Pope Stresses Selfless Service to Youth at Holy Thursday Mass


The Holy Father opened the Triduum by spending it with young men and women at a youth detention center in Rome.   

VATICAN CITY 28/3/13 — At a young people’s detention center just outside of Rome this evening, Pope Francis urged a group of jailed teens to be at the service of one another, reminding them that Jesus came to serve and help mankind.

cr9The Holy Father made the comments at the Casa del Marmo youth detention center, where he celebrated the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper for 50 young offenders, including 11 girls, as well as staff, volunteers and dignitaries.

Among those concelebrating the Mass with the Holy Father were the vicar of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini; the deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu; private secretary Msgr. Alfred Xuereb; and the detention center chaplain, Father Gaetano Greco.

The Vatican said that during the Mass the Pope “washed the feet of 12 young guests of the penal institute, of different nationalities and religious confessions, among them two girls.”

The decision to celebrate the Mass there was a break with papal tradition, which is normally celebrated in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. The Holy Father has not yet formally taken possession of the basilica as the bishop of Rome.

In his unscripted homily, Pope Francis recalled the “moving” washing of the feet by Jesus and the Lord’s explanation of his action.

“Jesus washes the feet of his disciples,” he recounted. “Peter understands nothing. He refuses, but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God, did this, and he himself explains it to the disciples: ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me teacher and master, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.’”

The Holy Father explained that the foot-washing is important for Jesus “because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others.”

“This is a symbol; it is a sign — washing your feet means I am at your service,” he said. “And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each other’s feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other.”

“Sometimes I would get angry with someone, but we must let it go; and if they ask a favor of you, do it!” the Pope said.


‘Help One Another’

He continued, “Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus, in helping each other, we will do good for each other.”

In closing, the Pope said the ceremony of the washing of the feet should prompt each person to question, “Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this: to serve us, to help us.”

As cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis would celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in prisons or hospices and sometimes wash the feet of girls. This is in variance from the normal canonical practice that only men should have their feet washed, as it signifies the fact that Christ’s apostles were all male.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the Casa del Marmo during Lent in 2007.

Since his election, Pope Francis has sought to encourage the Church to look outwards more, and he reminded Catholics of the Church’s special role in caring for the poor and marginalized.


Presents for the Pope

At the end of Mass, before returning to the Vatican, Pope Francis met members of the institute, as well as government ministers in the prison gym. The boys in the prison gave the Pope a wooden crucifix and a kneeler that they had made in the institute workshop.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum. Tomorrow afternoon, the Holy Father will celebrate the Passion of the Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica, and, in the evening, he will lead the Via Crucis at the Colosseum.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi later released this statement on the issue of washing the feet of of the two girls.

“One can easily understand that in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot washing because Jesus, himself washing the feet of the twelve apostles who were male.  However the ritual of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening in the Juvenile Detention Centre in Rome took place in a particular, small community that included young women.  When Jesus washed the feet of those who were with him on the first Holy Thursday, he desired to teach all a lesson about the meaning of service, using a gesture that included all members of the community. 

We are aware of the photos that show Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, who in various pastoral settings washed the feet of young men and women.  To have excluded the young women from the ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday night in this Roman prison, would have detracted our attention from the essence of the Holy Thursday Gospel, and the very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society; those who were not refined experts of liturgical rules. 

That the Holy Father, Francis, washed the feet of young men and women on his first Holy Thursday as Pope, should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy of the Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.”

Pope Francis’ First Easter


VATICAN CITY — Final preparations are being made for Pope Francis’ first Easter, beginning with the traditional chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, followed by a break with custom when the Holy Father celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a juvenile detention center in Rome.

pf1The Holy Father will celebrate the chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 9:30 local time on Holy Thursday morning. As usual at the Mass, which manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop, the Holy Father will bless three oils (holy chrism, catechumens and the infirm) to be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year, and he is expected to give a homily.

Then, at 5:30pm, the Easter Triduum will begin. The Pope will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo Penitential Institute for Minors, about six miles north of the Vatican.

Usually, the Mass is held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, but Francis has yet to formally take possession of the “Mother of all churches” — a ceremony that is scheduled for the evening of April 7, Divine Mercy Sunday.

Pope Francis will celebrate the Mass in the chapel of the juvenile detention institute, and he has made it his “express desire” that it be “very simple.” Pope Benedict XVI also celebrated Mass there in 2007. The Vatican says that around 10 girls and 40 boys will take part in the Mass, saying the readings or reading the Prayers of the Faithful.

But, perhaps most poignantly, the Holy Father will recall Jesus’ example of love and service by washing the feet of 12 detainees who will be chosen from different nationalities and religious confessions. According to the institute’s chaplain, only eight of the prisoners are Italian: six boys and two girls, while the others are all foreigners; and most of them are Muslim.

“Many of them don’t even know who the Pope is,” said Father Gaetano Greco, chaplain of the facility. “For this reason, [it] was far from easy to explain to them the importance of the Pope’s visit.”

Traditionally, priests have washed the feet of sub-deacons, clergy or laymen, as the ceremony is a memorial of Christ offering an example of service to his apostles.

The Code of Canon Law states that only men (viri selecti) can have their feet washed, so the Pope’s decision to perform the ceremony with young prisoners, none of whom are yet men and only a few are Catholic, has caused some controversy. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register March 28 that details on whose feet the Holy Father will wash will be given after the Mass. He added that Muslims “normally participate with the others in the prison’s religious activities.”


Humble Context

The Vatican has pointed out that when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate the Mass in a prison or hospital or hospice for the poor and marginalized, and he washed the feet of 12 people who were residing in these institutions. “With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue his custom, which is characterized by its humble context,” the Vatican said.

The Vatican is also playing down the suggestion that the Pope chose to visit the prison because he had not yet taken possession of the Lateran basilica.

“Even if he were washing the feet in the Lateran [basilica], I don’t think he’d be choosing 12 priests; he’d be choosing 12 sick people or 12 homeless people to have their feet washed,” said a Vatican spokesman. “This is a convenient way of doing it, but I don’t know to what degree not taking possession of St. John Lateran has to do with this. He could have done it in St. Peter’s Basilica.”

Concelebrating the Mass will be Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, and Father Greco. The Vatican says the Pope will meet all the prisoners, who will give him a wooden crucifix and kneeler that they made themselves in the prison workshop. The Pope will bring Easter eggs and colomba — the traditional Italian Easter cake in the shape of a dove — for the detainees and staff.

Given the intimate nature of the pastoral visit, the Vatican has said media is restricted, and there will be no live coverage.


Good Friday and Easter

On Good Friday, the Pope will lead the celebration of the Lord’s Passion in the Vatican Basilica at 5pm, followed by the Via Crucis at the Colosseum, beginning at 9:15pm. This year, Benedict XVI decided the meditations on the 14 traditional Stations of the Cross would be prepared by two Lebanese youth under the direction of Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Alongside them are illustrations by a 19th-century Palestinian Franciscan artist.

Pope Francis will then celebrate his first Easter vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning at 8:30pm.

On Easter Sunday, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass at 10:15am, before delivering his traditional  blessing urbi et orbi (to the city of Rome and to the world) at noon.

It’s not clear yet whether the Pope will deliver the address from the balcony of St. Peter’s, as he may decide to again break with tradition in order to be more at the same level as the people.

So far, he has differed from past popes by choosing not to wear the usual papal vestments on the night of his election, traveling by bus with other cardinals after the conclave and wearing black instead of the traditional red papal shoes.

On Tuesday, he said he would rather stay in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse, until further notice, rather than move into the Apostolic Palace. The initial plan was for the Pope to stay there only on a temporary basis until the Apostolic Palace renovations were completed.

Each of these moves is consistent with the Holy Father’s life as an archbishop and in line with his personal humility and wish for simplicity, which he sees as a more effective way of evangelization.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.


Pope Francis to Make Side Trip Home?


VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis may be visiting more than just Rio de Janeiro when he travels to the Brazilian city for World Youth Day in July.

Popefrancis1Vatican officials are currently mulling the possibility of a stop in the Pope’s native Argentina on the same trip, partly in a bid to ease possible significant logistical challenges.

Yesterday, the Holy Father confirmed via Twitter that he would be traveling to Rio. Before stepping down, Benedict XVI had intended to attend the event that was expected to attract as many as 2.5 million attendees.

But now, with the Church’s first Latin-American pope, Brazilian civil and Church authorities have revised those estimates, placing the number of estimated visitors at 3.5 million or more.

Vatican sources say 1 million Argentinians alone may now travel to Brazil if the Pope doesn’t visit Buenos Aires. Brazil’s organizing officials have been urging the Vatican to add the Argentine capital onto the Pope’s itinerary for the July trip, thereby, they hope, persuading large numbers of Argentines to refrain from traveling the short distance to Rio.

Brazilian officials have become increasingly anxious about their capacity to handle the influx of millions of visitors. Already the proposed venue for the July 23-28 event will be held some distance south of the city in an open field. Organizers are hoping a music concert, organized right after the Church event, will keep many of the young faithful at the venue, thereby allowing a smooth and more orderly winding down of the massive gathering.

The theme for WYD Rio 2013 is taken after Jesus’ command, “Go and make disciples of all peoples.” The official program will be announced in late April.

For the Pope’s part, Vatican sources say he is concerned about returning to Argentina too quickly. Both he and Church officials are also said to be concerned that his visit would interfere with Argentinian elections, which are slated for the fall.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner invited the Pope to visit Argentina when they met privately March 18. The Holy Father said his calendar was full during the dates she suggested but that he would try to make time. As cardinal, Pope Francis had a number of significant disputes with the president and her government.


Not Unprecedented

For a pope to visit his native country so soon after being elected would not be unusual. In 2005, Benedict XVI attended World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, just five months after his election. And John Paul II first visited his native Poland in July 1979, nine months after he became Pope. The visit was believed to have been historic, leading to the Solidarity movement.

Several activities have already been planned for Pope Francis in Brazil, including a visit to a favela (slum) and meetings with bishops and other groups.

Organizers are also looking at the possibility that the Pope will visit other Brazilian cities during his trip, such as Aparecida, where the nation’s shrine to the Virgin Mary is located.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is expected to meet Pope Francis in the capital of Brasilia, according to a government official. A spokesman also said that the Brazilian government intends to sign an agreement with the Pope, the first in history, to battle poverty.

High on the list of priorities for the Pope will probably be the rise of Pentecostal sects in Latin America and encroaching secularism. The number of faithful in many Latin-American countries, including Brazil — the most Catholic-populated country in the world — has fallen by nearly a quarter in the past 13 years.

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

Interview with Magdi Allam from 2008


Magdi Allam, the prominent Egyptian-born former Muslim who was very publicly received into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s basilica 2008, has said he’s leaving the Church because it is too “weak with Islam.”

Here is the full length unpublished interview I made with Allam just a few days after his famous baptism. An abridged version was published in the Register April, 1, 2008.

I remember that at the time it didn’t seem that Catholicism was an attraction to him so much as a rejection of Islam. One sentence in the interview says it all: “If I hadn’t accrued a negative assessment of Islam, I wouldn’t have converted.”

When did you first consider becoming a Catholic? Who influenced you the most?

It’s been a long process that I first became aware of when I was four years old. It began in Cairo, the city of my birth, and attending a school there run by Catholic religious. First it was a school run by Comboni sisters devoted magdi-allamto St Joseph and then by Salesians, the Institute of Don Bosco in Cairo. During these years, from when I was 4 until I was 18 years old, I lived inside these Catholic schools, and this allowed me to become aware of the reality of the religion, it allowed me to share in the lives of Catholic religious and lay figures, to read the Bible and the Gospels, to assist at Mass. No one tried to convert me to Christianity, but certainly I came to know Catholic Christianity then. My path became clearer after I arrived in Italy in 1972 when I was 20 years old. In the last years, two experiences accelerated my path [to conversion]. The first was 5 years ago when I found myself escorted under armed guard because of threats from extremists and Islamic terrorists. This situation forced me to reflect not only on the reality of Islamic extremism, but also Islam as a religion. The second experience was meeting many well known Catholics, and simply ordinary Catholic people, who convinced me of the goodness of the religion found through living a life in communion. Their faith and their actions corresponded with the common good. The person who influenced me more than any other in determining my conversion to Catholicism was certainly this Pope, Benedict XVI, in indicating that the indissoluble union of faith and reason is fundamental to authentic religion, and to an authentic civilisation.

And his address at the University of Regensburg played a key role, too?

Certainly. I am proud to have been one of the few Muslims in Italy working for a national newspaper who stood firm in defending the Pope after his discourse in Regensburg on 12th September 2006. I didn’t only defend him in the name of freedom of expression, I also defended the content of what he said, believing that it corresponded to the truth on an historical and scientific level. So I am proud to have always been greatly consistent in agreeing with the Pope in these confrontations, both when I was a Muslim and when I converted a few days ago.

How did you come to be baptised by the Pope – were you selected, or did you put your name forward?

About one year ago, I began a spiritual course to enter into the Catholic Church with Bishop Reno Fisichella, the rector of the PontificalLateranUniversity. Bishop Fisichella is near to the Pope, close to his level of spirituality, to his level of ideals. It’s been through the mediation of Bishop Fisichella that the availability of the Pope was verified and became certain. When he [the Pope] was presented with the possibility of baptizing me at the Easter Vigil, he accepted straight away to impart on me the sacraments. So I wasn’t sought out, that wouldn’t have been possible. No, and I never thought for a moment when I decided to become a Catholic that such a positive thing could happen.

Muslims, and even some notable Catholics in the Middle East, say your decision to be baptised by the Pope looks like triumphalism, that it’s provocative, and that you manipulated the Pope to make your own statement about Islam. What do you say to these reactions?

I am really baffled that they consider the baptism of a Muslim to Christianity a provocation, and that the image of the Pope baptising a Muslim should make this fact even more serious. It’s as if the baptism of a Muslim is something shameful, so much so that they’d have preferred it if I was baptised in a particular distant parish, away from the people, because it’s better that people don’t know about it. I am proud to be a convert to Catholicism and to have publicly affirmed it in a solemn way. I believe the Pope has done his duty correctly in welcoming someone like me into the Catholic religion, someone who has freely and responsibly chosen to join himself with Jesus Christ. To insinuate that the Pope has been manipulated, which even some Catholics think, is not only wrong but offensive to the Pope. To imagine that the Pope would let himself be manipulated makes him out to be a man of insufficient reason, who acts only instinctively. I believe the Pope in this circumstance has shown himself to be a great Pope because he has set himself above the fray, that is to say, he has put faith and reason before other diplomatic and political considerations. I believe one should have respect for the actions of the Pope, that one should calmly and proudly accept the baptism of Muslims, just as one should calmly accept the opposite, when non-Muslims convert to Islam. In Europe, there are thousands who have converted to Islam and no one says anything. No one is allowed to criticise them, or threaten them, but if just one Muslim converts to Christianity, immediately he is sentenced to death for apostasy. That’s happening now in Europe – not in Saudi Arabia. If we in Europe are not at the stage of defending religious liberty, including the right of a Muslim to convert to the Christian religion or any other faith, then I’d say we have lost our battle for civilisation and liberty.

But through your baptism, did you perhaps want to give a message that today Christianity doesn’t use violence to convert, but Islam still does?

I would like to be very clear: I am absolutely in favour of dialogue with Muslims as people. I believe not only are we able to, but we must dialogue with all Muslims who share those values that give a sense of our humanity, starting from the sacredness of life, from the dignity of the human person, freedom of choice, including religious liberty. So I am not for a war of religion, or a war of civilizations, but at the same time I believe that it’s my legitimate right as a Catholic Christian to have a negative assessment of Islam. If I hadn’t accrued a negative assessment of Islam, I wouldn’t have converted. If I thought Islam was a good religion, a religion of moderation, I would have remained a Muslim, but I converted so evidently I think differently.

You’ve said that “the root of evil is inherent in an Islam that is physiologically violent and historically conflictive”. That being the case, do you think there is such a thing as “moderate” Islam, or is it a myth?

We have to distinguish between persons and religions. People are not automatic products of the dogmas of their faith, they’re not like fruits of a tree. In reality, people are more complex. Each person is different, has his own particular relationship with his religion that can be more or less intense. Each person expresses his life in the context of his religious experience differently, but human experience is fragile, whether in culture, whether bound to an economic situation, to familiar conditions, to juridical and political situations, to where one lives. I am convinced there are moderate Muslims, that there are Muslims who share rules that allow for coexistence. But at the same time I am convinced that when scrutinises the basis of Islam (I’m speaking here only about the religious sphere and do not condemn its people) there are not the conditions within it, because there is an incompatibility with some non-negotiable values. Islam is a religion that has always been plural because it’s had within it a myriad of souls. But as a religion it’s never been pluralist, it’s not been democratic. And between a multiplicity of souls, it’s never been a religion of reciprocal acceptance and respect. So this is how historically it’s been a religion that has always been in conflict internally, before being that way with the world outside. It’s enough to think that three of the four successors of Mohammed were assassinated by Muslims because they were contrary to the way they considered Islam, their way of exercising power. So the path towards a caliphate has always come through war, but war is internal to Islam. That is its history; these are truths that one cannot deny.

Do you think Islam can ultimately be reformed?

I don’t want to put limits on Providence, but as a Muslim of 56 years, I couldn’t be sure of the possibility of internal reform in Islam, that it could fully render itself compatible with the values and principles that I consider inalienable and inviolable. My wish is that it can happen, but what we should certainly interest us is not how much Islam can undergo internal reform, but whether coexistence with Muslims is possible and that they can abide by common rules, and these rules should be based on those values that, as an expression of our humanity, are absolute values, universal and transcendent to those who have faith in God.

What do you say to those Catholics in Muslim majority states who feel their lives are perhaps at greater risk on account of your baptism?

We should free ourselves from the common assumption that the violence of extremism and Islamic terrorism is reactive, that is to say, it’s due to provocation and is incited. This globalized Islamic terrorism is aggressive in nature. September 11th, 2001, didn’t happen because the United States had perpetrated something against Bin Laden. It was an act of war, an act of aggression against the United States. Today, Christians in the Middle East, Muslim countries, in Iraq, are being slaughtered. They’re being persecuted in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon. All of these things haven’t happened because they were provoked by the Pope. They kill them because they consider the use of violence to be legitimate against all those who do not resemble them. Therefore, it’s not true they have a need, that they have a pretext to let loose their violence. They manipulate events to say: “It’s the fault of the Pope, it’s the fault of Magdi Allam, and because of that, we can behave in a certain way.” But they’re already doing it: since 1945, around 10 million Christians have abandoned the Middle East. In the countries on the southern shores of the eastern Mediterranean, there were 1 million Jews; today there are about 1,000.  All this happened because of the reality of intolerance and violence towards those who are not Muslim.

Only a few days before your baptism, Bin Laden said the Pope was pursuing a crusade against Islam. Do you think your baptism plays into his hands, that it makes it look as though the Pope is embarking on a crusade when he is not?

Bin Laden is the ideological head of a globalized Islamic terrorist network. We are talking about a criminal, the most hunted man on earth, who has massacred thousands of people, a man who legitimised the indiscriminate killing of all people who do not submit to his power. We cannot in any way legitimise such a person and consider him in negotiations. The Pope hasn’t launched a crusade. The Pope is affirming values based on his beliefs. He is doing what that his faith calls him to do and he is doing it with absolute peaceful means, with completely legal means, and keeping very much in mind Christians in Muslim countries who are being persecuted and killed by those who think like Bin Laden.

Pope Francis: Christ Died for Each Person


A-9VATICAN CITY 23 March 2013: In his homily at a Mass this morning for Vatican employees in the residence where he is temporarily staying, Pope Francis offered a brief reflection on the liturgical readings of the day and, in particular, the passage of the Gospel of John (11, 45-56).

The passage contains remarks from  the high priest Caiaphas to the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered in council, and this comment of the evangelist: “Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Jesus died for his people and for all, but this, the Pope noted, shouldn’t be taken to mean in a global sense. It means that Jesus died for each person individually. Every Christian must therefore say, “Christ died for me.”

This is the ultimate expression of the love of Jesus for all people, the Pope said.  And the awareness of this love, he added, should give birth to gratitude – a gratitude so deep and passionate that it could even transform into tears of joy on the faces of all the faithful.

Concelebrating with the Pope were Cardinal Raúl Eduardo Vela Chiriboga, retired archbishop of Quito in Ecuador, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the College of Cardinals and the Congregation for Bishops, Monsignors Alfred Xuereb and Battista Ricca, director of the Domus Sancthae Marthae.

Among those attending were the sisters of the Domus and the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Guzman Carriquiry, with his wife.

The Holy Father is celebrating Mass daily for the staff while he resides there until the apostolic palace renovations are complete.

Pope Francis and Foreign Affairs – What to Expect



Perhaps the Same Priorities, But a Different Style

By Edward Pentin – ZENIT: When it comes to international relations, Pope Francis’ priorities are unlikely to greatly differ from those of Pope Benedict XVI. But his difference in style could potentially harvest abundant fruit in terms of bringing others to Christ and strengthening ties with the Holy See.

Like his immediate predecessors, Francis is expected to continue to stand up for persecuted Christians, religious freedom and conscience rights. He will take up the challenge of reminding the world not to eliminate God from the public square.

He will carry on working to build up relations with Jews, Muslims and followers of other religions, finding areas of common ground on which to collaborate. And he will probably endeavor to build diplomatic relations with states that have no formal ties with the Holy See, most notably with China and Saudi Arabia.

His Franciscan emphasis promises to be a strong attraction, protecting the poor, promoting peace, safeguarding creation and overall presenting the world with a truly Catholic vision of justice and peace. Furthermore, the simplicity with which Pope Francis is likely to apply those values in dealing with world issues — always with Christ placed at the center — promises to be highly effective.

But it is his openness, warmth and spontaneity, coupled with uncompromising fidelity to the Magisterium, which could have the biggest impact.

Speaking on background to ZENIT, a Vatican diplomat said he foresaw continuity with Benedict’s ever-present desire to spread the message of the Gospel and help people to know Christ. But in addition, the official said he believes people could become even “more conscious of the grace they have received” due to Francis’ warmth and closeness to the people.

“Pope Francis has all the qualities to be a very good diplomat because the most important thing in a diplomat is to love the people and to love God,” he said. “But he is also strong on doctrine without losing that openness and closeness to the people.” He stressed that without being close to the people, “it can seem like a pretense, or arrogance.”

As Pope, Francis has tried to show this closeness by shunning some of the visual trappings of papal power and placing himself among the people.

He showed this again on Wednesday when he addressed fraternal delegates with respect, in particular by referring to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as “my brother Andrew” — an allusion to the patriarchs of Constantinople as successors of the Apostle Andrew.

But Pope Francis also used the occasion to underline how important it is to maintain good relations with non-Catholics, and placed emphasis on the importance of “friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions.”

Such an approach was clearly a hallmark of his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires. After addressing the delegations on Wednesday, the Argentine Jewish and Muslim representatives embraced Pope Francis like a dear old friend. His relations also remain cordial with President Cristina Kirchner: Despite the fact that the two recently locking horns over same-sex “marriage” and other issues, they met privately and lunched together last week.

Vatican sources say many delegations attending Pope Francis’s inaugural Mass were “very happy” after meeting him immediately following the ceremony. So much so, that even Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe told reporters on his return from Rome that he wants Pope Francis to visit Africa because he is “a man of God who will be praying for all of us, praying for the sinful world to repent.” Mugabe, long accused of systematic human rights abuses, even urged reporters to go to church, lead a morally guided life, and avoid heavy drinking, according to an AP report.

As a Pope who is able and wants to be among the people, Pope Francis is expected to continue a tradition of making foreign trips begun by Paul VI. He’s already received a number of invitations, including of course one to Argentina. It’s thought, however, that he won’t be visiting the country before or after World Youth Day in Rio in July, but toward the end of the year, in order to avoid elections taking place at that time.

In terms of intervening in disputes, such as that over the Falkland Islands between Argentina and Britain, officials believe he will take the usual papal position and remain neutral. The British government is known not to be happy with comments Francis made as cardinal (like most Argentines, he said the islands were “usurped” by Britain), but it remains respectful of the Pope.

The Holy Father may adopt a mediatory role if the dispute again deteriorates into a military conflict, but in such a case, he will probably assign a neutral Vatican diplomat to mediate, as Blessed John Paul II successfully did when Argentina and Chile clashed over disputed islands in the Beagle Channel in the 1980s.

Pope Francis is likely to continue Benedict’s efforts and try to forge diplomatic ties with states such as Saudi Arabia and China. His familiar style and natural diplomatic skills may bring him more success in this area.

But Vatican sources say this won’t be a priority for him; rather his focus will be on the internal workings of the Church. That naturally includes the Roman Curia, which many see as needing reform, particularly in the realm of improving internal communications between the Vatican Secretariat of State, missions to the Holy See and other dicasteries.

But stories of power struggles, worldly ambition and turf wars in the Vatican are being overplayed, say some officials, and they don’t recognize the reports of widespread scandal. One senior official in the Secretariat of State told ZENIT he learned about the whole Vatileaks affair in the newspapers, and the controversy didn’t impinge on his daily life at all.

“They’re the sort of problems that go on anywhere, but it’s not been my experience,” he said, although he did imply efficiency could be improved with regards communication — possibly pointing to why he hadn’t heard of incidents of malpractice.

“We relate to our superiors, and not horizontally, so we don’t know very much of what’s going on in other sections,” he explained. “We have no direct access to what goes on in other dicasteries or other parts of the Secretariat of State. Indeed, there have been times I’ve read in newspapers what was happening down the corridor.”

The Curial diplomat also said he and his colleagues were hard working, and that in their free time, they spend time in a parish and carry out pastoral work. “There’s collaboration among us, and I don’t see corruption around, though of course all of us have to convert every day,” he said. “It’s not a job for us, it’s a vocation, and we’re happy to serve the Church here and try to do our best.”

A better picture of Pope Francis’s priorities in terms of Holy See diplomacy will emerge on Friday, when he addresses diplomats accredited to the Holy See. Also highly significant will be who he chooses as Secretary of State, Secretary for Relations with States (the Holy See’s “foreign minister) and other key positions.

So far, he has reappointed these only on a temporary basis, and a raft of new appointments is expected in the coming weeks.

(March 21, 2013) © Innovative Media Inc.

The Inauguration of Pope Francis Focuses on St. Joseph and Protecting Others in Love


VATICAN CITY: “Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!”

With this emphasis on caring for and protecting one another and creation, Pope Francis officially began his Petrine ministry this morning in the presence of up to 200,000 pilgrims who had gathered for Mass in a chilly, blustery-but-sunny St. Peter’s Square.


Photo: Edward Pentin

He began his homily by expressing the faithful’s closeness to Benedict XVI, “with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude,” and noting that today is the Solemnity of St. Joseph — “a significant coincidence,” given Benedict’s baptismal name is Joseph.

The mission God entrusted to St. Joseph, Pope Francis said, was to be “custos, the protector” of Mary, Jesus and the Church. He exercised that role, Francis said, “discreetly, humbly and silently” and always “with loving care.” And he did so, he added, “by being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.”

Joseph is a “protector,” he went on to explain, because he is “able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will”; and for this reason, “he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping.”

“He can look at things realistically; he is in touch with his surroundings; he can make truly wise decisions,” Pope Francis said, adding that we see in Joseph “the core of the Christian vocation,” which is to “protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation.”

But he stressed that this vocation is not limited to Christians: It is simply a “human dimension,” involving everyone. “It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live,” he said. “It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”

This protection means “building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect and goodness,” he continued, and he implored the faithful to be “protectors of God’s gifts!”

He told the crowd — who included world leaders such as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and 31 heads of government — that whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility “the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.” Tragically, he said, “in every period of history there are ‘Herods’ who plot death, wreak havoc and mar the countenance of men and women.”

The Holy Father also called on each person to keep watch over his or her emotions and heart and to “not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” Indeed, he stressed, caring and protecting “demands goodness” and “calls for a certain tenderness.”

St. Joseph, he noted, is a “strong and courageous man, a working man; yet, in his heart, we see great tenderness” — a sign of strength of spirit and “a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.”


The Power of Service

The Pope also explained how the power bestowed by Jesus on Peter and his successors is one of service.

“Authentic power is service,” he said, and, when exercising power, one must “enter ever more fully into that service, which has its radiant culmination on the cross.” It is a “lowly, concrete and faithful service,” he added, that must “protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”

Only those who serve with love are able to protect, the Pope said.

He also noted that, amid so much darkness today, there is a need “to be men and women who bring hope to others,” a hope that is “built on the rock which is God.”

The service of the Bishop of Rome, and that of each person, he concluded, is “to protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves.”

Emphasized the Pope: “Let us protect with love all that God has given us!”

Pope Francis closed by imploring the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Francis, so that the Holy Spirit will accompany him in his ministry. And, as he has frequently done since his election, he made a point of asking all the faithful to pray for him.


Making His Entrance

The inauguration began with Pope Francis taking his first ride in the popemobile, during which he was greeted with loud cheers as he slipped into St. Peter’s Square shortly before 9am. As he passed onlookers, he kissed babies and even descended from the open-top jeep to bless a man with a physical disability.

He then entered St. Peter’s Basilica, while trumpets announced the “Tu es Petrus,” and venerated the tomb of St. Peter, together with the patriarchs and major archbishops of the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches. The Pope was then presented with the papal pallium, ring and Book of the Gospels that were placed at St. Peter’s tomb the night before, before processing back into the square.

There, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the protodeacon, placed the pallium on the Pope’s shoulders, a prayer was recited by Cardinal Godfried Daneels, protopresbyter, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, presented the Pope’s “Fisherman’s Ring.” Six cardinals each then made a symbolic act of obedience on behalf of all the other cardinals.

Latino Catholics in attendance were particularly excited about the inauguration ceremony.

“Today, everyone feels Argentinian, or at least us Latin Americans do,” Peruvian priest Father Jose Tola told Catholic News Agency.


Cardinal O’Brien

Speaking to the Register after the Mass, American Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, archbishop emeritus of Baltimore and grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, said he thought the Mass “was very dignified, appropriate in every way,” and he “greatly valued the Pope’s words.”

“Everything he says is almost a commentary on St. John,” he said.

Benjamin Harnwell, director of the Rome-based Diginitatis Humanae Institute, drew attention to the Pope’s description of St. Joseph being “constantly attentive” to God. “I think this ‘attentiveness’ will be the watchword of his pontificate — and the injunction not to be afraid of tenderness,” Harnwell said.

Recalling the many invitations to pray for a Pope whom the faithful need rather than deserve, Harnwell said that, even though this new papacy is less than a week old, “for me at least, I think it is clear that God heard, and answered, our request.”

“It was an awe-inspiring event today,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the leader of the U.S. congressional delegation to the inauguration. “It was powerful. You could feel the electricity in the square and in front of St. Peter’s.”

Smith, who is the chairman of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, was struck by the Holy Father’s focus on helping those in need.

“He talked about Matthew Chapter 25, about caring for the least of us,” he said. “He was speaking about identifying with the poor.”

Summed up Smith, “It was a holy moment.”


Call to Benedict

This evening, Pope Francis telephoned Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI to wish him a happy name day and to again express his gratitude to him for his service to the Church.

“The conversation was wide-ranging and cordial,” the Vatican said. “The pope emeritus has followed the events of these days with intense interest, and in particular the celebration this morning, and assures his successor his continued closeness in prayer.”

Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

March 19, 2013
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Pope Francis’s Inaugural Mass Homily – Full Text


Pope Francis's inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square

Homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.

In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.


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Pope Francis Likely to Stay Out of Falklands Sovereignty


British newspapers were quick to dig up anything Pope Francis might have said about the Falkland Islands, but in this 15th March article for Newsmax, I explain the Argentine Pope is likely to keep a neutral position as the Successor of Peter and won’t explicitly mention the dispute again. This is even more likely after the Pope reminded journalists on Saturday that the Church is a spiritual and not a political institution.


FIHe’s only been Pontiff for two days, but Pope Francis has unwittingly found himself involved in a diplomatic dispute caused by remarks he made last year about the Falkland Islands, the disputed British territory in the South Atlantic.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future Pope is on record for having said that the territory belongs to Argentina.

He made the comments at a Mass in the Argentine capital last year to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Falklands War when Argentina’s military junta tried to take the territory by force.

Then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio told worshippers: “We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the homeland who went out to defend their mother, the homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs, that is of the homeland, and it was usurped.”

Asked about the comments at a press conference at the European Council summit in Brussels on Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Pope should “respect” the islanders’ referendum vote earlier this week, in which 99.8 percent said they wanted to remain under British rule. Only three people voted against with two spoiled ballot papers.

“The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear,” said Cameron, an Anglican. “I don’t agree with him — respectfully, obviously.

“There was a pretty extraordinarily clear referendum in the Falkland Islands. That is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these islands have chosen very clearly the future they want and that choice should be respected by everyone.”

Britain urged “all countries” to accept the result and respect the islanders’ views. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, however, responded by saying the wishes of the islanders are not relevant.

Kirchner is reported to have already tried to recruit Pope Francis in her efforts to take control of the Falkland Islands and renew international pressure for talks.

Pope Francis’ views on the Falklands are to be expected. For most Argentines, the idea that the Falkland Islands — or the “Malvinas” as they call them — belong to them has been ingrained from an early age.

With the exception of the Argentine invasion in 1982, Britain argues it has had continuous administration of the islands since 1833, in accordance with the people’s wishes. Argentina maintains it gained the territory from Spain, after independence in 1816, and that the UK illegally occupied them in 1833.

Argentina has been reasserting its claim to the islands since 1945 and the creation of the United Nations.

But the Pope is highly unlikely to intervene in the dispute. Like Benedict XVI, he will try to stay away from engaging directly in the politics of his homeland, including its foreign affairs.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict had made some of his views on foreign policy explicit, such as opposing Turkey’s entry into the European Union. But he never reiterated such a controversial view as Pope, and even appeared to change his mind on the issue.

Pope Francis may choose to exert some influence through diplomatic channels, but only to help further a diplomatic solution. Vatican observers believe any public support will not be forthcoming, especially given the referendum result.

Furthermore, in spite of the Pope’s views, Catholics on the Falkland Islands want the new Argentine pontiff to visit the territory, according to a Brazilian newspaper. Parish priest Fr. Michael Bernard McPartland, 73, told the newspaper Folha de São Paulo: “If the Pope goes to Argentina, he should come here too.

“It is wonderful that a Latin American has been chosen,” he said. “In a few months it will not matter where he’s from. A pope is a pope, he is universal.”

During the Falklands war, McPartland negotiated with the Argentinian troops to continue celebrating Mass in English. “The church stayed apart from the conflict, seeking to receive all, as we continue doing today,” he said.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Pope Francis: A Welcome Surprise to the Faithful


Photo taken of Cardinal Bergoglio a number of years ago.

VATICAN CITY — Uncertainty quickly gave way to elation among the faithful that thronged St. Peter’s Square as the name of Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was announced from the loggia of the basilica.

Few of the 100,000-strong crowd who had gathered to welcome the successor to Benedict XVI were expecting the 76-year-old Argentine cardinal to become Pope in this election. Delight seemed initially to mix with some bewilderment as people took in the name. But quickly shouts of “Fran-ce-sco” from the Roman-heavy international crowd signaled the Italians had already taken him to their hearts, helped by the fact that he has Italian ancestry.

Many Vatican watchers were predicting a younger candidate than  Cardinal Bergoglio, who is 76 and lives with one lung (although it’s a condition he has had for many years). It was reported the Argentine cardinal allegedly came in second in the conclave of 2005 that elevated Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy. But the history of the popes is rife with vital elder statesmen. Pope John XXIII, who convened the Second Vatican Council, was elected right before he turned 76 and Benedict XVI was elected at 78.

One of those surprised by the result was the Vatican’s Jesuit spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, who knows Pope Francis, though not well. “I’m in shock,” he told reporters shortly after the election. “I’m shocked that he [the new Pope] is from Latin America, and by his name.”

Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope in the order’s history, the first Pope from the Americas, and the first ever pontiff to take the name Francis. Members of the Society of Jesus are called to be servants of the servants of the Church, but until now not to be in such authoritative positions. For this reason, Father Lombardi said he found it “a little strange to have a Jesuit as Pope,” but he was clearly moved and delighted by the news.

He also thought the name appropriate — after St. Francis of Assisi. “The choice of the name Francis is very meaningful,” he said. “It is a name that has never been chosen before and evokes simplicity and an evangelical witness.”

Father Lombardi also noted it was “beautiful that he asked the people to pray for him and bowed to receive their blessing before blessing them.”


‘Extraordinary Election’

“This is an extraordinary election,” said Alejandro Bermudez, editor in chief of Latin America’s largest online Catholic news service ACI Prensa, and founder of the U.S.-based Catholic News Agency. “He is absolutely comfortable in his own skin.  He’s incredibly minimalistic. He showed up without the mozetta (when he appeared at the loggia). He came out wearing plain white.  And his choice of the name Francis is completely humble.”

Pope Francis telephoned Benedict XVI this evening and will visit him soon. The new Pope will celebrate the Angelus on Sunday, and will have an audience with journalists at the Vatican on Saturday morning. Tomorrow he will celebrate his first Mass with cardinals, and his inauguration Mass is expected to take place on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, in St. Peter’s.

A man of deep simplicity and humility, Pope Francis used to cook for himself, ride buses to work, and cared for a disabled priest in addition to all his other duties as archbishop of Buenos Aires. But he also made a point of never wanting to live in the Vatican and resisted invitations from John Paul II to work in the Curia, saying he would “die there” if he was sent to Rome.

“He’s incredibly learned and a serious theologian,” said Bermudez.  “He’s known for being critical of the Curia.”

“If we thought Benedict was an introvert, we all need to be prepared for the real thing now,” said Roger McCaffrey, an American Catholic publisher who was familiar with the Holy Father when he served as a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. But as head of the Jesuit province in Argentina from 1973 to 1979, he acquired a reputation for being a tough administrator and for “cleaning house” — something the cardinal electors are likely to have noted in their deliberations in light of the need to reform the Roman Curia.

Speaking to the Register in St. Peter’s Square just after the white smoke appeared, Cardinal Jozef Tomko, one of the three cardinals to head the commission of enquiry into Vatileaks, made the point that it is Christ who ultimately guides the Church, but it was his “great hope” that the new Vicar of Christ will set about reforming the Curia.


Pro-Life, Pro-Family and Pro-Poor

Cardinal Bergoglio was known to be vibrantly pro-life, describing the pro-abortion movement as a “culture of death,” using the term coined by the man who made him a cardinal in 2001, Pope John Paul II. He opposed the free distribution of contraceptives in Argentina, staunchly defended the rights of the poor and chastised material inequality — he would frequently visit the slums in Buenos Aires —  and spoke out strongly against same-sex “marriage.”

In 2010, he firmly opposed a bill giving same-sex couples the opportunity to marry and adopt children, saying it will “seriously damage the family” should it be approved. He made the statement in a letter addressed to each of the four monasteries in Argentina, asking the contemplatives to pray “fervently” that legislators be strengthened to do the right thing.

“At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children,” he wrote. “At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

The new Pope will face many competing concerns when he takes up residence in the Apostolic Palace, not least increasing secularism. He will also have to confront the sexual abuse crisis, and the possibility that more cases will come to light in countries that have so far escaped notice.


Other Challenges

Pope Francis will also have to face a host of other challenges, such as protecting and promoting religious freedom in the Middle East, India and China, not to mention conscience rights in the United States and Europe.

In his own Latin America, he will have to contend with the loss of Church members to Pentecostal sects. In Africa and Asia, where the Church is expanding rapidly, he will face the challenges of the effects of poverty, globalization and inculturation.

On the ecumenical front, the new Pope can be expected to continue work on improving relations with the Orthodox, Anglicans and Jews, while continuing Benedict XVI’s work in interreligious dialogue, particularly with Islam, all the while bolstered by prayers of hundreds of millions of the faithful.

Given all the challenges that lay ahead, it is perhaps fitting he chose the name of the saint whom Christ urged, “Rebuild my Church.”


Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.

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