Pope Francis celebrated a special liturgy of thanksgiving in the Church of the Gesù in Rome today to mark the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. An alert Pray Tell reader writes in to alert us that Pope Francis used a bishop’s crozier for the liturgy – see the entrance procession at around 6:40.
Popes at one time used a bishop’s crozier, but this had disappeared by the thirteenth century, when Pope Innocent III wrote, “The Roman Pontiff does not use the shepherd’s staff.”
Later in the Middle Ages, popes began using the ferula, a staff with a cross of one bar, or sometimes three, as a sign of their temporal power and governance. The ferula soon died out, until it was revised in the late 19th century under Pius IX. After a few more ups and downs, under Paul VI the ferula became a standard piece for liturgical use, the pope’s version of the bishop’s crozier. Benedict XVI caused a sensation (at least among people who observe such things – I usually miss them) when he revived the ferula of Pius IX.
To be sure, Leo XIII occasionally used a crozier shaped like other bishops’. But that’s a rare exception in papal history. For over a century, bishops have used croziers, but popes have used ferulae. Until today.