Special Report: The Beginning of a Humble Migrant's Papacy
about to be adopted by his global one.
Later, at dinner that night with some traditionalist Catholic friends, we were left scrambling as to what had just happened (Francis spoke rather than chanted the blessing, he wore the simplest of robes, he evinced absolutely no triumphal demeanor). Reportedly, the more liberal members of the new pope's Jesuit Order are similarly befuddled. (Francis evidently never allowed the Jesuits in Argentina to get involved in the politics of Liberation Theology). Francis is the first Jesuit pope, and the first Pope Francis: "And he could have been Pope Ignatius."
In Catholic terms the Cardinals' pick is a total paradox: a Jesuit "Franciscan"--or possibly a Franciscan Jesuit: a man of orthodox theology who has eschewed many of the trappings of his office in order to witness to his religious vows, especially of poverty.
Francis made a particular point on the balcony to bow and literally listen to his people as the first act of being their pastor. And he asked them to bless him and pray for him before he would bless them. In that instant he incarnated his sometime surprising, but quintessential papal title: "The Servant of the Servants of God."
The imagery of his personal introduction on the balcony for his Urbi et Orbi blessing evoked an unprecedented statement of humility of "it's not about him." He is first and foremost the new migrant bishop of the Rome Diocese (not the Pope who happens to be the Bishop of Rome), of unscripted gestures (he barely lifted his arms, let alone waved), of gratitude to his remarkable predecessor, calling his local and global flock to simple prayer ("the basics": the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be), and perhaps most striking for those in attendance -- he instantly brought the enormous crowd to embrace silence in order to let the Holy Spirit speak to them and then to pray together in a silent bond (with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in attendance one could only and distinctly hear the fountains when he called the people to pray).
The quiet pope (he spoke extemporaneously for a maximum of 5 minutes) chose not to wear many of the traditional and colorful trappings of his office and did not wear his stole except when actually giving his blessing. And he then immediately handed it back.
Papa Francesco is a fascinating mix and leaves no one -- even the Vatican curia -- feeling that they can predict where he will lead. Tellingly?, he has not yet reinstated the heads of the Vatican dicasteries who serve at his pleasure.
The day following his election, the Supreme Pontiff insisted on stopping by to personally pay his pre-Conclave hotel bill from his own wallet and left the Vatican unannounced in a VW to pray to Our Lady at St. Mary Major and kneel at the tomb of Pope Pius V.
His iron pectoral cross and chain are a simple but conspicuous statement, as is his directive to his fellow Argentine bishops, priests, and nuns to not come to Rome for the papal installation but to stay at home and direct whatever money they would have spent, on the poor.
As Peggy Noonan has reported, a friend recounted that several years ago he had approached the then-Archbishop to ask if he could suggest any place to live for his fellow congregation members who were moving to Buenos Aires to devote themselves to the poor. The Archbishop had an immediate suggestion. Would they consider moving into his predecessors' palace that he had himself left to live in a small apartment? "It has many rooms."
Papa Francesco is giving quiet, personal witness from the bulliest pulpit of all. He is leading the way for his followers to leave many comfort zones in order to be led unabashedly by the Holy Spirit, and in so doing he is dutifully assuming his role of global shepherd for his people.
Papa Bergoglio, the migrant bishop from South America, will give an audience to the World Press tomorrow morning.
Those journalists, like all those I have spoken with since the white smoke came from the Sistine Chapel, will witness that the first pages of this newest chapter of Church history are filled with promise.
John Klink is the President of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), a Papally-Founded Commission which provides protection to vulnerable refugees and displaced and trafficked persons.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis, Conclave, St Peters, Papa Francesco, Holy Father Francis, John Klink
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