New Pope Shows Eye for Symbolism

  • Share
  • Read Later
MASSIMO PERCOSSI / EPA

Pope Francis holds an audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall, in Vatican City, on March 16, 2013

As a Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio didn’t always have the smoothest relations with the press. Said to be shy, he gave few interviews, preferring to address his congregation directly. Journalists in his native Argentina accused him of silent complicity during the country’s so-called Dirty War — charges he denounces as “slander.” In an interview with La Stampa’s Vatican Insider shortly before his election to the papacy, Bergoglio bemoaned the media’s focus on negativity and scandal. “Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia,” he said then. Yet when he addressed a group of several thousand journalists and their families on Saturday as Pope Francis, he opened with the words, “My dear friends.”

Seated on a chair on stage in an audience hall next to St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope was greeted by the assembled journalists with applause and a few cries of “Viva.” Whether performing mass or giving an address, Francis’ speaking style is more like that of an actor than a preacher: his tone is intimate, with touches of humor and folksiness, but he never loses command of his audience. In his delivery, if there’s a politician he resembles, it’s Ronald Reagan. During one passage in his address thanking the media for their “service” covering the conclave, Francis broke from the text, looked up and said with a smile: “You’ve worked, eh? You’ve really worked.”

(MORE: The New Pope and Argentina’s ‘Disappeared’ of the Dirty War)

There’s every indication that the new Pope knows how to work the media himself. When, a few days after the election, questions about his role during Argentina’s bloody military dictatorship threatened to derail the narrative of renewal, the Vatican responded with uncharacteristic speed and force, releasing a statement that described the accusations as slanderous, defamatory and motivated by leftist anticlericalism. “That was his first communications crisis, his first bump in the road,” says Dennis Redmont, a professor of international media at the University of Perugia in Rome, who covered three papacies as a journalist for the Associated Press. “When someone makes an accusation, it dangles. And in the age of social media, if you let it dangle, you’re dead. It’s important to handle these things quickly.”

Since the first moments of his papacy, Francis has made deft use of symbolism. After his election in the Sistine Chapel, he declined to sit on the papal throne, choosing to stand to receive the traditional homage from the men who were until moments before his fellow Cardinals. On the trip back from the chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica, he chose to ride the bus with the Cardinals with whom he had come, rather than take the papal car. When he appeared on the balcony above St. Peter’s Square, he wasn’t wearing the red papal cape or the customary golden cross, but a simple white cassock and the iron crucifix from his days as bishop. Before offering his blessing, he asked the crowd for theirs and bowed his head to receive it. The next day, after praying at St. Mary Major Basilica in central Rome, he stopped by the hotel where he had been staying before the conclave and paid the bill himself. He made the trip without a motorcade. “He’s using a car you or I would use,” says Greg Burke, a senior communications adviser at the Vatican. “In these few days, every symbol, every gesture has been, ‘I’m here as a servant among you.’ And people find that incredibly appealing.”

(PHOTOS: Pope and Circumstance: The Road to the Papacy)

Every Pope becomes to some extent a living symbol, an embodiment of the hopes and prayers of millions of Catholics. But unlike his predecessor Joseph Ratzinger, who resigned from the papacy in February, Francis shows the potential to become a symbol that resonates. “I think he’ll be less Ratzinger and more Dalai Lama,” says Redmont.

The Pope’s most potent gesture so far may be his choice of a name. And on that subject, Francis gave the assembled journalists what they most desperately wanted: a piece of news, recounting the final minutes of the conclave. During the voting, Bergoglio had been sitting next to one of his closest friends among the collected Cardinals, Cláudio Hummes, the former Archbishop of São Paulo. In the moments after it became clear that Bergoglio would become Pope, while the votes were still being counted, Hummes hugged him, kissed him and told him, “Don’t forget the poor.” “And those words entered here,” Francis told his audience of journalists, pointing to his forehead. “The poor, the poor. And then, right away, in relation to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi.” The saint, he explained, was a man of peace who was committed to the poor. “Ah, how I’d like a poor church, [one that's] for the poor,” he concluded. The journalists answered his words with applause.

MORE: Pope of the Americas

14 comments
luscusrex
luscusrex

We will see if he becomes a demigod and starts using prada shoes and huuuuuge golden crusifixes. If he does not and follows the words of the mythical leader of his church he may do a lot of good. Many have been waiting for hundreds of years for a true representative of Jesus, not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. We will see

IleanaCanetti
IleanaCanetti

I just like to comment on the writing.  Nice piece of journalism by Stephan Faris as he adds the reaction from one of the best and known publications in America: Time magazine.

ShawnArscott
ShawnArscott

If I am looking at symbolism the statue behind the Pope looks like Satan rising - very ugly, chaotic, looks like HAdes. 

CrossWinds
CrossWinds

2 Corinthians 6:3-10.........................

3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.



 

SueHeiserCummings
SueHeiserCummings

As a Catholic, my first thought on the name chosen was for St. Francis of Assissi.  No one persone is perfect, but he is asking guidance from our saints to bless and assist him with this papacy.  Blessings.  From what I have read, he had been a Cardinal for the people....  He visits... he cares... and his lifestyle before reflect that.  In England they say.. God Love the Queen... For Catholics woldwide ... we say.... GOD LOVE OUR POPE. 

BarroshBarrosh
BarroshBarrosh

Now it's wait and see if He that has the courage to confront pedophiles and  corruption network.

ИринаЛапшина
ИринаЛапшина

@SueHeiserCummings Many poppes conducted crusades that killed millions of souls, the Queen has made her most fortunes on the slavetrade and drug trade..I seriously doubt that there people were ever blessed by God. Most likely his adversary, but definetely not God, since Jesus never collected armies to kill others and steal their possession, he has never traded people as slaves and most definetely never sold drugs, thus destryoing health and souls of others... Make up your own mind people, that's why God gave them to you since birth, so you would use them everyminute of your lives.. Good luck to yoo all- health, weatlh and direct blessings from God, who does not need any brokers and has not recognized any monarchs humself.IL.

ИринаЛапшина
ИринаЛапшина

@BarroshBarrosh How could anyone expect the man, who  closed his eyes to the bloody  and numerous crimes during theyears of hunta in Argentina, to confront the corruption network. Besides, since Jesuits, and he is one of them, are the best corruption network on Earth, from which many, especially Hitler, copied the corruption and secrecy schemes, how would  you imagined the the actual creators of the very corruption will be confronting their own corruption. Are they rushing to confront the horrific pedofile crimes.? No, in fact, they are doing everything legal and illegal , to cover these horrendous crimes against the millions of innocent and fragile souls worldwide...People when will you start using common logic and obvious fact staring into your face and screaming, and not the illusions fo sanctity created by the criminals... Time to wake up already...IL.

JonathanMartin
JonathanMartin

@BarroshBarrosh It doesn't matter, if the media likes him, you'll never hear about pedophile priests again, just like you never hear about Obama's drones. He's a socialist, that is all that matters

DanWPB
DanWPB

@thewholetruth @SueHeiserCummings so why your interest in this article? I am a Christian I certainly do not agree with you..
I really do not understand why people that does not like the Catholic church waste their time reading articles about them, and even attacking them in forums, and comments... And who are you to say you have "the whole truth", for many other religions Jesus was just a man, not a prophet, and not even a son of God.. And for Jews Jesus was not "the messiah" neither.. if you are talking about the jewish messiah, for them he still did not come.
So my advice to you, live your faith as you want, but please stop attacking people of other faiths.

ИринаЛапшина
ИринаЛапшина

@thewholetruth @SueHeiserCummings John the Baptist had no use for a church to baptize Christ, Christ had no use for a church to pray... Why, on Earthy, we need a place o pray to God and a mortal man to tell us to do so, if we simply could do that by ourselves anywhere we wish...May Lord bless you all.IL.

ИринаЛапшина
ИринаЛапшина

@JonathanMartin @BarroshBarrosh Of course media like him- becuase the stories about him will fill their pockets with cash and promote their brands, while he is promoting his brand and filling the pockets of teh Banco De Holy Spiritos with the cash of the billions who are in  turn are attracted by the media. how does that saying go about one hand washing the other, in that case, siply one hadn giving to the other and the other gives back. Try that at home-works....IL.