Pope Francis failed to show up at a Vatican concert crowded with cardinals at the weekend, an absence seen as the latest example of his dislike for the Holy See's tradition of pomp and ceremony.
Cardinals and Vatican officials reportedly whispered in embarrassment as the Pope's seat remained empty before the start of Saturday's Beethoven concert, which was organised to celebrate the Vatican's Year of Faith.
Addressing the audience in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, explained the Pope was not coming because of an "urgent commitment that could not be delayed".
The Pope has been meeting papal nuncios visiting the Vatican from around the world in recent days, suggesting he really was busy with meetings, but his no-show was also interpreted as his latest sidestepping of Vatican high life.
On his appointment in March, the Pope immediately caused a stir by refusing to wear opulent papal clothing and choosing an iron cross instead of gold.
He then refused to move into the vast papal apartment occupied by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. He has preferred to live instead in the Vatican's busy Santa Marta residence.
"His absence from the concert was not meant as a slap to the Curia, that is not his style," said Maria Antonietta Calabro, a Vatican expert, writing in the 'Corriere della Sera' newspaper. "But the empty chair was a significant image."
Yesterday, the Pope appeared relaxed at his regular Angelus blessing in St Peter's Square, telling young people not to be afraid of "going against the current". (© Daily Telegraph, London)