Pope Francis’ schedule and his improvs

Pope Francis prays at Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens March 16. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis prays at Lourdes Grotto in the Vatican Gardens March 16. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican released an official schedule for Pope Francis March 17-24, but if his first two days as pope were any indication, the schedule was only an outline destined to expand at a moment’s notice.

The only event on the new pope’s schedule March 15 was an audience with the world’s cardinals. But shortly before that meeting, he shocked the receptionist at the Jesuit headquarters by telephoning the order’s superior general; he made an evening visit to a Rome clinic to visit 90-year-old Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mejia who had had a heart attack; and then he stopped at the replica of the grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican gardens to pray before a statue of Mary.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said the pope spent 20 minutes visiting privately with Cardinal Mejia at the Pius XI clinic before visiting the clinic’s intensive care unit, greeting doctors and other staff members, then praying in the chapel with the Sisters of St. Joseph, who operate the facility.

Also March 16 Pope Francis formally reconfirmed the prefects, presidents and secretaries of Vatican congregations and councils “donec aliter provideatur” (until otherwise provided), meaning for the time being. While temporary reappointments are normal at the beginning of a pontificate, the Vatican notice added that the pope intended to take “time for reflection, prayer and dialogue before making any definitive appointments or confirmations.”

The updated schedule for the pope released March 16 said Pope Francis would preside the next day at the 10 a.m. Mass in the tiny Church of St. Anne, the Vatican parish located just inside the main business entrance to the Vatican.

Pope Francis was to meet March 18 with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina.

The new pope’s installation, formally known as the Mass for the beginning of the Petrine ministry, was scheduled for March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, in St. Peter’s Square.

In addition to official government delegations, the Vatican confirmed that Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, was planning to attend. The Vatican newspaper said he would be the first patriarch of Constantinople to attend a papal installation since the Great Schism of 1054 separated Christianity between East and West.

While Patriarch Bartholomew did not attend the installation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, he was a frequent visitor to the Vatican during Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

The rest of the pope’s schedule released by the Vatican included:

– March 20 Pope Francis will meet with the delegations from Christian churches and communities that came for the installation.

– March 22 the pope will meet with diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

– March 23 Pope Francis will leave the Vatican at noon by helicopter and fly 15 minutes south to Castel Gandolfo. He will meet Pope Benedict at the papal villa there and have lunch with him.

– March 24 Pope Francis will preside over Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis explains his choice of name

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said that “as things got dangerous” in the conclave voting, he was sitting next to his “great friend” Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes “who comforted me.”

When the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio went over the 77 votes needed to become pope, he said, Cardinal Hummes “hugged me, kissed me and said, ‘Don’t forget the poor.’”

Pope Francis waves to media representatives at audience. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis waves to media representatives at audience. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis told thousands of journalists March 16 that he took to heart the words of his friend and chose to be called after St. Francis of Assisi, “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” the same created world “with which we don’t have such a good relationship.”

“How I would like a church that is poor and that is for the poor,” he told the more than 5,000 media representatives who came from around the world for the conclave and his election.

Pope Francis also said some had suggested jokingly that he, a Jesuit, should have taken the name Clement XV “to get even with Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus” in the 1700s.

The pope told the media, “You’ve really been working, haven’t you.”

While the church includes a large institution with centuries of history, he said, “the church does not have a political nature, but a spiritual one.”

Pope Francis told reporters it was the Holy Spirit who led Pope Benedict XVI to resign and it is Christ, not the pope, who leads the church.

The pope acknowledged how difficult it is for many media to cover the church as a spiritual, rather than a political institution, and he offered special thanks “to those who were able to observe and recount these events in the story of the church from the most correct perspective in which they must be read, that of faith.”

The church, he said, “is the people of God, the holy people of God because it is journeying toward an encounter with Jesus Christ.”

No one can understand the church without understanding its spiritual purpose, he said. “Christ is the pastor of the church, but his presence passes through the freedom of human beings. Among them, one is chosen to serve as his vicar on earth. But Christ is the center, the focal point.”

Thanking the reporters again for all their hard work, Pope Francis also asked them to continue trying “to discover the true nature of the church and its journey through the world, with its virtues as well as its sins.”

Communications, he said, requires study, preparation and a special attention “to truth, goodness and beauty,” which is something the church has in common with journalism.

He ended his talk by telling reporters he hoped they would grow in their knowledge of “the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of the church. I entrust you to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, star of the new evangelization.”

After personally greeting dozens of journalists and representatives of the Vatican press office, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican newspaper and Vatican Radio, the pope came back to the microphone.

“I know that many of you are not Catholic or are not believers, so I impart my heartfelt blessing to each of you silently, respecting your consciences, but knowing that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you,” he said.

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