This Post originally appeared on 25th June, 2013 under the Title "Pope Francis : Empty Papal Throne :Three Excuses in Three Days : No Show at Concert"

Sede Vacante Papal Throne left Empty
by Last Minute cancellation.
On 22nd June, 2013 just a few days back, Pope Francis was to attend a 5.30 pm Concert of classical music arranged for him and attended by the visiting Nuncios from around the world. At the last minute Archbishop Rino Fisichella  was given the unpalatable task of announcing to the assembled dignitaries that the Holy Father would not be attending the 30 minute Concert which was being held 50 metres from his chosen accommodations in the Casa Santa Marta.The Concert was arranged as part of the Year of Faith celebrations and Archbishop Fisichella is President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

The reason that the Holy Father's officials gave for his last minute no show at the long -planned Concert was that " he had important commitments that could not be postponed". Why these were discovered minutes before his engagement was not explained. It was however made clear that it was not a matter of health. Indeed the Pope's Doctor was in the audience.

However the Italian Newspaper La Stampa published the following:

For the entire afternoon, Francis did not leave his room at [Domus] Sanctae Marthae and simply told his associates: "I am not a Renaissance Prince who listens to music instead of working."

The following day the Holy See's Information Chief Father Frederico Lombardi announced that he had nothing further to say, except that the Holy Father would be fulfilling all his engagements on the Sunday and the following days.

But the following day the Vatican Information Service's official Bulletin was saying that on announcing the non-attendance Archbishop Fisichella had given as the reason : "an “urgent task that cannot be put off but must be dealt with at the present moment”, 

This of course directly contradicts the contemporaneous reports of what was said.

The entire affair is most unfortunate and has led to much ridicule of the Church in the predictable portions of the media. It has also led to a variety of responses on the Internet from slavish " the Pope can do no wrong" rants to vicious snarking at the other extreme. Those who try to remain calm in their comments come off like the Postman attacked by the rabid dogs on either side.

I found myself the target of such treatment to-day :

I Commented on Holy Souls Hermitage Blog ( which my readers will know I have often praised here and on Facebook) on this offering by Father George Byers:


by Holy Souls Hermitage
pope francis - albert the great - these stone walls
I took a peek on the internet to see what people were saying about the Holy Father not being at the concert in the Paul VI Audience Hall. I was really taken aback at the fury of the hatred I saw. What's happening?! People are falling away from the faith, into their own little hells. What's going on that this is taking place?!
  • Preparing to announce Vatican Council III with Orthodox Churches
  • Averting World War III with world leaders
  • Assisting at the death of Benedict XVI
  • Cutting the "Lobby Gay" off at its roots
If for any of those reasons or others you can imagine (and that last one on the list is not unlikely) you can surely bet that those who hate Pope Francis would still criticize him for what they call an abandonment of the papacy, that is, the concert, that is, the red shoes, that is, blah blah blah.
All this criticism is hatred.
Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the only reason for division is hatred.
These people want division, in the end, to be with themselves, condemning all others, for eternity, in hate."

Here is my Comment with Father Byer's "moderation" comments interpolated in red
"1.     Tony Dixon
I have not seen any hate or whatever expressed. 
[I'm not responsible for your lack of internet search capabilities] I am sad to say that I think your own furious remarks excessive. [O.K. Did you ever read the Gospels and see what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and Scribes, and what Jesus Himself said to the same. Not just furious, but ferocious, and rightly so. What is it about our days that rebukes are always seen as evil? There is a Judgment coming for which we must prepare. I am concerned, out of love, that unless strong rebukes are given, people will see the ferocity of that Judgment. I don't want that for them. And, yes, I am judging their words, not them, but by those words I can rightly say that some are risking a judgment that they will not want to have.] The concert was to take 30 minutes of the Holy Father’s time and was reportedly only 50 metres from his preferred accommodations. [And so, you're telling me that that's where he was? Based on what, exactly? Reports from people who even put words into his mouth? Reports from people who make him look like a selfish fool? Really? I mean, were you there, wherever "there" is?]Humility is one thing, Charity is also of value and courtesy to others is part of it. [So, you're second guessing his humility? Really? And now's he's also uncharitable and lacks in courtesy? Based on what? Your own self?] No urgency was originally mentioned [Not mentioned by whom? The Archbishop? Really? And, if not. What difference would that make? Does that give people a license to attack the Holy Father and to think the worst? No, it doesn't. Really, the Holy Father doesn't answer to you personally. He's responsible for the entire flock before almighty good. He has a perspective that you do no not have.] but brought out to address the PR disaster caused by unhappy references to ” not being a Renaissance Prince”. [By whom? Someone who knows? Is that what you are? Is that a conflation of events? Is that just?] Popes are able to make errors of social judgement… [Good ecclesiological statement! What does that have to do with anything?] And they need to be sensitive to the wider implications of their actions and apparent inferences concerning their saintly predecessors. [No. That's all your own judgment about inferences. Your judgment is based on nothing. He's said that we need to be humble. Good on him.]

After such humble "moderation", I dared to respond:

Here is my response yet to be published after " moderation" (!)
"1.     Tony Dixon
Your comment is awaiting moderation. 
Dear Father,
You have unkindly chosen to abuse me and misrepresent my carefully measured words . Anyone who knows me and what I regularly write knows my fidelity to the Pope is rock solid and has been since I reached the age of reason 68 years ago-now 73. Your manner of expression is ungentlemanly, and unChristian and your attempt to manipulate what I and some others said, reflects poorly on you.
The sarcastic remark about my alleged ” inability to surf the Net” is unworthy even of a petulant schoolboy. I do not choose to trawl the gutter of the Net.
The criticism I have seen has been careful and would have been impossible to make unless this affair had been badly handled from the beginning, which the official statements of constantly evolving reasons clearly demonstrates.
I do not know what pressures you labour under, and the isolation of the Hermitage must create its own problems. But I am sorry to say my previous admiration for you is much diminished.I have in the past gone out of my way to praise your work and promote it by sharing your Posts even on Facebook.
Please don’t repeat the line of your righteous indignation about “attacks” on the Holy Father – I have seen now just how readily you imagine them. If the Holy Father makes an error of social judgement and it is widely noticed
and causes scandal it is appropriate that he avoid such behaviour in future – it has never been a problem with his predecessors in living memory.
I suppose I will now be attacked for defending my comments against the attacks of a famous internationally connected Priest. So be it. The Lord knows the truth and I am happy to rest with that.
In all humility I would suggest that you should consider again the justice and charity missing in such attacks as you mount in this way..Popes are not free from faults, but also lowly Bloggers both Priestly and Lay like myself suffer the same disadvantage. Nevertheless we are all obliged,Pope,Priest and Pew filler to exercise Charity and the higher up the hierarchy, Priest and Pope the higher the standard expected.
I know that your many followers will love to see Father ravaging yet another fabricated villain. They too might care to think again.
The Holy Father himself would surely be appalled by such a performance by a Priest if like other of your Posts it seems, this effort were to reach him..
God grant you Peace of mind and Charity in example.

The whole affair from the original incident to the above " report and " moderation" of my response is very sad . The  strange thing is that I met Father Byers some years ago and had a very pleasant conversation with him , in the company of a Priest friend who has been very good to Father Byers during his varied sojourn in Australia. 

I have admired publicly much of what he does , though do find some of his remarks excessive , including an earlier aggressive approach to some remarks by Cardinal George Pell.

I shall keep readers informed of Father Byers' "moderation."


JOHN L. ALLEN the only reliably Catholic reporter on the American " National Catholic Reporter" the most notoriously dissident paper in Catholic America has written:

"As a footnote, the empty chair sensation also illustrates how Benedict XVI can't catch a break. Back in 2005, he withdrew from a planned Vatican Christmas concert, which led to a spate of angry interviews with musicians and singers as well as speculation that Benedict didn't care for the pop culture feel of the event. In other words, his no-show was seen as a haughty gesture of disdain; with Francis, the same act has been praised as an evangelical statement of simplicity."

Comment : The big difference then was that it was known in advance that Pope Benedict was not attending, and why.

Of some interest : Father Byers subsequently "BLOCKED" me so my response probably got canned. Father Byers went on to be appointed one of the Holy Father's "Missionaries of Mercy" for the Jubilee Year of Mercy. ( Smiles reflectively.......)


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