It seems that Pope Francis has, once again, decided to modify the usual papal living arrangements to suite his own, more scaled down and simple way of life. Being pope must be a lonely job, so I can certainly understand wanting to live in more of a community setting than high up in the Apostolic Apartments.
Rocco Palmo is author of the fantastic blog Whispers in the Loggia which many of us here at St. Vladimir’s read on a regular basis. Mr. Palmo’s coverage is insightful, and he’s often been the first one to break a major story on all things pope related. I know of a certain hieromonk who was checking it hourly on the second day of the conclave. It is kind of funny how excited people were getting on campus about the election, myself chief among them. Having grown up surrounded by Roman Catholic family members and friends, and having spent the last number of years serving in the Western Rite of the Antiochian Archdiocese, reunion between our two Sister Churches has been a constant prayer.
We were actually having a discussion about Pope Francis after lunch here at SVS and he’s made quite a good impression on many of us. I had told one of my friends that Pope Francis apparently pulls an old seminarian trick of not tucking his shirt tails in under his cassock. I totally haven’t been doing that for years… I mean, people tell me it’s much more comfortable… Anyway, my friend told me not to tell that story to his young son who despises tucking in his shirt, and this would give him quite a bit of ammo when saying, “you know, dad, the pope doesn’t tuck in his shirt.”
In terms of some of the things we’ve found encouraging about this pope’s reign thus far is his seeming intent to reorient things towards a more collegial mode of governance which is, naturally, welcome by Orthodox Christians. Then again, there are the concerns brought up about his views and actions on liturgy and tradition, two hot topics for Orthodox seminarians, certainly. I personally have been rather enjoying his asides in sermons and his jokes. But his manner of celebrating services and choices of vestments, while not earth-shattering in impact, do reflect a much different style than his predecessor. We do hope that he will continue showing the Roman Church an excellent example in improving the beauty of liturgical celebrations. And encouraging beautiful Sacred Music.
We were, and are, also fans of Pope Benedict XVI and his liturgical reforms; bringing the papal liturgy back to a more beautiful and reverential expression. We do miss the red winter mozetta… But, Pope Francis has been Bishop of Rome for a week and a half, and I do believe he’s only just started on his surprises.