Pope Francis has chosen to remain with his episcopal seal and motto. Added to the original papal seal are a blue background along with a miter with cross keys of gold and silver along with a red cord, symbol of his pontifical office.
The emblem of the Society of Jesus, the order which Pope Francis belongs to, is placed above on the shield. The emblem is an image of a radiant sun with the letters “IHS” the monogram of the name of Christ. A cross is placed above the letter H of the monogram while three nails are placed below it.
On the bottom left hand side of the shield is an image of a star, which according to heraldic tradition, symbolizes the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ and of the Church. To the right of the star is the image of the spikenard, an aromatic plant, meant to symbolize St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. According to spanish iconographic tradition, St. Joseph is depicted holding a branch of spikenard in his hand.
By placing these two symbols on his coat of arms, Pope Francis wished to express his particular devotion to the Virgin Mary and Saint. Joseph.
The Holy Father’s motto, “Miserando Atque Eligendo”, (Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him) is taken from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable regarding the calling of St. Matthew by Jesus.
Saint Bede’s homily, which is read on the feast of St. Matthew, is a homage to the divine mercy of Christ, and is of significance to the Holy Father in his spiritual itinerary. According to a communique explaining the Papal coat of arms, at the age of 17, the young Jorge Bergoglio experienced in a particular way, the loving presence of God in his life.
“Following confession, his heart was touched but the descent of the mercy of God, who with tender love called him to the religious life, following the example of Saint Ignatius of Loyola,” the communique stated.
“Upon being chosen as bishop, Bishop Bergoglio, in remembrance of that event that began his total consecration to God in the Church, decides to choose as motto and program of his life, the phrase by Saint Bede miserando atque eligendo which he has chosen to reproduce on his own pontifical coat of arms.”