Populist pope

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Thursday, May 29, 2014


POPE Francis visited Palestinian territories early this week, and thousands of cheering Roman Catholic pilgrims welcomed him. The Pope entered the Manger Square in the West Bank of Bethlehem City in the Middle East last Sunday. When he celebrated mass, he “made an impassioned plea for peace.”

Francis is the first pope to come from South America and is also the first from the Jesuit order to become the Supreme Pontiff since the 16th century when the Basque soldier, St. Ignatius de Loyola, founded the order.

Saint Ignatius said then: “Go forth and set the world on fire.” And so, in his own way, Pope Francis might do just that. He is going to do some things that might change the ways of the church in our era.

The Jesuit order was a militant order at its founding—its priests became the shock troops of the 16th and 17th centuries. The head of the Society of Jesus is still referred to as Father General.

And while Francis did not head the Jesuits he once headed the division of their order in Argentina and had to contend with secular powers. People refer to him as pope of the poor, pope of the forgotten.

Last Tuesday, Pope Francis bared plans to visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January. The Catholic News Service (CNS) said the Pope announced this in a press conference during his return flight from Tel Aviv on Monday.

However, Cebu’s archbishop revealed that he still has to receive a formal communication from the Vatican about this. It is also the same with the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Manila Archdiocese.

The world’s Catholics have elevated the stature of Pope Francis to that of being a pontiff that looks at all the people with compassion and affection. His gentleness was on display on March 13 last year the moment it was announced that he had been chosen pope.

The first pope from the New World did not invoke his fresh God-given powers by blessing the crowd. Instead, in a surprising act of spiritual democracy, he asked the faithful in the piazza beneath to keep silence and pray for him.

Indeed, during the days that followed, Pope Francis established his persona of being a modest pope by going back to pay his hotel bill, wearing sensible black shoes and not the showy red of his predecessors, getting his own coffee from a vending machine (and) suddenly stopping the Pope mobile as it journeyed around St. Peter’s Square to embrace an infirm young pilgrim.

During Holy Week, he stunned conservative Catholics when, during the traditional washing of feet, he ministered to an imprisoned Serbian non-Catholic woman, a felon who had joined the crowd.

A Rome-based theologian, Robert Dodaro, was drawn to remark at the Papal behavior: “A simple gesture is not always a simple gesture when it is the Pope’s gesture.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 30, 2014.

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