- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Pope Francis sent a pretty clear message to the Catholic Church with a weekend snub of a high-brow concert planned to honor his appointment: I’m not interested in pomp and social whirl.

Just minutes before the concert was due to start, the pope — who was the guest of honor — sent a message that he wouldn’t be showing. His white papal armchair remained empty during the show, Reuters reported.

An archbishop told the crowd, comprised of cardinals and dignitaries, that “an urgent commitment that cannot be postponed” but unrelated to health was keeping the pope and he would not attend. Reuters reported that church officials looked shocked and realized that perhaps the pope was sending a subtle message — that he was not so much interested in social events but rather on more humble pastoral work.

“It took us by surprise,” an unnamed Vatican official said 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.”

Italian newspapers were filled with pictures of the pope’s empty chair, with one media outlet labeling it as a symbol of the pope’s “show of force” that he wants the church to adopt a more grounded approach to church business.

The concert was actually scheduled before the pope’s March appointment, Reuters reported.

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