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One of Pope Francis’ first Masses was for “invisible ones” of the Vatican

Pope Francis celebrating a private morning mass at the Santa Marta chapel in The Vatican

Photo by Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 03/23/23

Francis pronounced his first homily in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta to a group of Vatican workers. His Masses in this small church became a daily appointment.

On March 22, 2013, the Vatican gardeners and garbage collectors were given a pleasant surprise. Pope Francis, who had been elected less than 10 days before, invited them for a Mass in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta, the guest house within the Vatican walls where the Argentinian Pontiff had decided to reside, instead of the usual quarters in the Apostolic Palace. 

More than 30 Vatican workers, many in their uniforms, piled into the pews of the modern Chapel at 7 a.m. to listen to the newly elected Successor of Peter. This would be the first of his daily Mass celebrations in Casa Santa Marta, which were publicized until May 2020.

Pope Francis improvised a brief homily on the readings of the day, focusing especially on the passage from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus is threatened with stoning. 

When our hearts are made of stone, we put real rocks in our hands and stone Jesus, represented in our brothers and sisters around us, especially those who are weakest, the Pontiff explained, according to the brief statement published by the Vatican at the time. It is necessary to open our hearts to love, the Pope added. 

Pope Francis’ simplicity

“We are the invisible ones,” Luciano Ceccheti, the head of the gardening and cleaning services of the Vatican at the time, told Radio Vaticana. “To be in front of the Holy Father, in a Mass for us, is something that doesn’t happen every day. I turned around and saw the faces of the employees: We all came out a little bit teary-eyed. It was really a very simple Mass, in direct contact with the person who, just a few days ago, was elected Pontiff.”

“We thanked him so much … especially when he greeted us at the end: We were introduced one by one and for each of us he had a word. What he kind of said to all of us was, ‘Pray for me,'” Ceccheti explained.

The director of the Holy See’s Press Office at the time, Father Federico Lombardi, also said that at the end of the Mass the Pope sat in the pews with the faithful for a moment of silent prayer. Father Lombardi said he did this often when celebrating at Casa Santa Marta. 

The Pope’s daily Mass

From that March 22 onwards Pope Francis celebrated Mass daily in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta. The Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, always published a brief summary of his homily, which they called his ‘daily meditations.’ When the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 forced Italians and others across the world to stay in their homes, the Pontiff began streaming these masses on Vatican News’ Youtube channel.

The last video dates from 17 May 2020. After that, the Holy See stopped communicating on these daily meditations. From 2013 to 2020 the Pope pronounced at least 790 homilies as part of his daily masses at the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta.

You can read about many of them here, with summaries and excerpts of his homilies.

FaithPope FrancisVatican
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