By Scot Landry
The big event on Saturday was a gathering of Pope Francis with all the credentialed media in Rome to cover the papal transition.
Since we had heard that more than 5,000 media were credentialed and that families were also invited, we wanted to get in line early to make sure we had a decent viewing point, particularly for photos that we could share with you.
The gathering was to begin at 11:00 and we were told they would start letting people in around 9:30. We arrived at about 9:20 and found that they line was already about 2,000 deep. A lot of people had a similar idea to get there early. What was great about the line was seeing so many journalists and friends from across the United States all gathered together awaiting entrance. RD Sahl from NECN and WBUR was part of our group as we waited and discussed the week’s events.
About 10:30am, we were admitted through security and into the Paul VI audience hall. We decided to focus on getting close to the center aisle, even if it meant moving further back, in case the Holy Father would process in or out. Overall, the audience hall has a capacity of 6,300 and I think it was half-filled, as many journalists seemingly had already returned home.
Unfortunately for us, the Holy Father entered directly onto the stage and exited directly off the stage, so there was no opportunity to get a close-up photo of him.
George was very pleased with the location we had to take photos with his zoom lens of the Holy Father’s remarks.
Pope Francis’ remarks were mostly in Italian with a little Spanish mixed in at the end. Thankfully, sitting next to me was my brother, Fr. Roger Landry, who was able to provide the translation as it happened to 6 of us gathered around him.
Here is a translation of the address provided by Vatican Radio. [My reflections on Pope Francis' remarks are in bold].
At the beginning of my ministry in the See of Peter, I am pleased to meet all of you who have worked here in Rome throughout this intense period which began with the unexpected announcement made by my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI on 11 February last. To each of you I offer a cordial greeting.
The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world about the events of contemporary history.
[Scot: Since Vatican II, with its document Inter Mirifica, and all the annual messages for World Communications Day, the Church has embraced the media increasingly each year, both Catholic media for the purposes of evangelization and communication, and the journalists who work for secular organizations. The Church recognizes that many Catholics get their news about the Church through secular media organizations.]
I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage that you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you?
[Scot: There was an eruption of applause and laughter at this comment, recognizing that many journalists had unusual schedules to participate in events here on Rome time and also to file reports on the normal broadcast or deadline times back home.]
… when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter. Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry.
[Scot: I very much liked his description that the "heart" of the Eternal City is the tomb of Saint Peter.]
I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way that was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith. Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation, which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.
[Scot: Pope Francis took the opportunity to politely teach the media that covering the Church through political and external categories only does a disservice to the Church and to the readers/viewers/listeners of the media organizations. To really cover the Church, one has to cover it from the "inside" with the perspective of faith and not only from the "outside" by looking at external dimensions. The essential nature of the Church is spiritual.]
Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Yet Christ remains the center, not the Successor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the center. Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist.
[Scot: Both Pope Benedict XVI last month and Pope Francis now have taken the opportunity to clarify that Christ is the Supreme Pastor of the Church and the Pope is just Christ's Vicar. Any good Pope, and for that matter any Christian that lives his/her faith fully, should reflect Christ, the Good Shepherd, our Supreme Pastor.]
As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her. In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit. He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.
[Scot: Pope Francis clearly states that he believes Pope Benedict's prayer, guided by the Holy Spirit, prompted his resignation for the good of the Church.]
It is important, dear friends, to take into due account this way of looking at things, this hermeneutic, in order to bring into proper focus what really happened in these days.
All of this leads me to thank you once more for your work in these particularly demanding days, but also to ask you to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her.
[Scot: Pope Francis explicitly asks the media to understand and communicate the true nature of the Church in their coverage.]
Be assured that the Church, for her part, highly esteems your important work. At your disposal you have the means to hear and to give voice to people’s expectations and demands, and to provide for an analysis and interpretation of current events. Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful. This is something that we have in common, since the Church exists to communicate precisely this: Truth, Goodness and Beauty “in person”. It should be apparent that all of us are called not to communicate ourselves, but this existential triad made up of truth, beauty and goodness.
[Scot: Pope Francis says that he and the Church highly esteems the profession of journalism. He states a hope that they emphasize what is true, good and beautiful in their coverage.]
[Scot: In the audience hall, it seemed that the Holy Father told the following story extemporaneously. Up until this point he seemed to be reading from prepared text. For this story, it seemed like he was simply telling a good story like a father or grandfather would.]
Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story.
[Scot: In Rome, we heard this mini-debate going on for the first 12-18 hours after he was elected, particularly whether Pope Francis was modeling himself after St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary. I think Cardinal Seán in his news conference on Thursday may have been the first to publicly communicate that without a doubt that Pope clearly chose the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi. Cardinal Seán mentioned that the Pope was clear about this in the Sistine Chapel immediately after his election.]
During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me.
[Scot: In showing a lighter side and a sense of humor, Pope Francis used the phrase "looking dangerous" to describe the growing momentum toward his election as Successor of Peter.]
And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!
[Scot: An amazing story! I've been wondering since I arrived in Rome whether the Cardinals would have a name in mind in the event they were elected. However, in this case, it was in the overwhelming moment when he was elected Pope – think of what he must have been going through emotionally - that his friend Cardinal Hummes put the thought in his head that his papacy would be for the poor and that the Church under his leadership would be for the poor. Thinking of St. Francis of Assisi brought him peace and he chose the name that will define him for the rest of his earthly life and into eternity.]
Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”. “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes.
[Scot: What a sense of humor! In this, one of his first addresses, he mentions that the Jesuits would have loved the 'payback' if he took the name Clement XV to show the error of Clement XIV in suppressing the former Cardinal Bergoglio's religious order, the Jesuits. I'm not sure if the written text does it justice, but it resulted in a lot of laughs within the audience hall and a lot of expressions that to me amounted to, "I can't believe the Pope just joked that!"]
I love all of you very much. I thank you for everything you have done. I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life.
[Scot: It is moving that he straightforwardly communicated his love, gratitude and prayers for each of us.]
I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families. I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you.
[Scot: Pope Francis has ended every public address or Mass with a prayer to the Blessed Mother. I believe he will rival Pope John Paul II as a strong proponent of Marian devotion, and Mary as a great intercessor for our prayers.]
I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!
[Scot: I have never witnessed this before, where a Catholic leader at a Church event, chose to not offer a traditional Catholic blessing. This was received very well by the non-Catholic journalists and considered very thoughtful.]
Here is a link to the video of the address:
Thank you for visiting this blog for our special coverage here from Rome at TheGoodCatholicLife.com.
Scot Landry and George Martell