One gets the impression that a few people might be panicking a bit prematurely about the new Pope.

If a poor Church means the scaling back of the bloated Curia and concentration on the tasks of teaching, sanctifying and governing that the Lord actually gave to his apostles and their successors then we can all be grateful. The eradication of all these various councils and commissions, not least the ITC and the PBC which are increasingly shooting from the hip and have no doctrinal authority, then it would be a blessing for the Church. If a poor Church means misery for revolting neo-con social modernists like George Weigel then that would be a great blessing for the Church as well. Perhaps the Church’s teaching on usury could be brought out of the attic and dusted off.

I admit it would be nice if he Pope Francis had introduced some of his variations of style a little more slowly to avoid giving the impression of criticising his predecessor. Obviously I do not myself favour these variations. Well, perhaps that is too strong, let me put it another way. I see no problem with eschewing baroque style in liturgical matters in favour of a noble simplicity of a more early-mediaeval flavour. However, ugliness and polyester are not noble. I think one ought to remember that the Papal Tiara is actually a Byzantine mitre and the more general western mitre is a slightly odd variation on this (rather as the Anglo-Saxon mortarboard is a variant development of the biretta). Pope Francis may have some experience in celebrating the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom It might be a nice idea for the Holy Father to offer the Byzantine Divine Liturgy on the feast of St John Chrysostom or St Andrew and for the Byzantine Catholic hierarchs to present him with an appropriate mitre for the purpose, perhaps even for the Roman Rite Feast of Ss Peter and Paul. If the Pope were to have an actual western mitre constructed (in good taste) to resemble the one adopted heraldically since Benedict XVI and to wear it on less exalted occasions then it would be a great step forward. What matters is the fact of the expression of the doctrines symbolised by the three bands not so much the manner in which they are expressed. As John Paul II remarked at the inauguration of his pontificate,

In past centuries, when the Successor of Peter took possession of his See, the triregnum or tiara was placed on his head. The last Pope to be crowned was Paul VI in 1963, but after the solemn coronation ceremony he never used the tiara again and left his Successors free to decide in this regard.

Pope John Paul I, whose memory is so vivid in our hearts, did not wish to have the tiara; nor does his Successor wish it today. This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes.

Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us to gaze on the Lord and immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (confessed by Peter), came to make us all “a kingdom of priests”.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past, the tiara, this triple crown, was placed on the Pope’s head in order to express by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ’s Church, all “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world but in the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection.

Blessed John Paul II pray for Pope Francis!

True simplicity is beautiful and reflects the simplicity of God. It is important not into fall into the Judas-trap “this ointment could have been sold and the money spent on the poor.” May God give the grace to Pope Francis to find a noble simplicity that preserves continuity with tradition without being tied to one particular expression of it. If, by God’s grace, the Holy Father can achieve that then it will, I think, be a great relief for everyone. St Francis had no time for an ignoble simplicity and was greatly distressed when sacred things and texts were not treated with due reverence “But let all those who administer such most holy mysteries, especially those who do so indifferently, consider among themselves how poor the chalices, corporals, and linens may be where the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is sacrificed …Let us then at once and resolutely correct these faults and others; and wheresoever the most holy Body of our Lord Jesus Christ may be improperly reserved and abandoned, let It be removed thence and let It be put and enclosed in a precious place.

Seraphic Father pray for Pope Francis!

The form of the Roman rite canonised by St Pius V is largely the form adapted by the Franciscans at the very beginning of the Order of Friars Minor from the curial usage of the Roman Rite. There is a pointless complexity to the Novus Ordo and a foolish hubris in the attempt to write a new liturgy by committee. If the new pontiff’s tastes bury the ‘reform of the reform’ that might not be such a bad thing. Perhaps the idea that Pope Francis might one day see the noble simplicity of the authentic Roman Rite seems too farfetched but God will move mountains for faith the size of a mustard seed. Let us pray! Latin Catholics and not just Byzantines and Copts and Syrians ought to have the humility to receive “the original form and rite of the holy Fathers” and honour it, and the humility to accept that the Novus Ordo was a proud mistake (and in fact a rejection of the Council’s instructions) that brought down the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul upon an entire generation.

St Pius V, pray for Pope Francis!

The Holy Father’s ‘silent blessing’ and his decision to quote Leon Bloy and Cardinal Kaspar are not very reassuring but on the other hand the teaching of his sermon in the Sistine Chapel was refreshingly clear by contrast with many of his recent predecessors. “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil. When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.” Dear Holy Father please just solemnly define those sentences and the chaos will be ended in a single day! The Angelus address too was rather effective. At first (remembering some words of Bl. John Henry Newman) I though ‘well God might very well decide to stop forgiving us’ but then I suppose if we seek forgiveness then God is moving us to seek it and if we do not then He is not. So the Holy Father’s teaching there may actually be more rather than less rigorously Augustinian than it seems at first glance.

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on Your vicar and upon Your flock, guide him by Your grace and example that he may teach, sanctify and govern us as You would wish!