Pope Francis’ Crozier

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.


  1. What will be neat is to see will this become a norm for him… He has adopted the pallium like a metropolitan wears rather than a “papal” pallium. So would it not follow he adopts the pastoral staff of a “normal bishop?”

    1. @David J Wesson – comment #2:
      He went back to the practice of John Paul II and Benedict (at the beginning of his pontificate). Marini, who soon will head CDW had created an older version of the pallium to mimic the type the Pope wore around 900-1100 AD. It was seen as somewhat ecumenical. Benedict did not like it, and left it on the tomb of Pope Celestine V (who also resigned the munus). Benedict then adopted a much more traditional pallium, but differentiated it a little bit because he did not want to completely offend Marini — who by that time had left Rome.

      1. @George Hayhoe – comment #6:
        You’re right, but at the same time we don’t know Francis’ motivation for using the crozier yesterday. I think Father Anthony is making too much out of this. Notice how Guido Marini wasn’t present and so maybe the pope didn’t have anyone bring a ferula and the pope want something to support himself when he walked. Also, today Francis used Benedict’s gold ferula (modeled on the one used by Pius IX), so it’s not a change in papal liturgy.

      2. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #8:
        Stanislaus, I’m not trying to make too much out of this, nor am I speculating on Francis’ motivations. I’m just reporting on what happened. It seems like you don’t want to see a change in papal liturgy – maybe that’s your problem? Pray Tell will report on what it wants for those who chose to come here.

        What Francis did today with a gold ferula is an entirely different matter and does nothing to affect whether what he did yesterday is a change in papal liturgy.


      3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #11:
        It’s not a change in papal liturgy in that it does not seem to signal that Francis wants to replace the ferula and revert to a crozier in the same manner that he reverted to the standard pallium. That’s why it is relevant that he used Benedict’s ferula today. Praytell can report whatever it wants, though it’s better when it gets it’s facts straight. This isn’t the first time in over a century that a pope has used a crozier, just the first time in 30 years.

  2. Also, I think it would be relevant to determine whether the JP2 picture was a Roman Rite liturgy or one of the Milanese Rite. If it was Milanese then Francis would still be doing something unique.

  3. At about 1:25:00 in the video, when the pope received the “pastoral staff” for the final blessing, it is evident that there is some sculpture above the knob and below the partial crook. When I saw this staff, I too wondered whether it was a new papal ferula or a bishop’s staff/crozier, but I also wondered if the sculpture is some sort of image of the risen Christ, facing in the same direction as the crook, thus making it more of a ferula. Until we see a close-up picture, it’ll be hard to tell!

    1. @Fergus Ryan – comment #10:
      I wonder how that designation came about – the booklet itself, as far as I could see, use the generic “Liturgy” to describe the celebration. It seemed to be based on a ‘Celebration of the Word’ (or ‘Bible service’) pattern.

  4. Perhaps the intention would be from now on to use the crozier while doing ‘Bishop of Rome’ things — such as visits to parishes and churches in Rome (like the Chiesa di Gesu) — and to use the ferula when doing more ‘universal’ things — such as trips outside Rome and celebrations at the Vatican (like the recent Mass with the elderly)?

    That’s just some speculation of course — we’ll have to wait and see if he will use the crozier again and in what circumstances.

    1. @Charles Macnamara – comment #14:
      Would that not be a sign of a (false) dichotomy between the universal ministry of the Bishop of Rome and the local ministry of the Bishop of Rome? Surely, one could not separate the universal from its source (the local).

  5. It seems that the REAL liturgical significance of this event is not who did or did not hand the pope what staff, or how quickly I can avow the moral highground of whether this does-or-does-not-matter-TO-ME…

    I think the real liturgical significance is the use of the solemn recitation of the Te Deum as a liturgy for thanksgiving. Certainly this is a liturgical custom which has died out in the English-speaking world. Is it still common in Italy? Is it something Bergoglio brings from the annual New Year’s ceremony in Buenos Aires?

    Surely that is the interesting part of this story.

  6. There are some interesting variables here. Is this crozier from the Vatican collection or a personal crozier Pope Francis brought over from Buenos Aires? Is the crozier a gift? It’d be interesting to find out.

  7. I also wonder how much of the decision-making in this instance has to do with him being with his Jesuit confreres.

  8. I personally feel that a pope, as a bishop, metropolitian, etc should use a simple crozier/staff as seen on this video. He is above all a shepherd, who calls us to be close to the sheep. The days of using anything to represent temporal power is over……

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