As Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M., noted earlier today, Pope Francis has decided not to live in the Apostolic Palace but to remain at the Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican Guest House, where he stayed during the conclave and has remained since his election.
“He is experimenting with this type of living arrangement,” explained Fr. Frederico Lombardi, S. J., the Vatican spokesman, “which is simple, to live in community with others.” Others include not only other Vatican officials and staffers, but also men and women attending synods, conferences and meetings at the Vatican.
Of all the symbolic, lifestyle changes, the new pope has made, this may be the most significant, especially for reform of the Roman Curia. For, in the Santa Marta dining hall, in my experience, while visitors mix it up on one-side of the dining hall, on the other Vatican staffers keep to themselves. In fact, many eat silently alone—as if on perpetual retreat. When I visited Santa Marta, I used to wonder to myself, “Are these isolated, private souls, the people we trust to run the church?”
Pope Francis’s presence will, at a minimum, encourage his co-workers in the curia to get to know one another and exchange the ideas they are accustomed to keep to themselves, as they attempt to guard the secrets and privileges of their own offices. It will also allow the pope to meet people on business at the Vatican freely and stimulate a more open exchange of views than would have been possible in the guarded sanctity of the Apostolic Palace. A room at Casa Santa Marta has certainly become the hottest ticket in town.