Behind the Scenes at the Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis

Posted by Phillip Assis
March 20, 2013
Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square For His Inauguration Mass at the Vatican

It is a unique privilege to serve as a diplomat at the Vatican. From last week's announcement of ‘habemus papam,' which proclaimed to the world that a new pope had been selected by the conclave of cardinals -- to his first appearance on the balcony in St. Peter's square -- to yesterday's mass of accession -- the election of Pope Francis has been a highlight of my time at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. Early yesterday morning, our embassy staff met inside Vatican City to wait for Vice President Biden and the Congressional delegation to arrive, watching as motorcades dropped off heads of state, princes, and kings from all over the world. There, behind the scenes, the stage was being set for a historic event, an inauguration following the first papal resignation in 600 years.

Diplomats to the Holy See attend papal masses regularly, but yesterday was a truly special moment. As Pope Francis passed right alongside the diplomatic section you could sense the excitement in the air. This was the first time anyone from our embassy had seen the pope ride open-air through the square and it was moving to see him connect with thousands of people as he made his way up to the altar.

We generally sit to the right of the altar in St. Peter's Square, but for this mass the world leaders had our usual seats, so we sat close in facing the front. In this section, diplomats wear their national dress, or formal attire. The national dress may include ornate hats, ceremonial swords, medals, or colorful robes. Americans dress either in full tuxedo with tails and white ties, or full-length black dresses with head coverings for women. The Vatican's protocol office dictates how we are expected to dress, and it fits neatly into their long tradition of formal events. Although the United States is less than a year from celebrating its 30th anniversary of official, diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the Holy See has the oldest diplomatic corps in the world, dating from the mid-15th Century.

The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See is small, but unique, and yesterday we knew that we were in the middle of history in the making. As Pope Francis takes on the sacred role of leading the Catholic Church, we renew our commitment to working closely with the Holy See to advance our shared belief in peace and humanity.



Nadege E.
March 20, 2013

Nadege E. in Haiti writes:


Ben M.
Washington, USA
March 21, 2013

Ben M. in Washington writes:

Great writing Phil. I could visualize the event as I read it. Proud to know you're there!

nguyá»…n t.
March 21, 2013

Nguyen Ngoc T. in Vietnam writes:

I love Francis.

María G.
March 22, 2013

Maria G. in Argentina writes:

In the name of Jesus my God bless to our new argentina Pope Francis I. I'm very happy . Yes.

María Gladys Castillo-politic block. "Values to my country"

President: Cynthia Hotton-Church of Argentina: Claudio Freidzon "Rey de Reyes" Bs.As. and Church of Argentina: "Catedral de la Fé" of Carnival Osvaldo.

United States
March 22, 2013

Sons and Daughters' together in chasity are able as believer's to prepare the spiritual way for many new works of our harvesting fatherlord.

In these act's.. There is no end to becoming deathless children who can live in the light of freedom forevermore.

Georgia M.
Tennessee, USA
March 22, 2013

Georgia M. in Tennessee writes:

So happy to read your message that Molly sent me. We feel your excitement and awe of the occasion. Next time we visit Molly and Alvaro we will come to Rome one more time. Have a great Easter weekend in Barcelona. Molly's mom, Georgia

Reba L.
Nevada, USA
April 22, 2013

Reba L. in Nevada writes:

Pope Francis,

I am writing to you with hope you can assist me with a bill called "The Healthy Workplace Bill" It addresses workplace bullying that 45% of American workers are facing and has many victims, and I am one. I don't think we should be ashamed to speak up of things that are wrong, and I know you feel the same way. Would you contact me and/or help me to make bullys accountable for their actions and their employers that allow this behavior to continue? The bill's language is listed under Mass.HB1766 and gives the best and well laid out plan to bring an end to the abuse we face even worldwide, but it has to start somewhere, right?

Respectfully and Sincerely,



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