Monday, 5 August 2013

Why Pope Francis Gave Up Papal Apartment

Domus Sanctae Marthae seen from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Photo: Wikipedia

Pope Francis continues to do the unexpected and it seems that this is helping to increase his popularity with the press no end. He did the unexpected again on his flight home from World Youth Day when he answered questions from the press for about 80 minutes.

I have written before about how prejudice can block the true message from getting out. Unless the pope has the press on his side, no matter how much he tries to communicate a particular message, that message will simply get drowned out or ignored by a hostile press.

The pope’s actions in winning the press over are very good for the Church. It has helped to dampen the hostility that the press feels towards the Church. This has resulted in some, even if it is not all, of what Pope Francis communicates being reported.

The press may no longer be quite as hostile as they were, say six months ago, but they are still very selective about what it is that they are prepared to tell the world. This applies not only to the secular press.

It is a sad fact that the Catholic press has been equally guilty of selectively reporting what Pope Francis has to say, not to mention hijacking his message. This is very sad. Catholic Voices has however been a notable exception. They have clearly made every effort to communicate all of what Pope Francis had to say.

A clear example of how selective the press has been in what it reports, is the fact that the overwhelming message that has been transmitted by the world press, about Pope Francis’ 80-minute Q & A session, has been these words, or at least variations of these words: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?

The press has written very little, if anything, about the many other things that the pope had to say during those 80-minutes. He covered many topics because the questions from the press were unrestricted. 

No one covered, for example, what the pope had to say about his decision to live at St Martha’s instead of in the papal apartment. Maybe this is because it completely destroys the narrative the press has previously put forward in this regard.

Until now the overwhelming message has been that Pope Francis wanted to live in a more austere apartment and therefore he gave up the luxurious papal apartment. The press has certainly propagated this narrative and, to be fair, this has probably done much to help make the pope immediately more popular.

Pope Francis however confirmed again during the Q & A session that his decision not to live in the papal apartment had absolutely nothing to do with austerity. 

Pope Francis said that he had previously been asked why he had chosen to live in St Martha’s instead of the papal apartment: “Why do you do it? Out of austerity? Poverty?” He explained that he had told those who asked: “No, no. Simply for psychiatric reasons, because I can’t cope psychologically”.

Despite the very romantic notion of Pope Francis giving up the papal apartment because it is too luxurious, Pope Francis made the decision to live at St Martha’s because that suited him as a person. He did not want to live ‘alone’ but preferred an environment where he would be amongst more people. 

Pope Francis definitely did not give up the papal apartment because it is too luxurious. In fact Pope Francis specifically said that the papal apartment is “ample, big, but not luxurious”.

Hopefully over time more of what Pope Francis had to say during that 80-minute Q & A session will begin to be reported. 

The links to the English transcript of the session is available in my post - “Transcript: Pope Francis WYD Press Conference

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