Thursday 14 March 2013

Pope Francis. Viva il Papa!

I was caught off guard by the quick election result last night. In fact, I was with a family of parishioners blessing their house and having supper when the news came through and we had to abandon the supper table for the TV. 

I'm amazed at some of the early reaction.  The dried up old pundits and the bemused journalists all desperately trying to look for an "angle", a "spin" just can't seem to get their heads round the fact that the Pope is the Pope is the Pope - of course the roman crowds were chanting "Viva il papa" before they even knew who it was.  It was enough to know he was the Holy Father.  The ordinary folk interviewed in St Peter's Square were able to put it far more plainly than the commentators and journalists; they all seemed to say, "I don't know anything about him but he will be a great Pope."  In other words, they trust the Holy Spirit.  There is an instinctive love of the successor of St Peter among the Catholic Faithful - and perhaps there is the clue - among the Catholic Faithful. They loved Pope Benedict, they loved Pope John Paul (I and II), they loved Pope Paul VI, they loved Pope John XXIII, they loved Pope Pius XII.

If you don't like this choice for Pope then either, you believe the Holy Spirit has been outwitted or you don't mind being in disagreement with the Holy Spirit.  Neither of these are positions I would like to put myself in.  None of the popes - from St Peter onwards - have been perfect.  Our Lord choose St Peter for his strengths and loved him despite his failures.  Can we do any less for any of his successors?

We might recall that some of the great English Martyrs gave their lives for the Faith and in defense of the Papacy at a time when not all its incumbents would have set the media alight with praise! (Sts Thomas More & John Fisher lived through the reign of Pope Alexander VI!)

Much is being made of the fact that as Archbishop, Cardinal Bergoglio lived in a small apartment.  Not much change for him there, as all the recent Popes have done the same; for although they are housed within the Vatican palace and conduct public events in those splendid surroundings, they live in a modest set of rooms as their personal space.  Much on the media as well about him travelling on the bus as Archbishop - Cardinal Ratzinger was also known for walking to work across Rome and being very approachable as he did so. The new Pope apparently has experience of "ordinary life", as his father worked for the railway.  The previous two incumbents of the Vatican did not exactly live lives unacquainted with difficulties. Again, the media and others are keen to emphasize differences rather than celebrate love of God and His Church.

Interestingly, according to Sandro Magister: "In the conclave of 2005... Bergoglio was one of the most decisive supporters of the appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as pope."

Cardinal Bergolio has taken the name Francis (for he is to be known as that, without the ordinal "the First"). Perhaps he had in mind: 
 - St Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits  - a great missionary to the East 
- St Francis Borgia, the third Superior General of the Jesuits (who was also the Duke of Gandia) was a great diplomat
- St Francis of Assisi, living the Gospel with great vigor but also a man with a fierce devotion to the person of the Pope.

To conclude with some words from Catherine of Sienna that could apply to any of the Popes:

I see that you have endowed your vicar
by nature with a fearless heart;
so I humbly, imploringly beg you
to pour the light beyond nature
into the eye of his understanding.
For unless this light,
acquired through pure affection for virtue,
is joined with it,
a heart such as his tends to be proud.

Today again let every selfish love be cut away
from those enemies of yours
and from your vicar
and from us all,
so that we may be able to forgive those enemies
when you bend their hardness.

For them, that they may humble themselves
and obey this lord of ours,
I offer you my life
from this moment
and for whenever you wish me to lay it down
for your glory.


RJ said...

Well said, Father. I thought it significant that faithful Catholics - I think they were in Argentina - interviewed on the BBC, said that his being Argentinian was irrelevant. They focussed on the aspects that were truly relevant. I don't suppose that was quite what the interviewer was looking for.

GOR said...

Agreed, Father.

I have been scandalized by some of the vitriol that has already been heaped upon him in comments by supposedly ‘faithful’ Catholics. Is that the depth of their Faith?

It was also annoying that as soon as the white smoke appeared the Italian commentators immediately assumed it would be Cdl. Scola. I was reminded of 1963 when my Italian confreres emphatically stated that there just could not be a non-Italian Pope. No chance. Impossible! Mai succede!

Well it didn’t happen in ’63, but now we have had three in a row… And as to the criticism that he was not well received by his Jesuit confreres as their Provincial, given what we’ve seen in so many Jesuits of late, I don’t see that as a negative!

Ad multos annos, Sancte Pater!