Vatican City • The pomp surrounding his selection was just the beginning of an exceptionally busy few days for Pope Francis. A look at the first night — and what comes after.
From the moment of uttering “I accept” in Latin, in front of his fellow cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, the job is his, and it starts instantly.
According to tradition, his first act is declaring his choice of name as the Roman Catholic church’s 266th pontiff. That done, he’s whisked off to the Room of Tears, just beyond the chapel to be dressed in papal white.
Since Monday, the day before the conclave began, three white robes — in small, medium and large to cover all the bases — had been hanging on a clothes rack in the room. Seven pairs of red shoes waited in white boxes to be tried on for size by the new pontiff.
Per tradition, outfitted in papal garb, the new pontiff heads back to the Sistine Chapel, where the other cardinals pledge obedience to the man they chose to lead the church.
Just before Benedict XVI left the papacy last month, to begin the first papal retirement in 600 years, he added another step in the ritual before a cardinal steps out onto the central loggia, or balcony, of St. Peter’s Basilica to announce the name of the new pope. The newly elected pontiff was to pause to pray in solitude in the Pauline Chapel, another magnificent chapel decorated by Michelangelo and smaller than the nearby Sistine Chapel.
GREET THE MASSES
Next up is greeting crowds in St. Peter’s Square.
“Brothers and sisters, good evening,” Francis said to wild cheers in his first public remarks as pontiff. “You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the earth. Thank you for the welcome.”
FIRST FULL DAY?
As the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters a few hours before the election, it’s up to the new boss to set the agenda. Holding to tradition, he will celebrate a Mass on Thursday at the altar in front of Michelangelo’s ‘‘Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel with the cardinals. On his first full day he also plans to pray at St. Mary Major basilica in Rome.
WHERE DOES HE LIVE?
What else he does depends somewhat on him. He might remove the seals on the papal apartment if he’s eager to move in, although the Vatican has said in case the place needs some repairs, the first days of the papacy might be the time to do them.
The apartment was sealed on Feb. 28, after Benedict left the Vatican to spend his last few hours as pope in the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo.
But the three-room papal suite in room 201 of Santa Marta, the simple hotel on the Vatican grounds, is also waiting for him for his first days as pontiff.
The first couple of days might also see the first appointments by Francis.
Four days after Benedict was elected, he met with the media, thanking them for all the attention they paid in the preceding weeks, including during the death and funeral of John Paul II.
On Sunday — following two Sundays with no pope to appear at the papal studio window and bless the crowd in St. Peter’s Square — Francis will be expected by Catholics to speak to them.
Two days later, on Tuesday, the church feast day of St. Joseph, there will be his installation Mass, a morning-long affair, with much pomp, prayers and VIPs in the pews, with as many as some 200 foreign delegations expected as well as hundreds of thousands of rank-and-file, including many from the pope’s homeland — in this case Argentina.
That ceremony is traditionally held on Sunday, when the city’s streets can be closed to traffic near the Vatican. But St. Joseph’s feast day is a Vatican holiday, and it’s likely many Romans will skip work or school to turn out for the formal embrace of Rome’s new bishop.