Apr 15, 2013

News and Views

Online Edition:
April 2013
Vol. XIX, No. 2

News & Views

The Papal Arms | The Pope’s Name: Why "Francis"? | Giving of the Keys to Peter | Appreciation for Benedict XVI

The Papal Arms

The coat-of-arms of Pope Francis was revealed March 18. Like his predecessor, Pope Francis kept the original design of the shield and motto from his consecration as bishop (in 1991). He also kept the same papal symbols chosen by his predecessor  — a miter instead of a triple-crown. 

The shield is blue, the traditional color of Mary; centered by the emblem of the Society of Jesus, to which Pope Francis belongs. The Jesuit emblem is a blazing gold sun with IHS, the monogram of Christ, in red. A cross within the letter H, and three black nails at the bottom, signify Jesus’ sacrifice and salvific mission. 

Below the Jesuit insignia are symbols of Mary and Joseph, to whom Pope Francis is especially devoted.  The gold star is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, “star of the sea.” On the right, a gold cluster of nard flowers (spikenard) represents Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church. On his feast day, March 19, the Solemn Mass inaugurating Pope Francis’s papacy was held at St. Peter’s piazza. (According to Spanish tradition, Saint Joseph is often depicted holding a branch of nard flowers, which yields the fragrant oil with which Jesus’ body was anointed, as well as the oil used by Mary of Bethany to anoint Jesus’ feet.)

The pope’s motto, Miserando atque Eligendo, comes from the Venerable Bede’s commentary on the Gospel account of the calling of Matthew (Mt 9:9). Bede writes: “Vidit ergo lesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi: ‘Sequere me’” — Jesus saw a tax collector and, having compassion, chose him, and said to him: “Follow me.” The calling of Matthew had particular significance for Pope Francis, according to the Vatican news report, which said, “On the Feast of St. Matthew in the year 1953, when he was 17, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced in a very special way the loving presence of God in his life. Following a confession, he felt his heart touched and sensed the descent of the mercy of God, who with a look of tender love, called him to the religious life, following the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola.”  For this reason he chose this phrase from the Venerable Bede “as his motto and his program of life.”


The Pope’s Name: Why “Francis”?

When our new pope was introduced as  Francis, the first pope ever to bear that name, many wondered why he chose it.

Because he is a Spanish-speaking Jesuit, the first member of that order to become pope, and because he is known to be deeply committed to the Church’s mission of evangelization, many people (including this writer) immediately thought of Saint Francis Xavier, who was a classmate and close associate of Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Saint Francis Xavier tirelessly evangelized Asia, and died in China.

Most people probably thought of Saint Francis of Assisi, who is among the best known and most popular of all saints, who founded the Franciscan order in 1209. Our new Holy Father confirmed that it was indeed this Italian saint who he had in mind in choosing his papal name. In his address to journalists on March 16, he said:

“Some people didn’t know why the Bishop of Rome wanted to call himself ‘Francis.’  Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis de Sales, even Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story. At the [conclave] election I had the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo next to me. He is also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes: a dear, dear friend. [Cardinal Hummes is a Franciscan – Ed.]

“When things were getting a little ‘dangerous,’ he comforted me. And then, when the votes reached the two-thirds, there was the usual applause because the pope had been elected.  He hugged me and said: ‘Do not forget the poor.’ And that word stuck here [tapping his forehead]; the poor, the poor. Then, immediately in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of war, while the voting continued, until all the votes [were counted].

“And so the name came to my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and safeguards creation. In this moment when our relationship with creation is not so good — right?  He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor!”

Pope Francis then humorously recounted that someone suggested that he choose the name Adrian, for Adrian VI, a reforming pope (d. 1523); and another recommended the name Clement XV, to “pay back” Clement XIV, the Franciscan pope who had suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773.  (The audience was highly amused!)


Giving of the Keys to Peter

On the cover of this issue is one of the earliest frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, depicting Jesus giving the keys to Peter, which symbolizes the Petrine authority of the Church. The artist is Perugino, the professional name of Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, who was born in Perugia ca.1450 and died there in 1523. He was a Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school and the teacher of Raphael.

Pope Sixtus IV, who built the chapel that bears his name, engaged Perugino to decorate it with frescoes. The work was completed ca. 1481-82. This important fresco is part of a series of scenes from the life of Jesus, and is the only surviving example done entirely by Perugino’s hand. 

The subject matter of the fresco is Jesus’ exchange with Simon Peter, found in Matthew 16:13-19:

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

 The keys represent the authority that Christ conferred upon Peter, “the rock”; and this scene, which includes the apostles standing in groups on either side of them, and the arch of Constantine in the background, foretells  and confirms the authority of the Church and the doctrine of the apostolic succession.

Perugino’s highly accomplished contributions to the development of Renaissance art in the Sistine Chapel are now mostly overshadowed by Michelangelo’s magnificent ceiling frescoes and the Last Judgment, which were completed three decades later.  


Appreciation for Benedict XVI

We invited several Catholics engaged in important aspects of the liturgy to comment on the liturgical legacy of our emeritus pope, Benedict XVI. We present their comments here.

When Benedict XVI was elected bishop of Rome, he originally planned to celebrate his inaugural Mass inside St. Peter’s basilica because “the architecture better directs the attention towards Christ instead of the pope,” but relocated outdoors to accommodate the vast numbers of pilgrims. Clearly, Pope Benedict understood the ability of sacred architecture to assist the liturgy, and to help us to worship God. In his writings we find a pope who is very attuned to the importance of the arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, and music, along with what might be called the “art of liturgy.”

Duncan Stroik
Notre Dame School of Architecture
Editor, Sacred Architecture
South Bend, Indiana

Pope Benedict’s approach to liturgy stems from his metaphysics: beauty is an essential aspect of God, and created beauty is a path to God. The liturgy is the principal place where this happens. In the liturgy singing expresses our love of God; liturgy is thus theocentric. We appropriately face Him by facing east, or in default of that, by facing the crucifix on the altar.  This stance conditions the music that is part of the liturgy: Gregorian chant, polyphony, organ music, and concerted music all are sacred; they draw us into a cosmic order, elevating our minds to God. We receive this liturgy and its music from tradition, we do not make it up de novo or draw it from the secular culture. This ensures that it is, according to the view of Saint Pius X, universal, sacred, and beautiful.

William Mahrt
Church Music Association of America
Stanford, California

The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus will surely count among the great accomplishments of Benedict’s pontificate. It is, first and foremost, a fruit of the ecumenical vision planted at Vatican II in its creation of Personal Ordinariates for the faithful coming into the Catholic Church from the Anglican tradition. It tangibly offers the gift of full communion with the Chair of Peter, a summons to faithfulness, and a call for evangelization. With Benedict’s special concern “to maintain the liturgical, spiritual, and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church” as “a treasure to be shared,” the pope reaffirmed the teaching of Unitatis redintegratio that Catholic unity does not demand lockstep uniformity in witnessing to our common faith but admits diverse expressions from different cultures and Christian traditions, all to better serve the Great Commission and to answer Jesus’ prayer ut omnes unum sint.

Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson
Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
Houston, Texas

Pope Benedict encouraged good sacred music by restoring it in the Vatican itself: more chant, more Latin, more polyphony.  Various chant Masses were used, not just Missa VIII. Services were enhanced with Renaissance brass ensembles, with fuller choirs, with small orchestras, all with high quality sacred music. His beautiful talk when blessing the new pipe organ at Regensburg, his careful singing of the liturgical chants, his avoidance of odd elements (like dance):  all these taught us in a gentle manner that we ought to be doing better music in the liturgy, music that is truly sacred in nature.  One hopes that this legacy continues.

Lucy Carroll
Music Director
Carmelite Monastery
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



The Editors