Pope Francis ‘snubs’ pomp and ceremony of Vatican Beethoven concert
Pope Francis failed to show up at a Vatican concert crowded with cardinals at the weekend, an absence seen as the latest example of his dislike for the Holy See’s tradition of pomp and ceremony.
By Tom Kington in Rome
6:34PM BST 23 Jun 2013
Cardinals and Vatican officials reportedly whispered in embarrassment as the Pope’s seat remained empty before the start of Saturday’s Beethoven concert, which was organised to celebrate the Vatican’s Year of Faith.
Addressing the audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Envangelisation, explained the Pope was not coming because of an “urgent commitment that could not be delayed”.
The Pope has been meeting papal nuncios visiting the Vatican from around the world in recent days, suggesting he really was busy with meetings, but his no-show was also interpreted as his latest sidestepping of Vatican high life.
On his appointment in March, the Pope immediately caused a stir by refusing to wear opulent papal clothing and choosing an iron cross instead of gold. He then refused to move into the vast papal apartment occupied by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
He has preferred to live instead in the Vatican’s busy Santa Marta residence, where he dines alongside visiting churchmen and gives a daily mass to Vatican staffers, often extolling the virtues of poverty and a poor church.
At Easter, the Pope washed the feet of female inmates at an Italian prison, including a Muslim.
“His absence from the concert was not meant as a slap to the Curia, that is not his style,” said Maria Antonietta Calabrò, a Vatican expert writing in the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “But the empty chair was a significant image and the message is ‘If you need to work, you need to work’.”
On Sunday, the Pope appeared relaxed at his regular Angelus blessing in St Peter’s Square, telling young people not to be afraid of “going against the current.”
Many of the Vatican officials crowded into the hall for the concert on Saturday will be pondering their future as the Pope prepares a shake-up of the Holy See’s labyrinthine bureaucracy.
He will be assisted by an eight-man commission of cardinals that he has appointed to investigate power struggles and reports of corruption. The task force, which will meet in October, includes just one Vatican-based official.
Earlier this month, the Pope also reportedly talked of a “gay lobby” within the Vatican, confirming suspicions of a network of patronage among powerful gay churchmen within the Vatican.
The Pope must also find a replacement for the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was accused of appointing supporters to key posts and restricting access to Pope Benedict.
The Pope’s decision to avoid the concert was given added significance by the fact that he chose instead to meet nuncios – who represent the Church around the world but have complained about little access in the Vatican’s corridors of power.
In a speech to about 150 nuncios on Friday, the Pope warned them to choose pastors who are “close to the people” when they were considering candidates to become bishops. They must not have, he added, “the psychology of princes”.