Pope Francis stays put – a break with tradition?

apostolic palaceThe announcement yesterday that Pope Francis will not be moving to the Apostolic Palace “for now”, but will remain living in the suite at the Domus Sanctae Marthae where he moved immediately to following his election has been presented as quite a break with tradition. And in a way it is, but a cursory glance at the history of the papacy reveals it’s not that big a deal as some would have us think.

The Apostolic Palace is located to the right of the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica and includes the Papal Apartments at the top right corner. Popes have been using the Palace as their official residence since the 17th century, although they didn’t actually live there at the time. Their residence was the Quirinal Palace, which now lies outside the borders of Vatican City and is the home of the President of Italy. The Papal Apartments were used the official residence of the Popes in their capacity as Supreme Pontiff. The Quirinal Palace served the same purpose for their role as temporal ruler of the Papal States.

The Papal States were conquered by the Italian unification armies in the 1870s and Blessed Pope Pius IX became a “prisoner in the Vatican”. The Apostolic Palace was the only part of the Papal States not occupied by the Italians.

So the Apostolic Palace has only served as the fulltime residence of the Popes since 1870. That’s not a long time in the entire history of the Church. But to say that the Popes did not live in some form of (relative) luxury before 1870 is not true. There was the Quirinal Palace, and before that several residences attached to basilicas in Rome and the Lateran Palace, going back to the 4th century. And Pope Francis, in refusing to move to the Apostolic Palace, hardly makes a choice for poverty. The Domus Sanctae Marthae is a very adequate personal residence, although it admittedly has a far smaller surface area than the Papal Apartments.

pope_apartment_jpg_size_xxlarge_promoIn his current residence, Pope Francis has the use of a sitting room, a study (pictured), a bedroom and a private bathroom. There are also a shared dining room and four chapels. Comparing that to the Papal Apartments: that features a chapel, an office for the Pope and one for his secretaries, a bedroom, a dining room, a kitchen and rooms for two secretaries and the household staff. Most of these spaces will continue to see use, as Pope Francis will pray the Angelus from one of its windows and receive guests in the building’s library. Undoubtedly, the secretaries’ office will also continue to be used.

Pope Francis’ choice not to relocate to the other side of St. Peter’s Square effectively allows him some more freedom and keeps him in touch with the people working at the Vatican, something he greatly values.

Want to congratulate a new cardinal? Here’s where you’ll find them

After the 2010 consistoy, Cardinal Ravasi receives well-wishers

If you happen to be in Rome on the 18th, the date of the consistory for the creation of 22 new cardinals (The Vatican Information Service still maintains that number, despite the slightly odd reports about Fr. Karl Becker’s absence from the consistory), and for Dutch faithful, the VNB offers that possibility in the form of a four-day trip to Rome, the Holy See has published the exact location where each new cardinal may be found, in order to congratulate them, from 4:30 to 6:30 in the afternoon.

In the atrium of the Paul VI Hall are Cardinals João Bráz de Aviz, Edwin O’Brien, George Alencherry, Lucian Muresan, Julien Ries and Prosper Grech.

In the Paul VI Hall itself: Cardinals Francesco Coccopalmerio, Thomas Collins, Dominik Duka, Willem Eijk, Giuseppe Betori, Timothy Dolan, Woelki and John Tong Hon.

In the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace may be found Cardinals Fernando Filoni, Manuel Monteiro de Castro and Giuseppe Bertello.

The Galleria Lapidaria of the Apostolic Palace will host Cardinals Santos Abril y Castelló and Antonio Vegliò.’

And lastly, in the Sala Ducale of the Apostolic Palace will be Cardinals Domenico Calcagno and Giuseppe Versaldi.

And yes, attentive readers will have noticed that this list omits the name of Cardinal Becker. It’s a weird situation that has developed in the past week. Is Fr. Becker indeed too ill to attend the consistory, and if so, why then is his creation as cardinal postponed to some unknown date? A cardinal, after all, need not be present to be created. So why would ill health prevent a cardinal from being created?

I’m curious how many new cardinals we’ll see in the various halls of the Holy See on the 18th.

Photo credit: [1] Considerpriesthood.com, [2] Tony Gentile/Reuters