33 Years Ago Today – Papa Luciani’s Installation Mass

Thirty-three years ago today, Papa Luciani omitted the traditional crowning with the papal tiara and opted for a much simpler Mass of Installation at St. Peter’s Basilica. I have posted on this before (see series last year by clicking on the category Papa Luciani at lower right) especially my memories of that day, having been privileged to bear the processional cross and be seated within a few yards of the new pope throughout. I recall some temporary disappointments that were really quite selfish looking back…. how I wanted him to be crowned for the acolyte bearing the cross traditionally stood immediately to the pope’s left as that ritual was performed and I had anticipated being there in that way after Msgr. Noe selected me for the role….. how I at the beginning of the Mass had an unanticipated feeling of disappointment when I saw Luciani exit the basilica in a very ornate miter and then starting his homily in Latin for I wondered if we were on our way back to pre-Vatican II. I know now that all of these things happened because Luciani had an ardent desire to unite all people and to express a humility that the world so dearly needed. He even said in the homily that he began in Latin for is was a unifying language. Clearly, his refusal of the tiara was symbolic of his desire to work collegially with his brother bishops.

My underlying feeling, though, was perhaps rooted in something I wasn’t aware of at the time and only have come to be aware with the passing of years – Luciani was a remarkably orthodox prelate. He was rooted in the Church and her Tradition (Tradition with a capital “T”, not traditions) and his presence spoke of not only change but continuity. His name, John Paul spoke of the latter. His installation, his use of the common pronoun “I”, his use of the feminine to describe attributes of God, and his love of Vatican II spoke of the former.

The Church is both a “rock” (stability and continuity) and a “ship” (change and growth). Luciani embodied both aspects in his person and presentation.

Pray for us Papa Luciani!

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota.
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