VATICAN CITY — The Mass for the installation of a new pope could be celebrated March 19, the solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the universal church. The new pope also would likely recite the Angelus March 17 with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Asked March 13 whether the feast of St. Joseph would be the day the new pope officially inaugurates his ministry, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that was "a good hypothesis." He refused to say more about the date since the pope had not even been elected yet.
The spokesman also said, "From what I understand," retired Pope Benedict XVI did not plan to attend the installation Mass of his successor.
The new pope was unlikely to celebrate a public Mass before his installation, Fr. Lombardi said, although it is likely he will celebrate a Mass the morning after his election with the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel. Pope Benedict did so after his election in 2005.
The installation Mass is filled with solemnity and symbols, although not as ornate as in the papal coronation Masses. In 1963, Pope Paul VI became the last to receive the papal tiara at the beginning of his Petrine ministry. His successor, Pope John Paul I, chose to forego the crown and began his ministry with an installation Mass.
During the installation Mass, the new pope will receive his fisherman's ring – a reminder of his charge to be a fisher of men. He also will receive a pallium – a woolen band  meant to invoke a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders.