"Let the law of supplication," wrote St. Prosper during the reign of Leo the Great, "form the law of belief." Traditionalists will apply these words readily to the Pauline reform of the Roman Missal and, in rare instances, to the Roman Office, but what about to the papal liturgy?
We recently eclipsed the anniversary of the last Papal Mass, the basis of the Roman liturgy and the form of Mass celebrated by the Bishops of Rome on holy days and for stational observances since the middle of the first millennium until the fifteen regrettable years of Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Pius XII.2. Before Pope Paul knowingly tinkered with the ordo Missae of the normative Tridentine Mass he unknowingly created a novel ordo Missae for Papal Mass which would endure for several pontificates beyond his. Indeed, it is unthinkable that Jorge Mario Bergoglio would ascend to the Petrine chair without this innovation by Montini.
What did Papa "Zio" do? He generally retained the rite of Papal Mass and the coronation with the triple tiara, but he moved it outside. Pius IX celebrated low Mass outdoors for troops in the papal army during one of the many nationalist uprisings in central Italy a century before, but Pope Paul rarely fought anyone who was not a French missionary prelate.
While the Archbasilica of Our Savior at the Lateran Palace is the cathedral of Rome the rites of papal initiation have traditionally been performed in St. Peter's basilica. St. Peter was the Prince of the Apostles, the first bishop of Rome, and the Pope is the "vicar of St. Peter." Moreover, St. Peter's tomb has remained one of the primary destinations of pilgrimage in the world. Conventionally the bishop-elected would be consecrated and celebrate Mass at St. Peter's, be crowned with the tiara, and then proceed to take possession of the Lateran cathedral. St. Peter's is not small either; it is nearly as long as the Titanic and can accommodate 60,000 people. And yet this did not suffice for Pope Paul.
Enter the modern spectacle of the Popes holding Paschal Masses, canonization Masses, and audiences outside the basilica for no reason other than the excess capacity offered by the square. Like a rock concert, the man on stage is the primary point of focus. We may say it is a Mass, but we all know, deep down, that the arrangers of these services are putting the person of the sitting pontiff on display rather than humbling him as a celebrant of Divine service within the more demanding confines of the basilica. Within St. Peter's the pope is one of 266 men to have held the office; the vertical focus of the basilica's inner lines draw attention from the celebrant of the Mass to the One Who the Mass honors. Outside, the celebrant is the one celebrated.
Above, Pope Paul is still vested in the unique garments of the papacy: the fanon, the sub-cincture, and the tiara. Despite the arrant use of an opportunity to show a big crowd in the television age, the pope, atop the sedia gestatoria, is layered well enough by his office that his own person did not dominate the event. A mere three years later those degrees of protection would be laid aside or donated to the United Nations. The modern Popemobile deifies the pope and dehumanizes him much more than the sedia gestatoria ever did: in the latter he was touchable and visible without any degree of separation, save for the previously noted ornaments of office; now he is dressed down to the level of a parish priest, but elevated above and shielded with bullet-proof glass, almost saying "The pope's presence among the people is so necessary that God and the Vatican automotive service demand he risk his Apostolic life." At last, the man's presence is more needed than his office's dignified visibility. This is the Papal version of the Mass of Paul VI, and Msgr. Bugnini had nothing to do with it.
We would like more than Francis, but after Pius XII, Paul VI, and John Paul II do we deserve it?
As an aside, this video shows several moments of the papal election procedure that crystallized during the Renaissance practiced for the last time: the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit at the altar at the throne, the "thrones" with collapsing tops in the Sistine chapel (after election all the cardinals would pull their's down and the canopy would denote the new pope), and cardinals vested in penitential violet rather than scarlet; monsignori wore black.