VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The night of his election, Pope Francis phoned the Vatican ambassador in Argentina and asked him to tell the country’s bishops and faithful not to feel obliged to come to Rome for his installation, but instead give the money to the poor, the Vatican spokesman confirmed.
“Pope Francis did not forbid them to come,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the spokesman, but he said he would prefer their continued prayers and acts of charity.
The nuncio to Argentina, Archbishop Emil Tscherrig, wrote to all the bishops on March 14 conveying the Argentine pope’s sentiments.
“The Holy Father Francis asked me to convey to all the bishops, priests, religious and all God’s people, his gratitude for your prayers and expressions of love, affection and charity,” the archbishop wrote.
However, he said, Pope Francis asked that “instead of going to Rome for the start of his pontificate on March 19, you would continue with that spiritual closeness he so appreciates, accompanying him with some act of charity toward those in need.”
On Pope Francis’ second full day in office, Father Lombardi said, he celebrated Mass at 7 a.m. in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the cardinals lived during the conclave and where the pope will remain until the papal apartments are ready for him.
Other cardinals still at the residence heard the pope was to celebrate the Mass and went down to join him, Father Lombardi said.
The Vatican spokesman said he spoke to the director of the residence who said that Pope Francis continues to go down to the dining hall for meals. He usually arrives after most of the cardinals “and just goes to the first table he finds with an empty seat.” No special table has been set up for the pope, and he does not sit alone at an empty table.
Father Lombardi also told reporters it was unlikely that Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome, would be able to take possession of his cathedral — the Basilica of St. John Lateran — before Easter, given that his installation is only five days before Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.
With journalists from around the world reporting on the new pope and with a long, complicated list of all the popes since St Peter, Father Lombardi made a special clarification: “We say Pope Francis is the 266th pope, the 265th successor of Peter.”
As he has said in recent days, Father Lombardi said he expects Pope Francis to travel to Brazil in July for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. As soon as the pope officially confirms the trip, it will be announced, he said.
A Polish journalist said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, had said he invited Pope Francis to Poland for World Youth Day 2016.
Father Lombardi said: “World Youth Day 2016 in Poland? That’s news. We expect the next World Youth Day to be announced at the end of the celebrations in Rio.”