The former archbishop of Buenos Aires made the remarks during a solemnly celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel. Vatican watchers had been waiting to see whether the 266th pope would deliver his homily in Latin, consistent with tradition, or in Italian, which would suggest a modesty consistent with the face he has put forward so far.
The symbolism of his message was hard to miss for a church that is mired in scandal, according to many of its faithful, and for a Vatican government that is gummed up by dysfunction, corruption and turf wars.
Francis’s elevation to the throne of Saint Peter represents a great leap forward for a church whose future could well rest in the hemisphere from which the Argentine hails.
Speaking softly to his cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, Francis nevertheless seemed to attack the hypocrisy that many believe has infected the governance of the church.
If people follow a path that is not the way of the cross, their titles mean nothing, he said. But if they are true to the Gospel and profess as the Lord did, he said, “then the church will go forward.”
The cardinals, wearing white and gold robes and red skullcaps, filed back into the Sistine Chapel at 5 p.m. Thursday. They bowed before an altar below Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” as the Sistine choir sang a hymn. Francis, with a white skullcap atop his bald pate and using a gold cross as a staff, brought up the rear.
His reading in Latin was meek, sometimes halting, but when he addressed the cardinals in his homily, the hesitation evaporated, and he seemed very much the simple and direct pastor that many of them said they sought in a pope.
Reports of machinations
But not all of them, according to Italian media reports.
Articles about the factions and failed candidacies that produced the surprise election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio filled Italian newspapers Thursday. The reports — unsourced, largely contradictory and thick with plots — perhaps said more about the Italian press than the machinations of the conclave.
One of La Stampa’s army of Vaticanisti, as the media’s Vatican specialists are known, reported that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, a former Vatican secretary of state, had a vendetta against the front-runner, Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, for once suggesting that Pope Benedict XVI fire him. Scola, the paper wrote, was “betrayed by his countrymen on the first vote.” It said the lack of support cleared the way for Bergoglio.