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March 18, 2013

Pope Francis to get simple coat of arms, ring

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is mixing his Argentine past with his Roman present to create his new papal coat of arms, while harking back to a pope associated with the Second Vatican Council for the simple ring that he will receive during Tuesday's installation Mass.

The Vatican on Monday released details of the symbols of Francis' pontificate, which in its inaugural days has been marked by his preference for simplicity and aversion to Holy See splendor.

The new pope chose to keep the same coat of arms he had as archbishop of Buenos Aires, and picked the simplest ring out of several models offered him. It is fashioned in gold-plated silver and was once a gift to Pope Paul VI, who presided over the second half of Vatican II, the meetings that modernized the church.

The coat of arms has a necessary addition — the papal symbols surrounding it: a gilded miter, and crossed gold and silver keys.

The shield itself, in very simple almost modern heraldry, depicts a star, a grape-like plant, and a monogram of Christ at the center of a fiery sun. The symbols represent the three members of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In religious writing, Mary is often referred to as a "star," while St. Joseph is often depicted holding a nard, a Middle Eastern plant. The monogram is the symbol of Francis' Jesuit order.

His motto suggests even more about the root of Francis' message:

"Miserando atque eligendo," Latin for "Having had mercy, he called him," comes from an episode in the Gospel where Christ picks a seemingly unworthy person to follow him.

Francis has stressed the importance of mercy, saying that often people are unforgiving with one another, but that God is all-merciful. "And very patient," he ad-libbed from the window of his studio during his first Angelus prayer Sunday.

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