Pope Francis and the RCIA

Yesterday, the pope quoted from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in his catechesis on Baptism. The text he used was from the signing of the senses in the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.

The cross is the badge that shows who we are: our speaking, thinking, looking, working is under the sign of the cross, that is under the sign of the love of Jesus to the end. The children are marked on the forehead. Adult catechumens are also marked on the senses, with these words: “Receive the sign of the cross on your ears to hear the voice of the Lord”; “On the eyes to see the splendor of the face of God”; “On the mouth, to answer the word of God”; “On the chest, because Christ dwells through faith in your hearts”; “On the shoulders, to support the gentle yoke of Christ” (Rite of the Christian initiation of adults, No. 85). Christians become the extent to which the cross is imprinted in us as an “Easter” mark (cf. Rev 14: 1, 22: 4), making visible, even outwardly, the Christian way of facing life.

It’s the first time I recall that a pope has quoted from the RCIA in order to make his point. It was a beautiful instance of the rite enriching our general appreciation of what is at stake in Baptism.

(NB For some unknown reason, this text does not appear in the English translation of Pope Francis’s remarks on the Vatican website; what I have above is found in the Italian version.)

Pope John Paul II was the first pope to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance. Fr. Ron Lewinski arranged it during his visit to Chicago (and he told me John Paul was very much impressed!). But I don’t recall John Paul quoting from the RCIA in other contexts. Of course, he wrote and spoke so much, I may have missed it.

Likewise, I don’t recall Pope Benedict ever making a point by using a text from the RCIA, though the general introduction appears in the footnotes of Sacramentum Caritatis (cf. paragraph 18 on the order of the sacraments).

Does anyone know of another instance?


  1. Rita, while keeping an eye on the Pope’s previous series on the Eucharistic liturgy, I noticed that sometimes they have posted just a brief snippet or summary on the English page as a placeholder, and then the translation of the full text goes up a couple of days later. I imagine you’ll find the full text there soon.

    1. Thanks, Barry. After writing this, I learned that the summaries in the languages other than Italian are written before the catechesis takes place and it sometimes take a long time to get a translation of the whole text that the pope actually delivered. I am glad I caught this one!

  2. Rita, if this was from his general audience catechesis, the Vatican website only posts the English synopsis that is read to the crowd in the piazza after the pope has finished his catechesis. That’s why you are seeing the difference. A full translated English text from the general audiences is never done. The only complete version is the Italian. When PF was first elected, I quickly realized he had a very unique message but it took forever for English translations of full texts to be posted on the Vatican website so I taught myself italian so I could read the pope’s words. In the process of learning and getting good with the written, I’m finding the English translators really are not doing a good job. They edit his words a lot and in the process destroy the richness of what he says. The English in comparison to the Italian limps along. Sometimes the English in comparison to the Italian feels like a paraphrase. The Vatican wanted a complete accurate translation of the words of the Mass into English but won’t bother to do the same with the pope’s words.

  3. Many bishops have never celebrated the Rite of Acceptance and may be unfamiliar with the signing of the senses. It’s obvious Pope Francis is familiar with the rite! How encouraging.

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