Thursday, October 14, 2010

Change in Papal Coat of Arms, Change In Papal Attitude? UPDATE

Some blogs, including Jerry Filteau on the National Catholic Reporter website, have been commenting on the new papal coat of arms for Pope Benedict XVI that appeared on a banner underneath his window. It definitely has more flourishes, and the bishops’ miter has been replaced by a papal tiara.

When Pope Benedict XVI’s original coat of arms was revealed, I felt that maybe there was something new happening. I have not always been totally fond of Benedict XVI, but this little item gave me some hope. Now, I am not sure what to think. This could be nothing more but a simple change to something more traditional: or it could symbolize a change in attitude about leadership, from servant leadership to power leadership.

In a Patristic course I am attending, we are reading Henry Chadwick’s book: “The Early Church.” There is chapter in it where he describes what changes occurred in the lifestyles of bishop, during and after the time of Constantine. These early bishops began to receive imperial honors and positions. They adopted attire that matched their new social rank. Some bishops were known for their entertaining of members of the upper classes. The hierarchy became more attached to the imperial rulers, and when the Roman Empire fell, they attached themselves to the lords and kings that rose up. The pomp of the Roman Catholic Church matched the civil rulers’ pomp of the times.

Some, but not all, bishops seem to forget what Jesus preached, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.” (Mark 10: 43-44)

Pope Paul VI seemed to realize that, when he seriously began to reduce that amount of pomp and circumstance that was the papal court. And he dispensed with the papal tiara, using only the bishop’s miter. I pray that Benedict XVI will remember that example.
Reports have it that there was enough noise in the Catholic blogosphere that the Vatican press liaison spoke to reporters about the changed coat of arms. The story is that the new banner was a gift to the Holy Father, and they decided to use it, not realizing the uproar it could cause. The Vatican has stated that there has been no change in the Pope's official coat of arms. There is some commentary on the National Catholic Reporter website.

Second Update

For those looking for information on the coat of arms of Pope Francis, please click here.

1 comment:

  1. Actually It was never an ordinary bishop miter. The Three lines at what some thought as a miter is still the symbol of the three crowns of the pope.