The Vatican, yesterday, released details of today’s Pope Francis’ Installation Mass, saying it would be a simplified version of the 2005 installation Mass that brought Pope Benedict XVI to the papacy, with many gestures to Eastern rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians in a sign of church unity.
About one million people, including delegations from 132 governments across the globe are expected.
The Vatican also released details of Francis’ coat of arms and official ring, both of which are in tandem with his simple style and harking back to popes past: The coat of arms is the same Jesuit-inspired one he used as archbishop of Buenos Aires, while the ring was once offered to Pope Paul VI, who presided over the second half of the Second Vatican Council, the church meetings that modernized the church.
Francis will officially receive the ring and the pallium, a woolen stole, during today’s installation Mass, which is drawing six sovereign rulers, 31 heads of state, three princes and 11 heads of government to the Vatican. Fernandez leads the largest delegation with 19 members.
Italian media say Rome civil protection authorities are planning for upward of one million people to attend the Mass, numbers not seen since the beatification of Pope John Paul II in 2011, which drew 1.5 million to St. Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding streets.
One significant VIP is the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. His presence at the installation is the first from the Istanbul-based Patriarchate in nearly 1,000 years since the Great Schism divided the church in 1054.
The Mass will make several gestures toward Eastern rite and Orthodox Christians, with the Gospel being chanted in Greek as opposed to Latin and eastern rite Catholic prelates joining Francis at an initial prayer at the tomb of St. Peter under the basilica’s main altar, the Vatican said yesterday.
In all, some 33 Christian delegations will be present, as well as representatives of Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain communities. They will see a simplified Mass compared to the 2005 installation of Pope Benedict XVI, with for example fewer cardinals pledging obedience to the new pope.
Also arriving in Rome for the event is Taiwanese President, Ma Ying-jeou, a rare European foray for the head of the diplomatically isolated island that underscores the tricky nature of its relations with China and the Vatican.
“We want to have much better relations with the Vatican and I think we will, thank you,” Ma said as he arrived. He said Francis was a “wonderful person. I think he’ll do a very good job.”
Taiwan has full diplomatic relations with only 23 countries, most of them in Latin America, Africa, and the South Pacific. Its only diplomatic ally in Europe is the Vatican, though even that tie remains tenuous.
The Vatican has long expressed a willingness to transfer its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, which is one of China’s conditions. But the real sticking point between the two is who has the authority to appoint bishops. Beijing maintains that right belongs to a Chinese bishops’ conference, which is ultimately controlled by the Communist Party, while the Vatican insists that authority lies with the pope.
China has congratulated the new pope on his election, but said that establishing formal relations would depend on the Vatican cutting ties with Taipei and ceasing activities Beijing considers interference in its internal affairs.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe also arrived in Rome for the inaugural Mass.
Mugabe, 89, is the subject of a travel ban by European nations to protest his human rights record in a decade of political and economic turmoil in his southern African nation, but it does not affect his trips to the Vatican through Italy.