VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, began a briefing about the election of the Pope Francis, a Jesuit, by apologizing that he was a bit in “shock.”
Speaking to reporters about an hour after Pope Francis had come out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and given his blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world), Father Lombardi said the new pope had already spoken by telephone with retired Pope Benedict XVI and planned to visit him “in the coming days.”
In the middle of the briefing with reporters late March 13, Father Lombardi received a phone call from the regent of the papal household providing him with Pope Francis’ initial schedule:
— Sometime March 14, the new pope will pay a private prayer visit to a Marian church or shrine. Information will be released after the visit.
— At 5 p.m. (noon EDT) March 14, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. The Mass is closed to the public, but it will be televised.
— At 11 a.m. (6 a.m.) March 15, the pope will meet with all the cardinals, including those over 80 and not involved in the conclave. The meeting will take place in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.
— The pope will meet at 11 a.m. (6 a.m.) March 16 with the estimated 5,600 members of the media who covered the conclave and his election.
— Pope Francis will recite the Angelus at noon Sunday with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
— The new pope will be formally installed at a 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.) Mass March 19 in St. Peter’s Square.
The following day, Pope Francis will meet with the “fraternal delegates” from other Christian churches and communities who come to Rome for his installation.
Father Lombardi told reporters that Jesuits generally resist being named bishops or cardinals, which makes him think that the cardinal electors must really have pressed their call for Pope Francis to accept his election.
He also said that choosing a Jesuit who takes the name Francis — recalling Francis of Assisi — is a “radical response” to those who tried to paint conclave as power game.
Father Lombardi said it was “beautiful that a Latin American was chosen,” especially given the fact that such a large part of the world’s Catholics live in the region.
He said that although they are both Jesuits, they do not know each other well. They did participate together in the Jesuit general congregation that elected Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach as superior general in 1983.
Father Lombardi said he briefly greeted his confrere a few days ago during the general congregation meetings that preceded the conclave, “but I didn’t expect to see him again tonight dressed in white.”
The spokesman also said he found it “beautiful” that Pope Francis, coming out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time, “asked the people to pray for him and bowed to receive their blessing before blessing them.”