Catholic World News

Pope raises eyebrows by skipping concert

June 24, 2013

Pope Francis caused a mild sensation on June 24, when he failed to appear at a Vatican concert.

The concert, a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony by the Italian Symphonic Orchestra, had been scheduled months in advance, as part of the Vatican’s observance of the Year of Faith. Although the concert was undoubtedly planned for Pope Benedict XVI, whose love for classical music is well known, Pope Francis had confirmed his plan to attend—as he has confirmed that he will attend all the events planned for the Year of Faith.

However, when prelates arrived in the Paul VI auditorium on Saturday evening, Archbishop Rino Fisichella announced that Pope Francis would not be attending the concert. The Pontiff was not ill, the archbishop said, but attending to an “urgent task that cannot be put off but must be dealt with at the present moment.”

The Pope’s non-attendance was heavily covered by the Italian media. Several newspapers printed a dramatic photo of the empty papal chair, surrounded by the assembled cardinals. Some Vatican-watchers speculated that the Pope was intentionally making a point about his desire for a simpler style.

John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter suggested a more persuasive explanation: Pope Francis may have wanted to spend the evening with apostolic nuncios from around the world, who were in Rome for a special meeting and would be leaving soon. Whether or not that explanation was accurate, the Pope’s public statement—which included thanks to the performers—gave no indication that he disapproved of the concert.

In a related development, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the Pope plans to dissolve the “Gentlemen of His Holiness,” the cadre of Italian laymen who, clad in black tie and tails, escort guests who are meeting with the Pope. According to Corriere della Sera, the Pope regards the custom as anachronistic, and notes that some “Gentlemen of His Holiness” have caused embarrassment for the Vatican by their own public misconduct.

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that no decision has been made to abolish the “Gentlemen of His Holiness.” However he did not deny that a change might be under discussion.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: bruno - Jun. 25, 2013 8:52 PM ET USA

    There is nothing quite so annoying as a surly 'Gentleman of His Holiness'!

  • Posted by: Obed - Jun. 25, 2013 8:23 AM ET USA

    I believe he knows 'all eyes' are on him. It probably drives some people crazy how he is 'inconsistent' or 'lax'[?](if I can even use that word to describe the Vicar of Chirst) not only with his words, but now, apparently with his compromises. I don't doubt or question him just one bit. Actually, I feel refreshed. I feel he is 'dusting' off some 'things'.

  • Posted by: ramonantonio3455448 - Jun. 24, 2013 10:37 PM ET USA

    A welcome event. Pope Francis causes a stir by not being there when expected. Can this be the beginning of the Unexpected Pope? Brings to memory when Jesus Himself talked to Nicodemus about the Spirit Who... ... Came from nowhere and went to nowhere, no one knowing from whence and where He choose to go but wherever He wanted...! Undomitable, unpredictable...

  • Posted by: Contrary1995 - Jun. 24, 2013 9:29 PM ET USA

    As is the case in so many other Italian institutions, there are no professional standards of conduct for the Italian media. Only a handful of Italian commentators on the Vatican merit any serious attention. The Italians have no notion of hard journalism. Opinions are facts and facts are merely opinions.