New pope’s simple style shifts tone from Benedict’s papacy
With every day Pope Francis reigns, his style reveals more contrasts with his predecessor Benedict in ways that amount to an unspoken criticism of how the retired pontiff conducted his papacy.
The enthusiasm former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio has sparked among Catholics by approaching the job like a parish priest rather than a papal monarch points to a yearning for a leader the Church has not seen since the charismatic Pope John Paul II.
He showed his humbler style at his inaugural Mass on Tuesday, wearing simple white vestments, black lace-up shoes and a low modern mitre, or bishop’s hat. The vestments of the cardinals attending the Mass were more decorated than his.
By contrast, Benedict donned a shimmering golden chasuble, his voluminous outer robe, as well as red slip-on shoes and an old-fashioned ornate golden mitre for his first public liturgy on April 24, 2005.
Seven days are a short time to judge a papacy on, but the approval for Francis seems to show this is closer to what many Catholics want in a pope. Italians frequently note with approval that he reminds them of the popular Pope John XXIII (1958-1963).
“This is a new breeze of fresh air that is blowing through the Church and the name of that breeze is Francis,” Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, a fellow Argentine, told Reuters.
“This is a call to humility and service to others that will mark his papacy,” he said after the inaugural Mass.
Referring to Benedict’s election in 2005, in which Francis was the runner-up, Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli said, “Bergoglio represents the road not taken eight years ago.
“Benedict is a great theologian, but being pope is not about being a theologian,” he said. “I think history will see him as a pope who showed a particular side of what Catholicism is today, not as a pope speaking for the whole Church.”