It’s been almost two months since the Habemus Papam (we have a pope) phrase was uttered from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina became Pope Francis I.
Formerly the Archbishop and Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Francis is a member of the Society of Jesus – AKA the Jesuits. There has never been a Jesuit pope in the 1,000-plus year history of the Catholic Church, largely due to the fact that Jesuits are normally discouraged from seeking higher office in the church. Instead, the Vatican sends Jesuits to some of the poorest, most destitute places in the world in order to share the light and hope that is found in Christ. The group was also instrumental in helping bring reform to the Church through Vatican II.
The Jesuits are also well known for their rich intellectual history; they were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534. Ignatius was a discharged soldier and a university student in Paris who gathered a group of fellow students and formed the Society of Jesus. To this day, many Jesuit colleges and universities still exist worldwide. In America, the most notable ones are Georgetown, Marquette, Gonzaga, and Boston College.
So what are my thoughts on Francis? First off, I love the guy’s passion for the poor. Both in Argentina and as the Bishop of Rome, Francis has shown genuine compassion and a healthy desire to help the “least of these.” He chooses to live in the Vatican guest house rather than the official papal residency. He’s shown the heart of a servant throughout his tenure as archbishop, cardinal, and now pope. Francis even caused controversy when he washed the feet of two Muslim women while visiting a prison during Holy Week. That shouldn’t cause controversy. On the contrary, I applaud Francis’s desire to build bridges among believers and non-believers alike.
Francis has also shown sincere desire to bring the Church out of the sex abuse scandals that marked the tenure of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Francis’s supporters are positive about what he will do to repair the image of the priesthood.
I saw an article on CNN recently (even though I don’t normally bother reading stuff from them), and it summed up the first month of Francis’s papacy well. It also compared him favorably to his predecessors:
“In contrast with John Paul and Benedict, Francis doesn’t seem capable of greeting anyone without a big, sincere smile and whenever given the choice between clerical privilege and everyday human experience, he opts for the human.”
That’s what I love about Francis – he’s a genuine, warm-hearted, God-fearing man. He has a heart for the poor and to love them as Jesus did. He mingled with the faithful in St. Peter’s Square after he was elected, rather than standing up on a pedestal.
Jack Persico, a blogger for the British paper The Guardian, is a staunch atheist. However, he had nothing but positive things to say about Pope Francis:
“This pope is a rebel with a cause: to alleviate the suffering of the other 1%, those at the lowest rung of society. It’s a mission somehow radical and conservative at the same time…With a reformist pope, things are changing and already, the humbuggery about “family values” has given way to a real issue. Francis is focusing on poverty, which, like death and taxes, is a scourge that will always be with us. But when more people worldwide have cell phones than toilets – leaving 2.5 billion people without sanitation – it’s a sign we’ve lost our moral compass…..I want a pope who gets things done, when no one else can, for people no one else helps. I want Pope Batman. ‘Let us never forget that authentic power is service,’ Francis said in his inaugural mass, urging action for ‘the poorest, the weakest, the least important’.
How refreshing. Too often, religious devotion is measured by obedience to doctrine, when it should be about outcomes.”
I see great things in store for the world as long as Francis is pontiff. He is truly a unifier, a crusader for the poor, and most importantly, a man who can point others to Jesus. Bless him and his mission of faith, hope, and love!