Pope Francis in no hurry to move into papal apartment

Pope Francis in no hurry to move into papal apartment

  The pope's study at his modest quarters in the Vatican guest house

Rumors are swirling inside and outside the Vatican about where Pope Francis intends to take up residence.

The initial expectation was that he would move into the formal papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace, the building where popes have lived for centuries.

But Pope Francis appears to be in no hurry. More than a week after his election, he’s still residing in the Vatican’s modern guest house, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he eats meals with others in the common dining room and can walk to some of his appointments in the Vatican.

Yesterday I asked the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, if the pope had decided where to live, and he said, “Let’s wait and see.”

When the new pope took a tour of the 10-room papal apartment a few days ago, he was said to have remarked, “Three hundred people could live here.” As a cardinal in Buenos Aires, he chose to live in a small apartment instead of the archbishop’s mansion.

The Vatican earlier talked about the need for some renovation work before the pope moved into the Apostolic Palace. But the apartment received an extensive makeover in 2005 after Pope Benedict’s election, and it’s hard to believe Pope Francis would want to spend more money on redecorating.

There are arguments for the pope living in the Apostolic Palace, of course. He’s close to the Vatican’s diplomatic nerve center and several other major offices, he’s close to the formal meeting rooms where he receives guests and he has a bird’s-eye view from the window where pilgrims still expect to receive his blessing every Sunday.

If he were to stay in the Domus, which lies on the other side of St. Peter’s Basilica, he would effectively be out of the loop of the daily papal program, Vatican officials argue.

There are also rumors that Pope Francis could decide to reside in the empty papal apartment at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the pope’s cathedral as head of the Rome Diocese. (My friend and colleague Robert Mickens of The Tablet thinks that would be a great idea.)

Popes lived at the Lateran Palace for about 1,000 years before moving to the Vatican in the 15th century, and officially it remains the residence of the bishop of Rome. Since Francis has referred to himself as “bishop of Rome” far more often than he’s used the word “pope,” some believe he may make the move.

The Lateran apartment was refurbished more than 50 years ago for Pope John XXIII, who wanted to use it as a retreat house but never got the chance.

In my view, the important thing is not so much where the pope lives as how accessible he is to people outside the Roman Curia buffer. Popes – even popes who loved being among the people – tend to become isolated behind several layers of “protection” inside the Vatican. There’s the papal household that protects his privacy, assistants who oversee his schedule, security staff and top Vatican officials who guide his energies toward events that tend to focus on the clerical hierarchy and secular VIPs.

A pope who wants to be close to the people really has to make an effort to break through the Vatican bubble. Pope John Paul II did so by inviting people – yes, even lay people – to lunch. Pope Benedict XVI, a more private person, made fewer connections.

As an archbishop, Francis rode the bus and quite naturally mingled with people from all walks of life. As pope, he’s going to have to create new channels of communication if he wants to keep that up.

UPDATE: One sign that the new pope is doing just that: yesterday he invited 50 Argentinians to party with him at an impromptu celebration in the Domus. That's what I'm talking about.

26 comments (Add your own)

1. Frank Rega wrote:
Thank you John, very nice article. You may be right about his moving to the Lateran and getting away from the layers insulating him from the people.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 9:02 AM

2. Paul Scheerer wrote:
fascinating look into the life of the popes. They have to oversee such a large church, it would be impossible to not run into some luxuries once in a while. And, I am sure none of the good popes would see it as a luxury or worry about it too much. Whatever makes Francis feel comfortable is fine with me. Let´s hope he can say and do some things to really motivate Catholics like John Paul did.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 9:29 AM

3. Debra Joones wrote:
This just goes to show you what humitity can do to a person. It's not what's on this outside of a person, but what's on the inside. This Pope will need many prayers to keep him safe from the freemasons from within. The rosary is the weapon of use!

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 10:10 AM

4. Lorraine Rodriguez wrote:
Pope Francis I goes with the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only God knows in what direction the Holy Spirit will lead the Pope, but he is obedient to those promptings. As Mary went in haste to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, so too will the Pope go in haste to be obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Hang on to your hats, here we go. Praise God.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 10:16 AM

5. Scott wrote:
I would love to see the Pope take up residence in the Lateran palace. I think his emphasis on his role of Bishop of Rome is key (it is what ultimately make him Pope, after all). I think it tends to emphasize collegiality, by putting greater stress on him role as bishop, he elevates al bishops (while remaining primus inter pares, of course). And the Lateran seems to be a bit neglected. As a traditionalist, I'm really intrigued with the Holy Father's actions so far!

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 10:57 AM

6. Julia wrote:
May Pope Francis, remain always in the shelter and safety of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I think our Lady, Undoer of Knots will untangle the status quo if the Lord wills for our Holy Father and Chief Shepherd to connect with the ordinary people who God knows need him very much indeed.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

7. wrote:
That's what I'm talking 'bout too, john

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 12:17 PM

8. Pattye Pece wrote:
Thank you for your blog on the Pope's new residence. It is very refreshing to many around the world. This Bishop of Rome teaches by example, so there will be more to learn in his class on Catholicism 101.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 12:23 PM

9. Brenda wrote:
The Pope is showing by example that shepherds, priests, bishops and popes should be among the people to teach them spiritual lessons, not so much administrative overseers --- that's what secretaries are for!

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 1:24 PM

10. Eric Neubauer wrote:
This Pope is going to surprise. We better get used to a "new normal" as he seeks to live the faith among the Church. I look forward to the adventure.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 1:32 PM

11. Elias Paul wrote:
This is great news. I hope he is known as the Bishop of Rome, which is the Chair of Peter. This act of humility in word, action and deed were he lives can possible end the great schism. By living at Saint John Lateran will be in that Spirit. I pray for the end of the this schism. In our liturgy we need to change the words from Pope to Chair of Peter. It is time to clean the Curia out and end the exuberant extravagance. Time to remove the Freemasons and Blackhand (Satan) from the Vatican.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 1:48 PM

12. Jeanne Marie wrote:
LOL Talk about an education for the Curia! HeHe What a delightful image I have of the ' ole boys ' shrugging and a tad dizzy perhaps at the whimsical behavior of our Holy Father. Bless his heart. What a GRAND TEACHER to us all! Who knows, with this kind of activity the Curias blood is pumping a tad bit higher, maybe we will see 'age' added in abundance maybe even 100 yr. old popes? HS is capable of anything!

Love and Gods Blessing's to the Holy Father,

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 2:52 PM

13. D Meyers wrote:
Maybe he could wear his black cassock when he wanted to take the bus.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 3:04 PM

14. Justyn Tyme wrote:
Looks like ALBINO LUCIANI: POPE JOHN PAUL I : 1978: Late Bishop of Rome, Supreme Pastor and Martyr for the Faith, has returned to us in the person of Pope Francis I.

POPE JOHN PAUL I motto was " Humilitas" or Humility!!!!!!! Welcome Home!!!!!!

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 3:06 PM

15. Yae wrote:
I have been reflecting on all the events of this past week and how Papa Francis is trying, despite the critics, to remain an man unto himself, true, in the eyes of God. How long he can keep it up I do not know but it is an admirable thing to want to try. I hope both sides, the Holy Father and the Vatican Security team, can accommodate one another and work together for the good of all concerned. If Papa Francis decides to move to St. John Lateran I support him as long as he is kept safe and he cooperates within reason to allow himself to be kept safe.
May our Lord Jesus and our Lady protect and guide him as he reigns. St. Joesph, protect our Holy Father and keep him strong.
Thank you again, John for your fine articles and balanced and charitable reporting.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 3:12 PM

16. Nannycakes wrote:
I know I was not alone in praying intently that the Holy Spirit would inspire the Cardinals to elect the right man, and I believe they have. However, let not the prayers cease! At mass the day after he was selected, our priest said, "If you want a Holy Pope, you must pray for him. For those of you who pray the Rosary daily, continue; for those of you who do not pray the Rosary daily (or at all) ... START!" May his own guardian angel and St. Michael the archangel protect him from all evil, always!

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 4:19 PM

17. Ann wrote:
We need to be cautious about lauding the actions of a Pope who breaks with papal tradition thereby making himself "different" and more "humble". Were all of our last Popes prideful by adhering to papal traditions? Remember there is such a thing as false humility. We do not want to be fooled here. Please be careful not to jump on a bandwagon! The dignity of the Office of the papacy must be preserved and if it is not, the Church will suffer for it.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 4:20 PM

18. Karl wrote:
I absolutely love Pope Francis! May Saint Michael the Archangel protect him. The Curia and Freemasons will surely plot against him. He so reminds much of Albino Luciani and I fear the same forces will conspire against this Pope.

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 4:55 PM

19. Ted wrote:
What an incredible time - this man seems to really reflect Christ in multiple ways. I think I am going to enjoy his pontificate immensely. Let us all say a prayer for him right now!

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 8:20 PM

20. Jim Alders wrote:
John you aught to find a way to share your story and the reactions with Francis. It might help him hold his ground. I forget the words he used but in essence he said we follers of ChriSt need to spend more effort walking the talk. WWJD

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 9:07 PM

21. bong baldoza wrote:
whether pope francis lives in the papal apartment or not,what is important is that he performs his duties and responsibilities as expected.... but he has to be more open to his security personnel so they can device security plans for his when he does his duties and responsibilities....

Thu, March 21, 2013 @ 10:46 PM

22. Dixibehr wrote:
Part of poverty is taking what's available and using what you find.

In this case, it's the Papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace==basically an office building with some residences.

Fri, March 22, 2013 @ 5:02 AM

23. Kivinen wrote:
I understand his desire to be simple. It's wonderful. But the truth of the matter is, that there are a lot of very crazy people out there who at some point may want to hurt him. I am hoping he will have a serious sit-down with security and see if there is a way to thread the needle here. Perhaps, it might be good to talk to our Secret Service guys. We see the President in crowds all the time and so far, so good.

Fri, March 22, 2013 @ 9:03 AM

24. Terry wrote:
Thanks for a great article and some excellent comments too. Personally, I think it's more important than ever for him to take up residence in the Vatican's papal apartments. I don't think it would be good to have the Pope-emeritus at the Vatican, and the actual Pope across at the Lateran. I can understand that Santa Marta is providing a positive community in this transitional phase where he meets ordinary people, and I agree maintaining that sort of contact will be essential. However, he is not just the pope of those small, local groups which seem more immediate and real, but has a universal ministry. So I hope he goes to the apostolic palace, and at the same time finds ways to keep in touch.

Fri, March 22, 2013 @ 10:20 AM

25. fredg299 wrote:
It appears the papal apartments are actually much worse than the place at Santa del Marta.
There is an ABC video on youtube from the JP II days showing the floorplan for the papal apartemnts. It appears the floor is mostly a chapel where the Pope says his daily mass, two conference/ reception rooms,a private papal study and then the papal bedroom. The size of the rooms was absolutely ordinary - no pictures on the walls, perhaps a crucifix. Relatively normal, unadorned living space.
The papal bedroom appeared small and old in the video. The bed looked like something from the 1940's or before. Maybe the renovation before Benedict moved in did something to it, but I doubt it.
Anyway, no wonder he wants to stay in his current place- modern, well heated, new furniture, NORMAL people around him.

Fri, March 22, 2013 @ 11:47 AM

26. Lona wrote:
I am worried that while Pope Francis tries to set an example of humility and outreach, It will remain business as usu for the Curia. Popes come and go and change, but the bureaucracy remains to do what it thinks the Church needs, no matter who is Pope.

Fri, March 22, 2013 @ 3:19 PM

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