new pope, new papal living quarters

It’s a surprise a day with our new pope. Today’s headlines announced that Pope Francis has declined the papal apartments in favor of a suite at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guest-house that housed the cardinals during the conclave. In a CNS article, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman stated that,

“He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement, which is simple,” but allows him “to live in community with others,” both the permanent residents — priests and bishops who work at the Vatican — as well as guests coming to the Vatican for meetings and conferences, Lombardi said Tuesday.

The living arrangement is similar to that of many religious community houses that open their doors to guests. This is especially so in Rome, where many religious orders have their “mother houses”. I reflected on this in an National Catholic Reporter blog post today.

Pope Francis is not only a man of simple tastes, he is a man formed within a religious community; the Jesuits. It makes perfect sense that he would seek a communal life-style rather than the exclusive and secluded life of the papal apartments. This goes beyond making a statement about simplicity, it reflects the heart of the man; a man who finds energy in the presence of others.

I confess my guilt in taking every action that Francis makes and lifting it up in comparison to his predecessor. But, in the choice of living arrangements I really do understand the different needs of two very different men. As an introvert myself, I relish my privacy and personal space. This is ironic since we raised five children and large family gatherings are part and parcel of our life. I am also a big believer and promoter of the gift of community life in our church.

But, if I was pope, I might want to close the door on my papal apartments after a full day of greeting people and addressing the crowds. But, then again, I probably wouldn’t give up the red shoes either. (Did I mention already that I love red? 😉 )

Pope Francis is trying to form papal life to fit his life-style instead of squeezing himself into a preconceived notion of who the pope should be. And, this is a good thing. It means that those who follow him will have the freedom to do the same.