Habemus Papam Franciscum-A A +A
Saturday, March 16, 2013
THEY say history is made every day. And this is mostly true, especially now that we have a new Pope. Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina is now Pope Francis I.
As pope, he is a pope of many firsts – he is the first pope to come from the New World (the Americas), the first Jesuit pope, and the first non-European pope in over a thousand years.
He is also the first pope to name himself Francis—after none other than Saint Francis of Assisi—whose loving dedication to the poor and the downtrodden he hopes to reflect.
From the very start of his term as pope, we can already see that Pope Francis is trying to live up to his name. The new pope wishes to be seen as a humble caretaker and dislikes the pomp associated with his new office.
For example, the spokesman of the Holy See, Father Federico Lombardi, says that the pope chose to stand while he was accepting his election, rather than sit, which is traditional, as an “act of homage.”
When the Vatican offered him a gilded golden cross to wear as a symbol of his office, he politely refused, and opted instead to continue to wear the very simple cross he wore as a bishop.
After making his acceptance speech and blessing the crowd and the millions watching around the world his aides told him that a limousine was ready to take him to his temporary quarters in the Vatican’s residence building. Again, he politely refused and decided to take the bus with the other cardinals.
After his election, while he was having dinner with the College of Cardinals, he was advised to make a speech. His response was to simply toast the cardinals and say, “May God forgive you.” Meaning, “I hope you will not regret your choice.” According to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, this little sentence brought the house down.
Pope Francis’s emphasis is on helping the poor. Before he became pope, he was reported to have washed and kissed the hands and feet of AIDS patients in a hospice. Being the son of a railway worker, he knows what it’s like to be poor. Time and time again, he refuses the luxuries associated with his office. If he had his own way, he’d simply live like any other priest, albeit with more duties to fulfill. As a bishop, he cooked his own meals and lived in a small flat rather than a bishop’s palace. He also urged Argentineans not to travel to Rome to see him, and instead to give their plane ticket money to the poor and unfortunate.
As a clergyman, he is not as traditional as his predecessor, Benedict XVI, but he’s not very liberal either. People who hoped that he’d be more tolerable of issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, contraceptives and euthanasia have found that Pope Francis is a strong supporter of church doctrine and an ardent opponent of the culture of death, which he claims is a “machination of the Father of Lies.” As far as homosexuality is concerned he says that, as Christians, we should tolerate those who have strong homosexual tendencies. However he has a strong opinion against gay marriage and adoptions by same-sex-couples, saying they threaten the family unit and the sanctity of marriage.
Health-wise, he is only a few years younger than Benedict XVI, and only has one working lung. The other one conked out when he was a seminarian, as his friends said that he “smoked like a chimney.”
As of this writing, the new pope has not stated his agenda, but as a bishop his main goals were to alleviate the problems of the poor and oppressed, and to fight the culture of death that was so prevalent in his native Argentina. We’ll just wait and see what the future holds for our brand new Vicar of Christ.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 17, 2013.