Pope Francis’ official symbols hint at simplicity, humility
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis gave a new example of his preference for simplicity when the Vatican unveiled the symbols of his papacy on Monday (March 18).
The Argentine pope decided to keep the coat of arms and the motto he chose when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The Vatican also announced that the papal “fisherman’s ring” will be a simple ring made of gold-plated silver, cast on a model once prepared for Pope Paul VI. It depicts St. Peter holding the keys of heaven.
The only change the new pope introduced to his previous coat of arms was the substitution of two symbols of papal authority – a miter and the two keys of St. Peter – in place of a cardinal’s hat.
Besides this change, Francis chose to keep his old symbols, which allude to the Holy Family and to his membership in the Jesuit order: a sun inscribed with the letters “IHS,” a star to represent the Virgin Mary and a nard flower to represent St. Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s motto, too, hints at the themes of humility and mercy he has been emphasizing since his election to the papacy.
The motto – “Miserando atque eligendo,” Latin for “Having had mercy, he called him” – is a reference to Jesus’ choice of Matthew as one of his apostles despite his apparent unworthiness.
On Tuesday (March 19), Francis will preside over a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square that will mark the official start of his pontificate.
The Vatican expects 132 official delegations from all over the world to attend, as well as leaders of Christian churches and other religions. For the first time in more than 1,000 years, the spiritual head of Eastern Orthodoxy, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, will be present at a papal inauguration.
Vice President Joe Biden will head the U.S. delegation.
On Monday, Francis met with Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner, with whom he had often clashed as archbishop of Buenos Aires over her decision to legalize same-sex marriage.