Ever since Pope Emeritus Benedict announced his resignation, I have prayed for our new Pope. I have prayed that the Holy Spirit would bless our Cardinals with the wisdom they need to choose the best leader for our church in these tumultuous modern times.
Honestly, I could not be more thrilled with Pope Francis. He is humble. He is socially conservative. He is wise. He is an intellectual, but not in a haughty way. He represents the growing majority of Catholics and the world's population.
USA Today writes that:
"Here is a pope who has contended with all the issues of the modern West — gay marriage, abortion, contraception, women's rights, the swelling tide of cultural secularism and global poverty. Yet he is also known for standing firmly for core doctrine like the doctrinaire popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI before him."
The National Catholic Reporter also writes that:
"[In 2005,] he appealed to conservatives in the College of Cardinals as a man who had held the line against liberalizing currents among the Jesuits, and to moderates as a symbol of the church's commitment to the developing world.
[He] drew high marks as an accomplished intellectual, having studied theology in Germany. His leading role during the Argentine economic crisis burnished his reputation as a voice of conscience, and made him a potent symbol of the costs globalization can impose on the world's poor.
Bergoglio's reputation for personal simplicity also exercised an undeniable appeal – a Prince of the Church who chose to live in a simple apartment rather than the archbishop's palace, who gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of taking the bus to work, and who cooked his own meals."
I have to say, I don't really keep up on global affairs very well. I knew very little about the Argentine economic crisis, and even less about (then) Cardinal Bergoglio's role during it. But, the more I learn about him, the more I am filled with a tremendous hope. Add to that the fact that he chose the name Francis, which is littered with symbolism, and I am ecstatic. In his first appearance as Pope, he turned many traditions on their head.
In a Facebook status, Fr. J. Steele, a priest for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, points out the importance of those first few moments. He writes:
"First, he takes the name Francis, which is pretty radical. Francis was a poor beggar and not even a priest. That is a huge departure from traditional thinking. Then he comes out on the balcony without the red and gold stole reserved for the beginning of the pontificate. The stole is the sign of priesthood. Wearing only the white cassock and cape, this is the equivalent of a habit. Then he bows before the people and asks for their prayers, calling their prayers a benediction. In other words, he reversed the role of priest and people. This is ground breaking. Then he describes the papacy as a ministry in fraternal charity, an ancient formula, but the humblest one--and one the Orthodox world accepts. In simple words and gestures, Francis I has turned the rituals around the pope's first appearance on their head."
Humility, simplicity, poverty; a man who is devoted to the people. A man in the image of Christ.
When we moved to Amarillo in 2009, the biggest reason for us choosing our current parish, St. Mary's, was Msgr. Waldo. After Mass in the gym, on a hot Sunday afternoon, Msgr. Waldo held a prayer service for all of the victims of sexual abuse within the church. On his knees, he prayed before the altar that God would bring peace to the victims, and have mercy on the Church. It was one of the most moving events I have witnessed. It is something I often reflect on because it shows a type of humility that is so foreign to our culture. He led us, his parish, in a service that called out to God for healing and reform. He called out for mercy. This is why I am so excited about Pope Francis.
My biggest hope for the Church is that we will return to our roots. That we can preach the Gospel through our example, being honest about our failings and triumphs. And, that through this honest, humble leadership, the entire Christian community will be unified.