Pope Francis decided this morning that he would keep both the motto and coat of arms that he used during his time as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The motto has “a particular meaning in life and spiritual journey of the Pope,” a March 18 statement from the Vatican press office says.
“In fact, on the feast of St. Matthew in 1953, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced at the age of 17-years-old, in a very special way, the loving presence of God in his life.
“Following a confession, his heart was touched and felt the descent of the mercy of God, that with eyes of tender love, he was being called to the religious life, after the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” the communiqué explained.
The motto, “miserando atque eligendo,” was inspired by St. Bede the Venerable’s commentary on Matthew’s Gospel.
The particular passage that spoke to Pope Francis was Jesus seeing Matthew the tax collector, “looked at him with love and said 'Follow me.’”
The Latin motto stands for “having had mercy, he called him.”
Mercy has been a particular theme of Pope Francis in his homilies and reflections. Most recently he spoke about mercy in his March 17 Sunday Angelus address, reminding the packed piazza that “the Lord never gets tired of forgiving, it is we that get tired of asking forgiveness.”
The Pope’s coat of arms is also the same as the one he adopted in Buenos Aires, with the exception of the papal keys and the papal mitre crowning the image.
The shield has a blue background, and three symbols representing Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
At the top is a sun with the letters IHS in the middle, representing the Society of Jesus as well as Christ. The lower left-hand corner features a star for Mary, and the lower-right hand corner displays the nard flower, which is a symbol for St. Joseph.
“By placing these images in his shield, the Pope wanted to express his particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph,” the Vatican’s statement said.