Twin Cities Catholics celebrated the election of a new pope Thursday. The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis held a special mass for Pope Francis over the noon hour.
The Basilica was decked out in papal colors, gold and white bunting hung from the entrance, and a flag with the pope's coat of arms was displayed near the pulpit.
Johan van Parys, the Basilica's Director of Liturgy and Sacred Art, selected music and prayers according to centuries-old tradition for the election of a new pope. But van Parys described a more immediate connection to Pope Francis in Rome.
"This morning the first thing he did was go to the Basilica of St. Mary in Rome. And the Basilica of St. Mary in Rome is a major Basilica. We are a minor Basilica. Every minor Basilica, is attached to a major Basilica. We are attached to St. Mary major in Rome, so in a sense, though he was not here, but he was at our mother church in Rome," he said. "That's an important connector, I think."
Basilica Rector John Bauer led about 100 mass-goers in prayers for Pope Francis.
"Today we break with our Lenten penance and we celebrate the election of a new pope, and ... We remind ourselves that the pope is the leader our church, the vicar of Christ here on earth, servant to the servants of God and so we join him in prayer today as he begins his ministry as our pontiff," Bauer said.
The people who came to the mass were a mix of regulars, and those drawn by the special occasion.
Yvonne Mullen, a Basilica parishioner, likes what she sees in the new pope Francis.
"He's chosen a name that everybody loves, the most wonderful saint for everybody to follow. It's just a breath of fresh air and we're all happy," Mullen said.
She said she loves St. Francis of Assisi, the new pope's namesake, because of what he stands for.
“It's just a great time, especially for a giddy new Catholic.”Chris Thompson
"Peace, kindness, simplicity — all the things that are really Christian," Mullen said.
The new pope is known for his humility, choosing plain robes and public transportation. That appeals to Brian McDonald of Washington, Mo., who was visiting Minneapolis on business.
"I heard about the mass and decided to stop by and do a little celebrating with everyone," McDonald said. "He's got a big job ahead of him, obviously. And unfortunately, the bureaucracy of a big organization like the Universal Church takes a lot of work but hopefully he'll be able to give that to someone else and do what he does best which is be with the people, and lead them."
Francis will be the first pope for Chris Thompson of Minneapolis. Thompson is converting from Lutheranism.
"How exciting for me as a new Catholic that will be officially confirmed on Easter, to have this event happen right before that," Thompson said. "It's just a great time, especially for a giddy new Catholic."
The solemn inauguration of Pope Francis will take place on Tuesday, and the Basilica is planning another celebration. Liturgy director Johan van Parys said the procession will include two important symbols that link every basilica to the pope.
"The ombrellino, which is a half-opened umbrella, and a tintinnabulum, which is a silver bell, they go back to the middle ages when the pope would go from one church to another. A person with the bell would announce that the procession is coming so the people would come out of their homes and greet the pope. And then at the receiving church, a young cleric would wait with the half-opened umbrella, run towards the pope, hold it over his head, and walk him into the church. So, right now, the umbrella is always half open, which means that our church is waiting, actually, for the pope to visit," van Parys said.
There's no word yet on when Pope Francis might see his ombrellino in Minneapolis.