Monday, 1 April 2013

The Liturgical Aesthetics of
Pope Francis : 1

In a previous post, as part of our Retrospective on the Papacy, we traced briefly how the aesthetics of Papal Liturgy had changed in the second half of the twentieth century (notably from 1965 onward) and the beginning of the 21st.

Now we have a new Pope and once again the aesthetic of Papal vestments has changed. A distinction must be made, however, between changing aesthetics in the Pontificate of Benedict XVI and that of Francis. Pope Benedict accepted two different aesthetics presented to him by two different Papal Masters of Ceremonies: Piero Marini and Guido Marini. This time, the changed aesthetic is obviously the manifest wish of Pope Francis, not of his Master of Ceremonies.

Since Pope Francis has been Bishop of Rome for not even three weeks, we should not try to draw firm conclusions about what has been seen thus far.  Nevertheless, the intervening rites of Holy Week have given sufficient information for us to make some comments.

In previous posts, we have already spoken about continuity between the Papal Liturgies of Benedict XVI and Francis.  To be specific:
  • The Papal altars have been decorated with the magnificent embroidered antependia which have been in use for more than a century (further research is needed to clarify when these frontals were made for the Altar of the Confession in S' Peter's).
  • Upon the Papal altars, a large central Crucifix is always placed, flanked by six lofty candlesticks from the Papal treasury and augmented by a seventh matching candlestick for the more Solemn Liturgies. This practice was reintroduced during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.
  • A Papal throne upholstered in red velvet with gilded wooden carvings (again made for one of Francis' predecessors) is used for all the Papal Liturgies, rather than the simpler white chair that had been used in years past. This throne is raised upon a platform. This practice was introduced during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.
  • The Papal throne was raised upon a lofty platform approached by a flight of stairs on the Gospel side of the Altar of the Confession for the Good Friday Solemn Liturgy. This practice was introduced for certain occasions during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.
  • For those Papal Liturgies which have been held in S' Peter's Square (the Mass Inaugurating the Pontificate, the Mass of Palm Sunday and of Easter Day) the throne has also been set upon steps immediately before the facade of the Basilica and decorated with a backdrop of velvet drapes. This practice was reintroduced during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.
  • Holy Communion is distributed to the Ministers of the Papal Mass on the tongue, whilst they are kneeling. This practice was reintroduced during the Pontificate of Benedict XVI.
  • The ferula or Pastoral Cross presented to Pope Benedict XVI has continued to be used by Pope Francis. There has been no attempt to reintroduce the staff used by Pope Paul VI and John Paul II.
  • The pallium placed upon the shoulders of Pope Francis by the Cardinal proto-deacon at his Inauguration is in the same style as that worn by Pope Benedict from 2008 onwards.

All of the above continue because Pope Francis is happy with their expression of Papal Liturgy.

Our next post: the Changes and those new Papal vestments.