Pope Francis Won’t Be Moving into Apostolic Palace

CNS reports:

Pope Francis has decided not to move into the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, but to live in a suite in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been since the beginning of the conclave that elected him, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.


  1. Pope Benedict has to find himself feeling somewhat uncomfortable, now, with his choice of quarters, considering that the “monastery” refurbished for his personal use will be far, far grander than the incumbent pontiff’s simple suite of guest house rooms. This isn’t going to look good. Perhaps the Pope Emeritus should move in with the Pope, or vice-versa.

  2. Fritz, you are surely aware of what actually happens when a new bishop or pastor takes up their ministry. Some things change and some things stay the same. If the new bishop is more personable than his predecessor there will always be people who will welcome this and talk about it happily amongst themselves. If he’s a liturgical ideologue of one form or another, there will be happy people and unhappy people. The new pastor may make some alterations in the way the CM’s gather near the altar. Folks used to the prior ways will grouse. Others will just conform. Most of the people won’t even notice. If he’s a kind man, they’ll love that no matter how he celebrates Mass. If he’s stern and overserious, they’ll be leery. We have a new Pope with a great name that he is trying to live up to. He knows he will be Pope but briefly and has some important work to do and wants to get on with it. He probably doesn’t have time for folks who want to keep pointing out to him how he ought to do the work he was elected to do. We are the ones who have fixated on the person of the Pope. We’ll just have to adjust. I, for one, join the people I serve in marveling at what a true and humble disciple this man seems to be. Isn’t faithful discipleship what its all about? Or is it rubrics and customs?

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #3:
      I didn’t mean my comment as a criticism; just as a report of how I am experiencing what seems to me a radical symbolic reorientation. In fact, if you had asked me at Benedict’s resignation what a new Pope should do with regard to the “style” of the papacy, I would have listed pretty much everything that Francis has done as among my desiderata. Still, the actually effect is a bit dizzying.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #6:
        Fritz, I find myself in agreement with you. Every day, I find a new thing that he’s done that is amazing in its humility and simplicity. Vertiginous indeed.

  3. I have long thought that it was impossible for the pope to keep in touch with the people from the distance of his golden prison. But this pope has found a way around it. This is like a dream come true.

    By the way, who are the (other) permanent residents of the Vatican guesthouse?

    1. @claire mathieu – comment #5:

      Pope Francis is a better man for all the reasons you state in the first paragraph. He’ll probably still use the “golden prison” as an office, for the Angelus, etc.

      Also, I suspect that Pope Francis has decided to stay in the hotel because the hotel chapel is much bigger than the chapel in the apostolic palace. I sense that Pope Francis would rather have a congregation than say Mass alone. If/when I go to Rome next, I would be very interested to see if there is a open invitation to Pope Francis’s daily Mass in the hotel chapel. I don’t think he’ll open up the hotel chapel Mass to everyone since it’d probably get mobbed with tourists, but nothing is predictable while Pope Francis sits on the chair.

    1. @Jim Pauwels – comment #7:
      Or turn the papal residence in the Vatican palace into an art school for poor children. There’s plenty of space, so why not throw in a home for the aged and an orphanage . Then set up a foundation to support all three.

  4. To be honest, I’m finding myself somewhat quizzical/not as moved as I would’ve expected at this particular change. I do believe that the Pope is a truly humble man, and that he does have to give an example, and that it is nice that he is close to community and so forth.

    But wouldn’t it be easier, and less overt, just to downsize within his suite of rooms itself (especially since (a) no one else is using them (b) he is apparently going to use it as an office?) Now, yes, everyone does see simplicity in the decision, which is certainly a positive point….but how much money will have to be spent on things like the extra security, making sure that the Pope’s new living quarters are safe, monitoring and background checking all the visitors who want to stay there, checking everyone who might have access to the dining room….things like that.

    For me, I would have been a lot more moved if the Pope had decided he was going to parcel out bits of his suite of rooms (which, at least to me in the videos, doesn’t match the visions conjured up by “palace”) to certain officials or staff who he sees on a daily basis, and keep only a small bit for himself.

    1. @Joshua Vas – comment #11:
      Agreed. Not sure how shunning every practice typically associated with the Papacy is actually “humble”. I know this will rile some folks, but for me this decision, and quite frankly some others, are having the exact opposite effect with me. Being “humble” often means abandoning one’s own will.

      It also seems to be a short sighted decision and sets a very unnecessary precedent for his successors, who if they choose to take up residency again the Papal Apartments will be accused of being distant, extravagant, etc.

      My prayer is that over time, he will come to realize that, like it or not, he is the Pope and its not always about what he wants. I pray too that while he is trying so desperately to show the world how “humble” he is, that he takes time to address the real issues affecting the Church such as Curial Reform.

      1. @Dave Auxier – comment #13:

        Very good and observant point, Dave. I support certain of Pope Francis’s decisions, such as living at the hotel and not the apostolic police, simply because living a hotel suite is probably more in keeping with his lifestyle in Buenos Aires. I don’t see this decision as impeding his role as Holy Father.

        I’ve vacillated between a suspicion that Pope Francis is putting on a show of humility to win over the media and lukewarm Catholics, and a heartfelt conviction that Pope Francis is acting in good faith. I want to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes that is difficult. I do suspect that the shift from Pope Benedict’s princely papacy to Pope Francis’s austere papacy is likely tied into curial and Vatican reform. Perhaps Pope Francis understands that the pope cannot live as a prince and at the same time credibly clear out corruption, malfeasance, and obstruction at the highest levels. By leading an austere life as compared to his predecessors, perhaps Pope Francis is trying to show that he is above the corruption which is destroying the Church.

    2. @Joshua Vas – comment #11:
      He should have plenty of room if he gets rid of much of the Curia. Something I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see happen.

  5. Given the physical characteristics of the rooms that constitute the papal apartment in the Vatican Palace, it is probably impossible to subdivide them. Pope Francis likely is turned off by the sheer size of the rooms, including ceiling height as well as square footage. He said the place could accommodate 300, an exaggeration with more than a shred of substance. Most people probably would find the main floor rooms of the White House to be anything but inviting as private quarters.
    Nor does Francis favor personal adornment. He has yet to be seen wearing the lace rochet and red mozetta. No red shoes. He did not wear cufflinks on Palm Sunday but he did wear black trousers and black shoes rather than calf-length white pants, white stockings and red shoes. Nor is there a coat of arms embroidered on his sash, not yet anyway.
    No surprise here were he to take to wearing a simple brown or black cassock, keeping only the white zuchetto and pectoral cross to indicate the rank that the cardinals “did to me.”

  6. “Community rather than “simplicity and “poverty” is the most important reason for this move upon the part of the Pope.

    Let me suggest that he is greatly altering the social networks of the Vatican, and thereby already initiating the reform of the Curia from below!!! Indeed he seems to be in the process of turning everything upside down!!!

    First Francis made it clear that being Bishop of Rome was the foundation of being Pope; he signaled that in his appearance on the balcony of St. Peters. Then he is began to show that being a part of the parochial life of Rome is the foundation of being bishop of Rome both by saying Mass at the Vatican parish and in his plans for Holy Thursday. Now he has begun to make saying Mass for people in the Vatican and for visitors is an important part of being bishop of Rome.

    However the Domus and the dining hall may be the biggest change of all. For it contains rooms not only for visitors but for priests and monsignors that work in the Vatican

    Of all the symbolic, lifestyle changes, the new pope has made, this may be the most significant, especially for reform of the Roman Curia. For, in the Santa Marta dining hall, in my experience, while visitors mix it up on one-side of the dining hall, on the other Vatican staffers keep to themselves. In fact, many eat silently alone—as if on perpetual retreat. When I visited Santa Marta, I used to wonder to myself, “Are these isolated, private souls, the people we trust to run the church?”

    There are reports that the priests objected since this would put them in close proximity to the Pope who replied that he is used to being with priests. So now the Pope is going to begin to interact with the bottom of the Vatican staff who are not used to interacting with higher ups or even with each other. That is a good place to begin the reform of the Curia.

    So what are the Vatican staff going to do? Are they going to ignore the Pope and let him eat and interact with the visitors? Maybe these very visitors are going to be showing up in their offices in the next few days saying “when the Pope and I were talking..”. Are they going to interact with the Pope and not with each other?

    The Pope is going to go to the Papal Palace for meetings with dignitaries. However none were scheduled these first three days of Holy Week. I suspect the Pope is meeting informally and talking over the phone with all sorts of people both inside and outside of the Curia.

    The Pope no longer has a Household in the Papal Palace but does have a rather large community of both Vatican and non-Vatican people in the Domus. The Pope no longer has a small Vatican network controlling his networking within and outside the Vatican.

    Arch. Ganswein is Head of a non-existent Papal Household. He will likely continue his job of escorting dignitaries to the Apostolic Palace to meet the Pope but I suspect his ability to control the Pope or even know what he is doing will be rather limited.

    Cardinal Bertone remains for the time Secretary of State but his ability to control access to the Pope by members of the Curia or visitors is also going to be very limited.

    The Pope is essentially abolishing the hierarchical structure of the Vatican and initiating a modern organizational structure which emphasizes multiple networking among and across levels.

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #15:
      Jack I agree.
      I just read two articles on yahoo about Pope Francis, now dubbed by some the “pope of hope”! It is wonderful!
      I read the 10 published comments, a total of 20 comments for the two articles and NOT ONE derogatory comment about the church. This hasn’t happened in years! reading the comments were usually depressing, but not now. From Catholics to Quakers and just ordinary people nothing but great comments! It’s about time!

    2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #15:
      Your use of the word “community” at the top of your comment jumped out at me . . .

      Francis is the first member of a religious order to be elected pope in quite some time. (I believe the last was Clement XIV, a Franciscan, in 1769.) Thus, community is a part of his background in a manner that has not been present with the popes of the last 3.5 centuries.

      1. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #19:

        A Concert of Charisms: Ordained Ministry in the Religious Life
        Paulist Press, 1997
        Copyright Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes of the US

        For many Roman Catholics the word parish has become almost synonymous with local church. Catholic colleges, monasteries, health care centers, retreat houses, and the like are seen as extras, as somewhat tangential to ‘real’ Catholic life. Parochialization –this movement toward the parish as center of the local church – has become increasingly pronounced in the years following the Second Vatican Council.

        While ecclesiologists generally would prefer to use the expression local church to refer to a church in a nation, and canonists refer to a diocese as a particular church, much confusion has been caused by the use of the adjective local in the GIRM (1969)…”In the local church first place must be given ..to the Mass offered by the bishop surrounded by his priests and ministers (par. 74) and in speaking of any Eucharistic gathering it calls it “a local assembly of the holy church” par. 7). In paragraphs 75 and 76 it notes every Mass “represents the universal church in a definite time and place.”

        This trend to see the parish as The Community had positive consequences for religious both ordained and unordained (it drew them into the parishes) and negative consequences (it threatened their own communities, their own ministries, and lifestyles).

        A very important chapter to this book is John O Malley’s: One Priesthood: Two Traditions. O Malley sees the following assumptions about priestly ministry in Vatican II documents:
        1) ministry by and large to the faithful,
        2) in a stable community of faith (parish),
        3) done by clergy in hierarchical union with the order of bishops, and
        4) warrant for ministry is ordination.

        While these assumptions are true for diocesan priests and diocesan ministry; historically they are all untrue with regard to religious priests and religious ministry. O’Malley’s key insight is that every new type of religious lifestyle (hermit, Benedictine, Franciscan, Jesuit) has resulted in new ways of doing ministry (including but not limited to priestly ministry) and that these new ways of doing ministry had their origin in baptismal charisms not ordination.

        My observation would be that since Vatican II more and more religious priests have been made bishops. In most cases, this has meant they have not used their religious charism to transform the office of bishop or their dioceses. However Francis seems to have kept his Jesuit charisms alive as bishop, and now has joined them with the charisms of Francis to transform the Papacy.

        It should be noted that both the charisms of Francis and Ignatius are derived from baptism not ordination. They can transform all ministry not simply priestly, episcopal or papal ministry. In other words the laity can imitate the Pope by doing ministry in the styles in which he is doing ministry

        The charisms of different religious orders are not only different ways of doing ministry, they are also different ways of doing community.

        Note how eloquently Francis has been using very different Eucharistic celebrations to “represent the universal church in a definite time and place.”

  7. Gaenswein, who wept as he and Benedict made their final goodbyes to staff in the papal apartment on Feb. 28, has appeared visibly upset and withdrawn at times as he has been by Francis’ side. The Vatican has said Francis’ primary secretary will be Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, who had been the No. 2 secretary under Benedict.

    Both Xuereb and Gaenswein were present for lunch.


  8. Jordan’s comment above linking these actions of Pope Francis to a desire to make a clear break with a history of corruption is a thought worth reflecting upon.

    I feel that Pope Francis is, by doing these things, pushing us to ask: What then is a pope? If he is not the one who lives in the papal palace, and wears the papal clothes, who is he? What is his mission? Why is he here among us?

    It’s so interesting. One can ask such questions all day long rhetorically or philosophically, but it is his actions which pose the questions and that makes these questions therefore all the more powerful and pressing.

    With all the court ceremonial and media attention and the place in the popular imagination that the papacy has, have we forgotten what a pope is? Do we really know?

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #20:

      Your point about “what is pope” is very true Rita. I also agree with what James Murphy [March 27, 2013 – 7:48 am] has said about the relationship between papal vestments and expectations about papal leadership.

      Most on PTB can probably predict that I was extremely disappointed when Pope Francis did not assume Pope Benedict’s renaissance/baroque “uniform”. Also, I don’t know if humility and papal attire are related — Pope John XXIII wore even more princely vestments than Pope Benedict (c.f. John XXIII, urbi et orbi), and most can agree that “Good Pope John” was a humble man indeed.

      Still, “Pope” is a title and not a fashion statement. This I keep in the forefront of my mind whenever I read about one of Pope Francis’s new initiatives. It’s okay for traditionalists to have their mourning period over Pope Benedict’s resignation, but eventually all Catholics must rally behind their new leader. This process is more difficult for some than others, but resolution is eventually necessary.

  9. Gregory XVI, elected in 1830, was a Camaldolese monk.

    That Pope Francis is the first pope in recent times to live an austere life strikes me as unwarranted.

    The papal apartment, only a small part of the Vatican Palace, is aside from a couple of the public rooms, quite spare. The papal suite in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, built in 1996, is very likely far more comfortable than the private rooms of the papal apartment, carved out of a corner of an early Renaissance rock pile, constructed in several stages.

  10. There is something to be said about living in a more normal environment. When I was pastor in Augusta I moved out of the rectory on the parish grounds to an apartment in downtown Augusta about 8 blocks away. It was great! And my neighbors, not really knowing what to think of me, seem to like have a priest next door. After about four years in that apartment, the parish purchased a home two blocks from that apartment. When I went home, I felt like I was going home and even took vacation time there and no one bothered me. I felt human!
    In my current assignment we are looking into purchasing a home for the priest’s residence about three blocks away in an historic neighborhood. I can’t wait. The current rectory which also has offices in it as well as rats, will become exclusively office oriented and our staff will be located under one roof.
    I think Pope Francis desire to interact with others of a broad range of backgrounds is good. I suspect he is an extrovert in this. Others want an escape, especially when we have to work so hard at being extroverted. I think it depends on the person and what is best for him and his ministry.

  11. I think some of the “humility” is mostly media hype. He seems, to me, authentic to himself and the values that he has lived as a Bishop and Cardinal.

    After the death of Pope John Paul ll, 30 Days had an issue where many Cardinals gave a personal reflection on how John Paul touched their lives. There was a picture of each Cardinal and his reflection. Most all the Cardinals were in their full “regalia” in their pictures, yet even then, Pope Francis was just wearing a simple black clerical suit in his photo.
    To me, he is just being authentic to himself and people pick up on that and respect it. He is living in his way, the challenge to keep one’s life simple and focused on one’s mission. When one has a real sense of being called and given a mission, then the challenge is to live a life style that allows one to keep the focus on your mission. his example does not make me think “isn’t it nice to see how humble he is”, but it does challenge me to reflect on how much baggage i carry not related to my mission and if my life style reflects the dedication and generosity needed to be faithful to my mission.

  12. It seems to me that all of Pope Francis’ simplifications of the trappings of the papal office, from his emphasis on his role as bishop of Rome to his abandonment of regal garb to his insistence upon living in a more down-to-earth environment, point to a reform, not only of the excesses associated with the Vatican, but of the very concept of the papacy, as Rita Ferrone suggests, above.

    Is the pope correctly the apostolic shepherd who presides over the Churches in charity or is he also meant to be some Rennaissance-style prince who demands a seat at the table of the earthly powers? Is he the first in honor among the bishops of the world or is he, indeed, the bishop of bishops of the World? Is he the servant of the servants of God or is he the Church’s supreme master? To each of these questions, Francis seems to be promoting the former notions and eschewing the latter. It seems to me, therefore, that Pope Francis is attempting to distill the papacy it to its essential character, and to renew the correct purpose and identity of the Roman Patriarchate.

    While it’s certainly true that Francis isn’t the first pope of our age to attempt to do this, from what the world is witnessing he may well end up being the most successful by far. And this shouldn’t be misjudged as “liberalism” or “modernism” by those who would be tempted to confuse non-essential accretions with “tradition”. I perceive nothing at all heterodox about Francis; quite the contrary, as a matter of fact. This pope is an orthodox Christian who isn’t afraid to be very bold and frank in his proclamation of the Gospel, and to challenge the rest of us to cut through it and to be just as bold and just as frank in our own.

    I don’t believe for a moment that Francis’ program amounts to a mere shake-up of the Vatican bureaucracy. That, I suspect, is just one preliminary step on the way to a much loftier goal which looms on a rather more distant horizon.

  13. There is such a difference in tone between “Apostolic Palace” and “Papal Apartments,” terms that were often (although not quite accurately) used interchangeably. Which really reflected the way Benedict (or John Paul) lived? I suspect the latter. As Mr. Francis noted above, the building was built four hundred years ago. I am sure modern amenities* have been added, but is it really more comfortable than the built-in-1996 Domus Sanctae Marthae?

    * An intriguing question – which pope or popes were the first to install electricity, central heating, a telephone, a television, etc.? Would such improvements even have been viable to install in the isolated years between 1870 and 1929 (the years in which most of those things were invented in the outside world)?

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