, where the Pope, accompanied by the leaders of the Eastern Catholic churches, will venerate the tomb of St. Peter. Then the new Pope will be presented with three symbols of his authority: the pallium, the Fisherman’s Ring, and the Book of the Gospels, which will have been laid on the tomb of St. Peter the evening before the ceremony.

The Pope’s pallium—the white woolen vestment worn across the shoulders—will be the same one used by Pope Benedict XVI, Father Lombardi disclosed. The Fisherman’s Ring, crafted of silver and gold, dates to the time of Pope Paul VI. Another aspect of the Pope’s inauguration is the display of obedience made by the members of the College of Cardinals. To trim the length of the ceremony—and because all of the cardinals already pledged their obedience at the close of the conclave—the College will be represented by six cardinals: two cardinal-bishops, two cardinal-priests, and two cardinal-deacons.

The Mass itself, celebrated in St. Peter’s Square to accommodate the largest possible congregations, will be the Mass for the feast of St. Joseph. The Gospel will be read in Greek, to recall the union between the Eastern and Western traditions of the Church. Pope Francis will deliver his homily in Italian; Father Lombardi warned reporters that the Pontiff is likely to improvise his remarks rather than follow a prepared text exactly.

Following the Mass, Pope Francis will remove his liturgical vestments, then return to the high altar of St. Peter’s basilica. There he will receive the official delegations that have come for his inauguration.

The Vatican did not send out any invitations to the Pope’s inaugural Mass, Father Lombardi said. Everyone will be welcome, he said, and official delegations will be received in accordance with ordinary diplomatic protocol. There will also be no tickets to the Mass and no restrictions on attendance. With hundreds of thousands of people expected to crowd into St. Peter’s Square, worshippers are expected to begin arriving in the early hours of the morning to secure a place.


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