March 14, 2013
Pope Francis – Breath of Fresh Air
By Mike McManus
In his first moments as Pope Francis, everyone
could see his humility.
“Bona sera,” (“Good evening.”) he said greeting the crowd. He
prayed for his predecessor, Benedict XVI. He led the crowd in
the three traditional Catholic prayers: “Our Father,” “Hail
Mary,” and “Glory Be.”
Then surprisingly he asked the huge crowd of hundreds of
thousands, and millions around the globe: “for a favor. Before I
give the bishop’s blessing, I ask that you ask the Lord to bless
me, your bishop. Pray in silence for me.” He then bowed deeply.
My wife asserted, “I will pray for him.”
He stood clad in a simple white cassock, unlike his
predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who wore gold
embroidered vestments when introduced as pope.
He chose Francis as his name after St. Francis of Assisi, which
is “the most stunning choice,” commented John Allen of the
National Catholic Reporter. “There are cornerstone figures in
Catholicism,” such as St. Francis. His name symbolizes “poverty,
humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church.
“The new pope is sending a signal that this will not be business
as usual,” Allen asserted.
Interestingly, not one of the 265 previous popes chose Francis
as his name.
Pope Francis is the first to be born in the Western Hemisphere.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io) is the son of
Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When he became a
cardinal, he sold the cardinal’s palace and moved into a small
apartment, and rode a streetcar to work, rather than travel by
chauffeured limousine like his predecessors. He cooks his own
As Cardinal Bergoglio, he was an articulate and passionate
spokesman on many issues.
He told Latin American bishops in 2007, “We live in the most
unequal part of the world, which has grown the most, yet reduced
misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists,
creating a situation of social sin that cries out to heaven and
limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our
Argentina became the first South American country to approve
same sex marriage – but not without a stout defense of
traditional marriage by the cardinal.
When a bill to redefine marriage was proposed, he asserted,
“Let’s not be naïve. We’re not talking about a simple political
battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God.
We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination
of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the
children of God.”
As the United States Supreme Court considers two cases involving
same-sex marriage March 26, consider these words by the new
“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father,
mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who
will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their
human development given by a father and a mother and willed by
God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved on
Pope Francis is a humble man but he speaks with the authority of
an Old Testament prophet. The Catholic Church – indeed the world
– needs such a passionate advocate of righteousness.
In the last papal conclave when Benedict was elected, Cardinal
Bergoglio was the runner up. Yet few predicted that he would be
in the running this time because of his age, 76. However, he is
two years younger than Benedict when he was elected in 2005.
Pope Francis “bridges the first world and the developing world
in his own person,” writes Allen. “He’s a Latin American with
Italian roots, who studied in Germany. As a Jesuit, he’s a
member of a truly international religious community.”
He appeals across the divisions of the church – earning respect
from both conservatives and liberals for his passionate advocacy
for the poor and marriage and his personal modesty. He’s
respected as a man of deep prayer and spiritual commitment.
And he has the strength of character to stand up to the
corruption of Vatican finances, and the child abuse scandals.
He also wants “to avoid the spiritual sickness of a
self-reverential church,” he said recently. “If the church
remains closed in on the itself, self-reverential, it gets old.”
What could be his most far-reaching reform?
Allowing priests the opportunity to marry, while encouraging the
discipline of celibacy. That would attract tens of thousands of
men to become priests, and give the church the priests needed to
serve 1.2 billion of the world’s citizens, attracting back many
“fallen away” Catholics.
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