Monday, June 24, 2013

The Empty Throne: A Renaissance Mystery

I don't beleive the Pope said "Non sono un principe rinascimentale che ascolta musica invece di lavorare",  I am not a Renaissance prince who listens to music instead of working, but it is interesting that these words have been attributed to him, presumably in an attempt to distance Francis from his predecessor and presumably to make Francis seem like a haughty, boorish, capricious, well..., like a renaissance prince. The phrase I am sure was thrown into the mix  maliciously and deliberately.

Fr Z has an interesting theory, which I wouldn't entirely dismiss but it is a bit renaissance, it is about a cloak and dagger secret meeting taking place in the new Papal Apartments whilst the whole Papal Court was out of the way attending the Concert, in fact it is deliciously renaissance.

Because the Papal Physician attended the concert it was suggested that there was no health problem but then maybe the Pope needed an early night, perhaps with a few aspirin for a headache or something for one of those stomach problems Italians are so prone to.

However it is intriguing, why did the Pope announce his absence just before the concert was about to start, when everyone was assembled. If he has a disdain for such worldly pleasures as Beethoven, as some have suggested, then why was an announcement not made days before? If it was some minor illness, then the rather unfortunate empty throne could have been removed, before the audience assembled, half an hour before the concert was due to start, similarly if the Pope, who admitted to the Latin American religious he is rather disorganised, had discovered for some reason he was delayed but it appears the absence was actually last minute. Is his diary so disorganised or so capable of being disarranged or is there some great crisis in the Church about to emerge?

There could I suppose have been a 'Game of Thrones' going on, either the Pope wanted the empty chair to be seen as some kind of gesture, or more likely an official having had a little more notice than the minute before the concert when the announcement was made, deliberately leaving it in place as a very clear sign throughout the concert to the audience and to the paparazzi of the Pope's disdain. Thrones are important in Court life, even the simplicity or absence or presence convey almost as much as an eighteenth century lady's fan.

Whatever was happening presumably will be discussed throughout the Court this coming week. One or two people have suggested recently that turkeys don't vote for Christmas and that possibly Papa Bergoglio was very much the Curia's choice, the real Reformers wanted Scola, hence the speed of Francis election, and that having a 'pastor' 'from the other side of the world' who has had no apprenticeship in Vatican intrigue, normally considered a sine qua non for the Pope, might be beginning to feel a backlash, and a few reminders of who is actually in charge.

Intriguing, no?

Another question: who is pushing the 'Francis is so humble narrative', it is not the Pope himself, it is certainly becoming irritating, it is a house built on sand, that is likely to come crashing down the moment the media chooses.


Anonymous said...

It's simply that the little girl behind asked him to move so that she could see better.

nickbris said...

Maybe he can't be doing with the Pomp

Anonymous said...

I've read a rather more prosaic explanation (can't remember where): HH was meeting with a large group of nuncios. Perhaps a problem was raised that he felt needed his urgent attention, and he didn't wish to belittle it by taking time out for a concert. In which case, the message the empty chair is giving is "when ya gotta work, ya gotta work".

GOR said...

Yes, conspiracy theories will abound over the empty chair (I doubt Francis considers it a ‘throne’). Sandro Magister says Francis’ absence was due to “an urgent and non-postponable task”. That could mean anything.

Something may have come up which required his immediate attention. And before we start hazarding guesses about what weighty matter that might have been, I suspect what Francis considers ‘urgent and immediate’ might differ from most people’s interpretation.

Given his concern for the poor and the marginalized, a personal emergency of someone – either close at hand or far away – might be enough for Francis to forego a musical performance. “I must be about my Father’s work…” comes to mind.

Or he may simply have used any excuse to avoid appearing in a grandiose event surrounded by the glitterati of Vatican and Roman circles…

RichardT said...

Can anyone explain to me the "humility" of the Pope living in the Domus Sanctae Marthae?

He has a bedroom in the Papal Apartment, all ready for him. That is still there, and isn't going to be any use for anything else (at least without a lot of work).

But because he prefers it, or prefers the image it gives, he lives in a bedroom at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

So as well as the unused bedroom in the Papal Apartment he takes up a room in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and ecclesiastical visitors to Rome who could have stayed in that room will have to spend money to stay somewhere else.

And presumably people have to carry papers and so on between the Domus Sanctae Marthae and the Papal Apartment, which is still needed for official business.

Now, I don't mind him doing that. He is the Pope, and if that's the way that he feels he works best it is worth a bit of expense and inconvenience.

But what I cannot understand is how it is "humble". Can anyone explain?

GOR said...

Richard, I don’t know if this answers your question, but the way I see it is that Pope Francis wants to avoid any appearance of being ‘above’ others. Yes, he knows that his office implies to many people: monarchial trappings and surroundings - for which people constantly criticize the Church (the “wealth of the Vatican” etc.).

But Francis even avoids using the term ’Pope’ for himself – being content with the ‘Bishop of Rome’ title. In times past when a new pope was carried on the Sedia Gestatoria through St. Peter’s Square after installation, a monk walked ahead of him burning a piece of flax and declaring: “Sic transit gloria mundi”. It was a reminder to the new Pontiff that all the pomp and circumstance of his papacy would pass away and one day he too would appear before God as a simple soul.

I would say Francis sees himself more as the “Servus servorum Dei” rather than the “Pontifex Maximus” - though both titles pertain to him. Also, he tried to live simply as an archbishop and I think this is just a continuation of that in a higher role.

And if some functionaries have to walk a few more steps to reach him, that’s probably not a bad thing. They can work off some of that good Italian pasta…

1569 Rising said...

Appalling manners - no thought for the members of the Orchestra who would have rehearsed thoroughly for the concert.

Somehow, I cannot see HM The Queen behaving in such a selfish manner.
Nor, for that matter, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Poor show.

Hughie said...

Maybe something came up that he felt he had to deal with. Or, is that too realistic? Could the Pope possibly have told his designated spokesman to tell the truth? Tut, tut, what despicable duplicity.

RichardT said...

GOR, I understand that, but that is all PR, the Pope creating what he sees as the right image for himself and the Church.

And surely a conscious effort to create a good image - although it may be necessary - is not humility.

GOR said...

Richard, if it were just PR, I would agree. But I don’t believe it is. I think Francis is truly humble and is not making a ‘conscious effort’ to portray humility. He is just continuing – or trying – to live the way he lived as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Not easy, given his current position and the setting in which he finds himself.

Yes, it is unsettling to us, as in some respects, we want our Pope to be ‘regal’ and surrounded by all the trappings of the Papacy. Maybe we’re like the people in Our Lord’s time who wanted to make Him king – and he fled from that.

I almost expected him to move to St. John Lateran, which is the Bishop of Rome’s ‘own’ church!

gemoftheocean said...

I saw elsewhere on the internet this comment about the pope's no show. Assuming that the pope was not ill at the last minute (and granted things like that can happen) -- I think this is the most succinct thing I've seen about it. It rather reminds me of the time, Fr. Blake, when you mentioned in seminary how one of the "powers that be" asked you something along the lines of "how was your morning going" and you said something to the effect that you "weren't" a "morning person." And the PTB gave you a gentle shove in the right direction. (At least I hope it was a gentle shove.) Anyway, here is what the person said:

"He IS the Pope, the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, and our leader - the Vicar of Christ. I do appreciate many of the things he is doing to "clean up" the Church, and thankful that he is not dismantling positive Liturgical changes that have been needed since the horribly misguided implementation of Vatican II. But I believe he needs to lighten up a bit and find some time to relax - that includes allowing people to do things for him, and for others around him. Those people at the concert were hoping to share and evening of good music with the Holy Father. It is only fitting that he has a special chair - and it was in the midst of his people rather than up high in a private balcony. Also consider the musicians who had no doubt prepared with extra diligence the music they were to perform for him with his attendant followers. How did they feel to have the musical offering snubbed. He must have some responsibility to be our Holy Father and to spend some time relaxing and excepting our social offerings to him. I'm sorry that's not "his thing", but "his thing" was supposed to have been left in the Room of Tears where he gave up his name, etc., to take on a new name, and a new persona."

Fr Ray Blake said...


No, that wasn't me, that was a student at the North American College and "the power" was Cardinal Dolan.

gemoftheocean said...

Ah, thanks Father -- I should have searched your blog further for the exact item. But I expect the lesson still holds. Someone else here mentioned he can't imagine the Queen acting that way, and I'd have to agree. If you are drawing attention to yourself "by being humble" then it isn't really "humble" is it?

And in the case of the Cardinal it was a nice "get with the program."

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