Siince that historic moment on February 11th, many of us have been on an emotional and spiritual roller coaster. We long to here the words “Habemus Papam” so that we can have some rest. We are not sure when the conclave will be called to begin, so we need to prepare quickly for the appropriate liturgical environment, even when it might not be in the church.
For those of us who plan the liturgical environment we have to look forward we cannot begin to soon to plan. Our cue will be the announcement from Rome of “Habemus Papum”. When that proclamation is made there a a few traditions which we may want to continue.
First, let’s review the event that usually lead up to this historic announcement. Over the past 600 years or so the announcement of a new pontiff has been preceded by the death of one. On the occasion of the death of a pope, many churches hang black bunting outside over the main doors of the church. This is a way of announcing that the church is in a state of mourning. Nine days is the traditional period of mourning. By removing it after the mourning period instead of leaving it up until the announcement of the new pope, the faithful are encouraged to look to the conclave and pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the Church. It also acknowledges the sede vacante-the empty chair of Peter.
Once a pope is elected and announced several things may happen.
Pealing bells at local churches will often announce the pope’s election. Yellow and white bunting might hang over the exterior of the church over the doors. The Vatican flag might be more prominently displayed, if it has not been before this.
There are several resources online to purchase pre-made bunting for this occasion. Here is one of them. The benefit of buying it online is the material and size of the bunting. Most supply companies offer nylon fabric which will keep well in all weather conditions. It is also pre-cut in an appropriate narrow width. Anything store bought that you might try to assemble yourself will need to be cut and hemmed. But, cost might be a reason to build your own bunting. Compare the cost and decide which way is best way to go.
Also consider how the bunting will be attached to the building. For some churches with modern architecture the bunting might need to hang over more than just the central doors in order to look good and make the correct statement that the bunting should be making. It should look festive and be celebratory in it’s nature.
Some churches may use wreathes with the Vatican colors hanging from the wreathes. It is important for us to remember to adhere to the liturgical norms of the season. We are still in Lent. It would not be appropriate to move the Vatican colors into the sanctuary space except during special liturgies which might be celebrated “at the direction of the Diocesan Bishop or with his permission” (GIRM, no. 374). Here is the LITURGICAL NOTES AND RESOURCE MATERIALS FOR USE UPON THE RESIGNATION OF THE POPE from the USCCB.
The Vatican flag could also be displayed in the Narthex. Flowers could be placed there as well. Again, this is in the Narthex-not in the church where flowers would not be appropriate during Lent.
We would love to hear how you celebrated our new pope. Send us pictures too! We can post them on our Facebook page.