- (Photo: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)
Pope Francis recently surprised some in the Vatican by failing to show up for a concert where he was expected to be the guest of honor. Some believe the move is another message that the pontiff will not indulge in lavish events.
"It took us by surprise," an anonymous Vatican source said on Monday, according to Reuters. "We are still in a period of growing pains. He is still learning how to be pope and we are still learning how he wants to do it."
A photo of the empty white papal armchair apparently made the rounds in Italian newspapers. The RAI National Symphony Orchestra concert, directed by conductor Juraj Valcuha of Slovakia, took place on Saturday and was attended by a crowd of cardinals and Italian dignitaries. An archbishop was forced to announce to the crowd, however, that Pope Francis had an "urgent commitment that cannot be postponed" and thus would not attend.
The cardinals were assured that health was not the reason for the pontiff's decision not to attend, and Reuters noted that they realized that the message was that the church is in crisis, and that they had too much work to do to take time off to attend social events.
"In Argentina, they probably knew not to arrange social events like concerts for him because he probably wouldn't go," the Vatican source added.
Pope Francis, who was previously the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, has led a ministry dedicated to living simply and helping the poor. While archbishop, he resisted many of the privileges afforded to him, such as taking the bus to work instead of being driven around, and he has continued in the same spirit while leader of the Roman Catholic Church, choosing not live in the lavish papal residency.
The first Latin American pope in modern history was apparently working on new appointments for the Vatican's central administration and the many issues they have to deal with while the concert was taking place on Saturday.
Just last week, Francis asked hundreds of papal representatives who are posted across the globe to "carry Christ to the world" and to detach themselves from the "bourgeoisie spirit and life."
"There is always the danger, even for the men of the Church, to surrender to – the spirit of the world, which leads to action for self-fulfillment and not for the glory of God, in that sort of 'bourgeoisie spirit and life' which leads people to settle and seek a peaceful and comfortable life," Pope Francis said.
"These are strong but true words: giving in to worldly spirit exposes us pastors to ridicule, perhaps we may be applauded by some, but those same people who seem to approve of us, then criticize us behind our backs."