This is the chair that Pope Francis will use when he celebrates a “simple weekday Mass” with 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden during his US visit later this month.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan revealed the chair at the New York concert and sporting arena: he described the wooden chair as “very simple, with no designs,” according with the wishes of the Pope. It was built by immigrant day labourers from the Don Bosco Workers, Inc. in Port Chester, New York.
“The chair is very important in Catholic imagination,” Cardinal Dolan said. “It is a great symbol of unity and the teaching authority the Pope has.”
More details of the Mass, which will be celebrated on September 25, were revealed along with the chair. Pope Francis will use the same chalice Pope Paul VI used when he celebrated Mass in the Yankee Stadium in 1965. It is currently on display at St. Joseph’s Seminary. Cardinal Dolan said the Pope will also carry a pastoral staff that is a replica of one used in New York by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The simple ciboria will be the same design as those used for Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass at Yankee Stadium. Their lids have a commemorative inscription and the sides bear the papal coat of arms and the seal of the archdiocese. As in 2008, they will be given to New York parishes after the visit.
More than 200 permanent deacons from the archdiocese and the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre will be deployed throughout Madison Square Garden as eucharistic ministers. They will be assisted by 150 volunteers from groups including the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Father Ernest said immigrant women from the Obreros Unidos Mission in Yonkers are embroidering the altar linens and purificators.
Father Matthew Ernest, director of the archdiocesan Office of Liturgy, told Catholic News Service, that some of the liturgical options selected “will make it more like a simple weekday Mass”, including eliminating the Gloria and the Creed and using only one reading before the Gospel.
Father Ernest said the first reading will be in Spanish, the Gospel will be sung in English, and Pope Francis will offer the second eucharistic prayer in Latin. He is expected to preach the homily in English and Spanish. Intercessions will be made in English, Spanish, Polish, Gaelic, German Tigrinya and Italian.
The Pope will concelebrate the Mass with cardinals, bishops from the New York province and an as-yet-undetermined number of local priests. Other participants include “faithful parishioners” who represent communities or ministries and seminarians studying at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York, it was revealed.
“The seminarians will be the servers and, as you can imagine, they’re thrilled,” Father Ernest said. “We’re putting all the seminarians to work. They’re not simply attending the event. Some are singing, some are serving, some will direct traffic in the halls.”
A very different papal chair – from the sedia Gestatoria, that carried the pope around St. Peter’s Basilica in the ‘old days’ – this simple new chair, made especially for the Pope’s visit to the USA in September this year, 2015, will symbolise the papal teaching authority for members of the Roman Catholic Church, at the concelebration of the Papal Mass at the Madison Square Gardens on September 25th.
Though labelled as a ‘simple daily Mass’, this celebration will involve the co-presidency of cardinals and bishops from the R.C. New York Province in a concelebration, which surely elevates this to something more than a ‘simple daily Mass’ – as advertised:
“More than 200 permanent deacons from the archdiocese and the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre will be deployed throughout Madison Square Garden as eucharistic ministers. They will be assisted by 150 volunteers from groups including the Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and Ancient Order of Hibernians.”
However, it would seem that Pope Francis himself is determined to keep the Mass as low key as possible, considering the fact that the ceremonies will be ordered by the Cardinals of the host country, who will obviously want to make as much of the spectacle of the Pope’s visit to the USA as is open to them. His contribution to the arrangements is seen to reside in the choice of the papal throne customarily provided for such an auspicious occasion – this particular episcopal chair/throne has been designed and built by immigrant day labourers from the Don Bosco Workers Inc., in New York, while the altar linens used, and their embroidery, will be the work of immigrant women from the Obreros Unidos Mission in Yonkers.
Liturgically, the simplicity of the proceedings that make it more like the daily Mass will be the fact that neither the Gloria nor the Creed will be included in the ritual – rendering this celebration less like a ‘Papal Mass, and more in keeping with the ordinary weekday Masses of the Roman Catholic Church.
The use of seminarians and other lay people in the distribution of the Eucharistic Gifts – no doubt at the Pope’s insistence – will serve to emphasize the importance of the ministry of the Faithful Laity in the liturgical outreach of the Church as the Body of Christ – a vital reminder of the ‘total body’ ministry that this Pope seems to want to focus on in this important visitation to his American constituency.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand