John Allen’s headline says that the real winner of the 2013 conclave is St Francis of Assisi, but his article suggests that the real winner is the Church:
On TV, I tried to explain what the name “Francis” conjures up in the Catholic imagination. For most Catholics, I said, there are two faces of the church. There’s the institutional church, with its rules and dogma, its wealth and power, its hierarchical chain of command. Then there’s the church of the spirit, a humble and simple community of equals with a special love for the least of this world. Ideally, the two go together, but in any case, they’re distinct.
By taking the name “Francis,” the pope effectively said the spirit of that second face of the church needs to shine through anew in the first.
Ignatius’s order was an order of mission, with a special vow to serve wherever the pope asked them to go. Adding a Franciscan dimension to that sense of mission suggests to me a pope who wants the Church to be agile in its ministry to the poor, to serve as Christ served. For those who long for a retreat from the vestiges of triumphalism, this is welcome news. What will a church look like that dedicates its energies to serving Christ’s poor? My own hope is that this might be a moment to stop our ecclesial hand-wringing and get to work.
Sean Fitzpatrick looks at the ways Pope Francis might be like his namesake, and ends by saying:
Perhaps most poignant about the message implicit in the selection of the name “Francis,” is the notion of rebuilding a church that has fallen into some disrepair. St. Francis began his journey as a newly born, naked child in heaven’s infantry after praying before a crucifix among the ruins of the church San Damiano. “Francis,” called a voice, “seest thou not that my house is in ruins? Go and restore it for me.” At that moment in Assisi, a young man’s eyes beheld the world and he saw things for the first time as a mystic and a saint. G. K. Chesterton explains this vision in his inspired biography of Francis:
…he sees things go forth from the divine as children going forth from a familiar and accepted home… he hails them with an old familiarity that is almost an old frivolity. He calls them his Brother Fire and his Sister Water.
Now a new Francis has been called by Christ to mind His Church in a way that is at once similar and dissimilar. At that moment in Rome, an old man’s eyes beheld the world and we pray that he now sees things for the first time as Francis. There is good reason to rejoice, for Pope Francis spoke of a vision—a vision of big brotherhood and a joyful journey that we all are bound upon with our crosses gladly slung across our backs.
MercatorNet offers as a portrait of the new Pope by translating some passages from his 2011 book Sobre el cielo y la tierra (On heaven and earth). He records his talks with an Argentinian Rabbi, Abraham Skorka. The MercatorNet articles has quotes from him on abortion, globalisation, euthanasia, gay marriage, and other topics. Here’s what Pope Francis said about the future of the Church:
There have been worse times for religions than the present. Nonetheless they pulled through. Perhaps nowadays there is a scarcity of religious people, but there were times in the past when there was a scarcity of virtue. There have been corrupt times in the Church… There were very difficult times and nonetheless religion revived. Suddenly there appear people like Teresa of Calcutta who revolutionise the notion of personal dignity, who spend their time… helping people to die. These deeds create mysticism and renew the religious sense.
In the history of the Catholic Church, the true renovators are the saints. They are the true reformers, the ones who change, transform, lead and revive spiritual paths. Another example: Francis of Assisi, who introduced a new attitude towards poverty in Christianity when faced with the luxury, pride and vanity of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of the time. He introduced a mysticism of poverty, of detachment, and he changed history.
The Church’s mission, simply put, is to help as many people on earth to get to heaven as possible before the world is shut down and Jesus comes in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Two words are key to fulfilling the Church’s mission: evangelization and holiness.
However, the Church is in the world — though not of the world — and joyfully plays its role in the charitable service of mankind and all races, all of whom are seen as children of God, regardless of their religious beliefs.
How appropriate that Pope Francis has chosen St. Francis of Assisi as his patron of his pontificate.
What can we expect from this pontificate?
Above all, continuity. I suspect we’ll see a continuation from him with the two special popes who proceeded him in finally and forever putting into global practice the primary message of the Second Vatican Council that we are celebrating in this Year of Faith.
That message is the joyful universal call to holiness, not just for clergy or consecrated religious, but for every baptized Christian. And a holiness that is evangelical — in both words and deed — from men and women whose hearts have burned within them when they encountered the risen Christ.
So far what I can gather about our new pontiff is that…Liberals think he’s going to ordain women and give the thumb’s up to abortion and homosexual marriage. It’s the age of Aquarius, grab your tambourine! Let’s conga line through the Vatican. Alleluia Cha-cha-cha!
Conservatives are in mourning, wailing and gnashing their teeth over the thought of Tango masses in St. Peter’s and women getting their feet washed on Holy Thursday. The Church is doomed! Doomed, I say. Did you see his tacky wooden pectoral cross? I could just die!
Well, aren’t we off to a good start… the traddies are already disappointed and the libbies will be soon enough. Yay! Nobody’s happy. It might be the first time in Church history where everyone is on the same page. A damn miracle, I say.