Pope Francis: A church of the poor

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Friday, March 15, 2013


IT PLEASED the Holy Spirit to give us Pope Francis to be the 266th successor of Peter and we rejoice with Catholics all over the world on this “moment of great joy” as we pledge our unconditional obedience and fidelity to the new Pope.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina chose the name “Francis” after St. Francis Assisi, the great champion of the poor and rebuilder of the Church, thrilling Catholics who feel there is much rebuilding that needs to be done in the Church and who like to see the global problem of poverty addressed.

All of a sudden, “preferential option for the poor,” a phrase so much identified with Latin American Catholicism, will almost certainly be staging a comeback.

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Indeed, as Pope Francis said even while the bishop of Buenos Aires 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 brothers."

And, as if to make sure nobody misses his point, Pope Francis greeted the world at his proclamation by skipping the scarlet mozetta (the papal stole) and the traditional coat of arms that had hung down the window at every new Pope’s proclamation in recent memory.

Dita Annibale Gammarelli, papal tailor since 1798, had prepared in three sizes a white cassock, white sash, a scarlet mozetta topped with a red velvet cape lined with white fur for the new Pope to wear, but the Pope would have none of it, appearing at his anointment simply wearing a wooden cross on his white cassock and white skullcap. And, yes: transition-lensed, round glasses.

This Pope will have nothing to do with pomp and ceremony, conjuring in my mind the movie “Shoes of the Fisherman,” a movie based on Morris West’s 1963 bestseller where a Russian Pope contemplates selling off Vatican riches to stave off a famine in China to avert a war.

Such an unprecedented move is not at all farfetched, especially when we call to mind another Jorge Mario Bergoglio quote: “We have to avoid the spiritual sickness of a self-referential church. It's true that when you get out into the street, as happens to every man and woman, there can be accidents. However, if the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. Between a church that suffers accidents in the street and a church that's sick because it's self-referential, I have no doubts about preferring the former."

The word is out: this Pope will not think twice about “going out into the street, never mind that in the process “there can be accidents.”

Whatever happens, we rest absolutely safe and assured by God’s own words: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 15, 2013.

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