The new pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Our prayers are answered – a non-European was elected. Not Abraxas but Pentecostal is on the Agenda now. A Jesuit who appears spiritual, taking charge, connecting , ascetic, conservative, even holy. His first appearance was breathtaking. He knows how to run a tight ship as Jesuit. On the other hand he has an authentic aura of a (firm) holy man. I agree to the assertion, “Christianity is never as weak as it appears, nor as strong as it appears. And whether we look backward or forward in history, we can see tat time and again, Christianity demonstrates a breathtaking ability to transform weakness into strength.” This article collects my initial reaction and research to Pope Francis.
The global south
In choosing Francis, 76, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the cardinals sent a powerful message that the future of the church lies in the global south, home to the fast growing bulk of the world’s Catholics not in the bickering, secular church of Europe. See Phillip Jenkins: In the long run Christ wins out – the next Christendom. Jenkins argues that a ‘Christian revolution’ is already underway in the developing world, one that our political leaders ignore to the peril of all of us: “We are currently living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide. – ” The Christian center of gravity has shifted to Africa, Asia, and Latin America “By 2050, only about 1/5 of the world’s 3 billion Christians will be non-Hispanic Whites.” “The era of Western Christianity has passed within our lifetimes….” “The emerging Christian world will be anchored in the Southern continents.” That is what I see today. When turning to religious indicators, all of them suggest that the surge in southern Christianity has barely begun – and raises another problem for the Catholic Church, largely ignored by a self centered Catholic Curie and European Church administration. The surge in Christianity in Africa and Latin America is due to Pentecostalism, a Protestant renewal movement that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Pentecost reminds to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Jesus Christ, as described in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Most Christians will follow the lead of the new elected Pope in Rome and celebrate Easter in four weeks. A good choice has been made. If one priest has the answer to the Pentecostal movement, or knows how to find it, it is him.
Equally important is that he is Jesuit. The Jesuits fell in disgrace under Johannes Paul II but was brought back in the folder by Benedict XVI. The famous intellectual and tough missionary order, “gods Marines”. Jesuits, founded 1534, helped Counter-Reformation and have always stood on the side of enlightenment. Just remember how they supported Galilei and the story of – Ricci, Schall, Verbiest and the ancient observatory in Beijing China. This is a great continuity form the spiritual pope Johannes Paul II and the outstanding theologian Benedict XVI, who wanted to connect science and Catholicism – but at the same time in Europe to rather have a smaller church than a worldly, opportunistic organisation which runs after the Zeitgeist.
Bergoglio is known to be conservative on spiritual issues . He opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and supports celibacy. However, according to the National Cathedral Reporter’s John Allen, “he’s no defender of clerical privilege, or insensitive to pastoral realities.” He assailed priests who refused to baptize children born out of wedlock, calling it a form of “rigorous and hypocritical neo-clericalism.” Bergoglio has also displayed sympathy for HIV-AIDS victims — Thera are reports that in 2001, Bergoglio visited a hospice to kiss the feet of a dozen AIDS patients. Bergoglio often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church.
He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus Christ bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes. “Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit,” Bergoglio told Argentina’s priests last year.
“In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptize the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage,” Bergoglio told his priests. “These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptized!”
He strongly opposed legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine Government to allow same-sex marriage, calling it a “real and dire anthropological throwback”. Exact quotes vary, but The Guardian UK quotes Bergoglio as saying of an Argentinian marriage bill:
“Let’s not be naive: this isn’t a simple political fight, it’s an attempt to destroy God’s plan.”
In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote: ” 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.” He has also insisted that adoption by gay and lesbian people is a form of discrimination against children. Bergoglio compared this concept of Catholicism, “this Church of ‘come inside so we make decisions and announcements between ourselves and those who don’t come in, don’t belong,” to the Pharisees of Christ’s time – people who congratulate themselves while condemning all others.
This sort of pastoral work, aimed at capturing more souls and building the flock, was an essential skill for any religious leader in the modern era, said Bergoglio’s authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin. But Bergoglio himself felt most comfortable taking a very low profile, and his personal style was the antithesis of Vatican splendor. “It’s a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome,” Rubin said before the 2013 conclave to choose Benedict’s successor.
The biographer Rubin obtained an extremely rare interview of Bergoglio for his biography, the The Jesuit. He said this:
“Is Bergoglio a progressive – a liberation theologist even? No. He’s no third-world priest. Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes,” Rubin said.
Bergoglio has stood clearly for austerity of the church. He preerred a simple bed in a downtown building, heated by a small stove on frigid weekends. For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals. Bergoglio almost never granted media interviews, limiting himself to speeches from the pulpit, and was reluctant to contradict his critics, even when he knew their allegations against him were false, said Rubin.
“Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticized the leftist guerrillas; he doesn’t forget that side,” Rubin said.
The bishops also said “we exhort those who have information about the location of stolen babies, or who know where bodies were secretly buried, that they realize they are morally obligated to inform the pertinent authorities.”
At least two cases directly involved Bergoglio. One examined the torture of two of his Jesuit priests – Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics – who were kidnapped in 1976 from the slums where they advocated liberation theology. Both men were freed after Bergoglio took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them – including persuading dictator Jorge Videla’s family priest to call in sick so that he could say Mass in the junta leader’s home, where he privately appealed for mercy. His intervention likely saved their lives, but Bergoglio never shared the details until Rubin interviewed him for the 2010 biography.
Bergoglio – who ran Argentina’s Jesuit order during the dictatorship – told Rubin that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship, and once gave his identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border. But all this was done in secret, at a time when church leaders publicly endorsed the junta and called on Catholics to restore their “love for country” despite the terror in the streets.
Initially trained as a chemist, Bergoglio taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before taking over as Buenos Aires archbishop in 1998. He became cardinal in 2001, when the economy was collapsing, and won respect for blaming unrestrained capitalism for impoverishing millions of Argentines.
During the dictatorship era, other church leaders only feebly mentioned a need to respect human rights. When Bergoglio spoke to the powerful, he was much more forceful. In his 2012 address, he said Argentina was being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power. The message resonated in a country whose president was ruling by decree, where political scandals rarely were punished and where top ministers openly lobbied for Fernandez to rule indefinitely.
Back to the roots and Gospel and not one out of the swamp of the Curie, that was what Benedict stepping back enabled. This is great hope,
Pope Francis comes across today as a compassionate pastor of real stature who will serve the poor and whose simplicity and holiness of life is remarkable. He is an evangelist, sharing the love of Christ which he himself knows. His choice of the name Francis suggests that he wants to call us all back to the transformation that St Francis knew and brought to the whole of Europe, fired by contemplation and closeness to God.
“Francis rebuild the church” a quote to St. Francis.
The first Sermons
Here is a transcript of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s first words as pope as translated by Reuters from the Italian.
Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that the duty of the conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are.
I thank you for this welcome by the diocesan community of Rome to its bishop. Thank you.
First of all, I would like to say a prayer for our bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI.Let us all pray together for him, let us all pray together for him so that the Lord my bless him and that the Madonna may protect him.
(The new pope then prayed the “Lord’s Prayer”, the “Hail Mary” and the “Glory Be” with the crowd in Italian).
He then continued:
And now, let us start this journey, bishop and people, bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which leads all the Churches in charity, a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us.
Let us always pray for us, one for the other, let us pray for the whole world, so that there may be a great fraternity. I hope that this journey of the Church that we begin today and which my cardinal vicar, who is here with me, will help me with, may be fruitful for the evangelisation of this beautiful city.
Now, I would like to give you a blessing, but first I want to ask you for a favour.Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask that you pray to the Lord so that he blesses me. This is the prayer of the people who are asking for the blessing of their bishop.
In silence, let us say this prayer of you for me.
(After a few seconds of silent prayer, he then delivered his blessing).
He then concluded:
Tomorrow I want to go to pray to the Madonna so that she protects all of Rome. Good night and have a good rest.
In his first sermon pope Francis appealed for having the courage to lead the way for building up the church. “If we progress, build and confess without cross, then we are no disciples of Jesus.”
He reminded not to forget the most important job of the Catholic church – to spread the message of Jesus Christ. Otherwise the church risks being reduced to a “compassionate non-governmental organisation”. The church should renounce the worldliness and concentrate upon the Gospels.”
Pope Francis is definitely not the favorite pope of those noisy but small German laymen organisation, like “We are a church”, who were hostile to the last pope already. This pope is bitterly necessary for deepening the faith in a time which sinks more and more into decadence and produces everywhere excesses, which destroy our society. A few German want exactly to turn the church in a colourless ngo. But:
- The Pope “governs” just over 1.2 billion people, about the same entrusted to a President in China.
- The German Catholics represent just 2% of all believers. Of that number probably 1 % are allowed to cry visible in the media every single day for reformed Catholic church. A lot of them are church clerics who live cosy in a plush concordat jobs paid from the government and laymen lobby organisation. A marginal, insignificant group amlified by the media. Those people amont than to 0.0.2 % who lack any spiritual depth. The are exactly those, Benedikt II meant, when he spoke about Entweltlichung of the Church (de-secularization) and advised to go back to Jesus teachings.
- It’s time, that those cheeky Germans would just understand the weight of their world and stop lecture. They alway can turn German Protestant where the role model of an ideal church leader seems to be genderbased favoring a person running red lights with DoI 4 times over the limit (dead drunk in plain words).
I hope the Jesuit from Argentina will curtail not only the pageantry of the Vatican but also assign to the German Church bureaucrats appropriate, modest role in the spirit of Francis of Assisi, who go out and teach the word of Jesus not that of the politicians (where their paychecks comes from). The problems in the south – for instance the shortage of charismatic priests -are anyway more pressing than those of a few old men and woman in Europe.
Sergio Rubin, Bergoglio’s authorized biographer: “The Jesuit“. Copy cat quoted endlessly but not in Amzon. So do I.
I found it in the net in Spanish in 2011 the book was introduced:
While knowing the development of a papal election is not an easy task because it is surrounded by a big secret, the press agreed that Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio, current Pontiff, was the most voted Cardinal after Joseph Ratzinger in the election which was consecrated to the German Cardinal as Benedicto XVI. Never before a Latin American had garnered much votes in a conclave and become a such outstanding figure of the Catholic Church in the region and the world. However, aspects of his personality and even his thought are largely unknown by society. Until it could be said that its figure is surrounded by a breath of mystery. Based on a series of talks held with him over two years, two journalists with long experience and knowledge in religious issues seek to unravel their thinking not only about religious issues, but also those related to the evolution of a country and a world turbulence.
Sergio Rubin was born in Santa Fe. He is a journalist and currently the head of the religious themes of the Clarín newspaper and the editor of its supplement “religious values”. He made a dozen trips with the Pope Juan Pablo II, coverage of his funeral and the election of Benedicto XVI. Among other personalities of the religious world he interviewed Mother Teresa and Cardinal Antonio Samoré.
Eva Perón book author: secret of confession (as and why the Church hid his body), was awarded the Santa Clara de Asis. Francesca Ambrogetti was born in Rome. He is a journalist and a social psychologist. He began his career in radio and in the news agency Ansa continued it. In 1982, presided over the Association of foreign press in the Argentina and from 2000 to 2003, the Foreign Correspondents Association, of which he is counselor. He collaborates with various international media, including Vatican Radio. He has taught journalism at several educational institutions courses and classes. He is the author of the essay “Tango as the encounter therapy”. ”
Collected news and articles at the The New York Times
Collected news and articles at The Guardian
Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra (On Heaven and Earth) at Kindle.
Unclear if took his name after St. Francis of Assisi – founder of the Franciscan order of the Poor or St. Francis Xavier- along with St. Ignatius Loyola, the Jesuits. The Vatican spokesman and Wikipedia suggested the first.