Vatican no-show: Pope Francis skips gala concert, shocking cardinals
The day before the concert, Pope Francis said bishops should be 'close to the people' and not have 'the mentality of a prince.'
Giampiero Sposito / Reuters
A last-minute no-show by Pope Francis at a concert where he was to have been the guest of honor has sent another clear signal that he is going to do things his way and does not like the Vatican high life.
The gala classical concert on Saturday was scheduled before his election in March. But the white papal armchair set up in the presumption that he would be there remained empty.
Minutes before the concert was due to start, an archbishop told the crowd of cardinals and Italian dignitaries that an "urgent commitment that cannot be postponed" would prevent Francis from attending.
The prelates, assured that health was not the reason for the no-show, looked disoriented, realizing that the message he wanted to send was that, with the Church in crisis, he - and perhaps they - had too much pastoral work to do to attend social events.
"It took us by surprise," said one Vatican source on Monday. "We are still in a period of growing pains. He is still learning how to be pope and we are still learning how he wants to do it."
"In Argentina, they probably knew not to arrange social events like concerts for him because he probably wouldn't go," said the source, who spoke anonymously because he is not authorized to discuss the issue.
The picture of the empty chair was used in many Italian papers, with Monday's Corriere della Sera newspaper calling his decision "a show of force" to illustrate the simple style he wants Church officials to embrace.