VATICAN CITY (RNS) Shunning the spacious papal apartment used by his predecessors, Pope Francis has chosen to continue living in the Vatican guesthouse where he has been staying since the beginning of the conclave.
The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, explained on Tuesday (March 26) that Francis will live “until further notice” in a suite in the Santa Martha Residence, a modern Vatican guesthouse for priests and bishops who work in the Roman Curia or who are visiting the Vatican for meetings and conferences.
Francis made his intentions clear on Tuesday morning, while celebrating Mass in the residence’s chapel for its permanent guests, who occupy about half of the residence’s 130 or so rooms.
The pontiff’s choice is a consequence of his desire to adopt a “simple” living arrangement that allows him “to live in community” with other priests and bishops, Lombardi explained.
While his predecessor Benedict XVI cherished the privacy of the papal apartment that allowed him to study and play his beloved piano, the Argentine pope has shown a more common touch with people and enjoys the contact with the residence’s guests and visitors.
Before resigning, Benedict felt compelled to deny that he ever felt isolated during his years in office.
At Santa Marta, Francis only recently moved into Suite 201, which was prepared for him on the night of his election. Compared to the other suites, it has a larger living room where he can receive guests.
With his move, Francis breaks with more than a century of tradition; popes had been living in the regal apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square since 1903.
The papal apartment is large enough to accommodate offices for the pope and his two private secretaries, a chapel and living quarters for the secretaries and the household staff.
Four consecrated women from the Communion and Liberation movement served in the papal apartment under Benedict.
Lombardi stressed that Francis will continue to use the papal apartment in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace to appear at the window for the Sunday Angelus prayer.
Francis has started using the papal audience rooms one floor below, which include the private library where official audiences with visiting bishops and heads of state are held.