Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis’ Coat of Arms and Motto

Yesterday, 18 March, the vigil of the Mass with which Pope Francis begins his Petrine ministry, the Vatican Press Office presented his Coat of Arms and the motto he has chosen from St Bede “miserando atque eligendo”.

The Shield
Pope Francis has decided to keep the essential elements of his earlier coat of arms, chosen at the time of his episcopal consecration and essentially a simple one.

The blue shield is surmounted by the symbols of pontifical dignity, the same as the one used by his predecessor, Benedict XVI (mitre and three keys in gold and silver, with a red cord). Standing out above is the emblem of the Pope's Order, the Jesuits or Company of Jesus: a flaming sun with letters in red, IHS, monogram of Christ. The letter H includes a cross; this has three nails in black immediately below it.

Below is a star and a grape-like plant (nardo). The star, according to ancient heraldic tradition, represents the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ and the Church; the other plant, which flowers like a lily, represents St Joseph, patron of the Universal Church. In Spanish iconographic tradition, St Joseph carries what looks like a lily in his hands. By including these images on his shield, the Pope has understood how best to display his devotion to Our Lady and to St Joseph.

The Motto
The Holy Father, Francis' motto comes fro a homily by the Venerable Bede, a priest (Om. 21; CCL 122, 149-151), commenting on the Gospel passage of St Matthew's call, where he writes "Vidit ergo lesus publicanum et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi Sequere me" (Jesus saw a publican, looked upon him with love and feeling and said to him: follow me).

The homily is a tribute to divine mercy and can be found in the Liturgy of the Hours for St Matthew's feast day. It takes on a special role in the spiritual life of the Pope. It was on St Matthew's Feast in 1953, that the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced, when he was but 17, the special loving presence of God in his life. Following confession, he felt his heart touched by Gods mercy, and that God was looking at him lovingly, calling him to religious life, following the example of St Ignatius of Loyola.

When chosen as a Bishop, Bishop Bergoglio recalled this moment of the beginning of his special consecration in the Church and decided to choose St Bede's expression as his motto and programme for life: “miserando atque eligendo” (he showed mercy on him and called him), which is now in the Papal Coat of Arms.

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