A different pope-A A +A
Saturday, March 16, 2013
WHILE Pope Francis may be a doctrinal double of Pope Benedict XVI, their similarities end there. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina who took the papal name, Francis, upon his election as pope last Wednesday, is reportedly more charismatic, communicative and peripatetic than his predecessor.
During the last papal elections, Bergoglio, who came in second to Benedict as a contender for the papacy, said in an interview after the conclave, “In the Curia I would die. My life is in Buenos Aires. Without the people of my diocese, without their problems, I feel something lacking every day.”
And yet, now, Bergoglio, whether he likes it or not, will have to face the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy mired in dysfunction as well as scandal. He not only has to face the Curia, he has to fix its problems as well.
While Bergoglio like Benedict also rails against abortion, divorce, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and artificial methods of contraception, there is some glimmer of hope for progressive Catholics that reforms are forthcoming. The first Jesuit pope is known to be pragmatic, in touch with poverty and attuned to the problems of the people.
The 76-year old pope has a legacy of championing the cause of social justice rather than debating on doctrinal matters. And while the only stain on his record remains his perceived sins of omission during the 1976–1983 reign of a terror by a military junta in Argentina, there are those who say that Bergoglio did more during those years than what is publicly known.
Bergoglio, who chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Francis of Assisi, the popular Italian saint who gave up wealth for a life of poverty, is known to be a simple man who shunned the perks of a palace in Buenos Aires as cardinal and chose to live in an apartment where he cooked for himself.
According to Bergoglio’s former spokesperson, Guillermo Marco, “You can count the occasions when he used a car with a chauffeur.” Apparently, the self-effacing Bergoglio did not think it beneath him to take mass transit on a regular basis.
And while some (especially those who cannot detach themselves from their life of luxury) may find such simplicity shocking, after his election last Wednesday night, Bergoglio surprised his fellow cardinals when he shunned the papal limousine and rode on the last shuttle bus with the other cardinals back to their residences.
Pope Francis, the first pope to hail from Latin America where 40 percent of current Catholics reside, has previously spoken about the pride, arrogance and hypocrisy that bewail the Catholic Church. He described some members of the hierarchy to be “preening like peacocks.” According to Pope Francis, “self-absorbed vanity” is the worst sin that could be committed in Church.
While doctrinally, Pope Francis is no different than Pope Benedict, this pope is known to be more concerned about alleviating the plight of the poor rather than asserting doctrinal truths. He believes in the Word but he believes the Word should be lived not just preached. In short, this pope believes in walking the talk.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 17, 2013.