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Pope Francis: strong points…
There are always occasions in our lives when we experience an event in a way we would never have expected.Such an occasion for me was the 13th March 2013, that is six years ago, the day Pope Francis was chosen as Pope, as head of the Roman Catholic Worldwide Church. The conclave of cardinals met in Rome to choose a successor tp Pope Benedict who had resigned, given his age, an event too that was also unexpected. The second occasion was following the Amazon Synod in Rome, thanks to my computer, during the month of October 2019.
The white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel on the 13th March 2013 indicated that the conclave had elected a Pope, and hundreds of people in Rome rushed to St Peter’s Square to see the Pope appear at the window in St Peter’s Basilica. He is a native of Argentina, the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and probably the first Pope who has also travelled so much to all parts of the globe in his first six years as Pope up to the present, an achievement that has certainly given him global status.
From the very moment I saw him, I sensed that he was a very humble pope. Francis’ words to the crowds, in St Peter’s Square, were words which were an acknowledgement of his "outsider" status, and a free recognition of his famous predecessor, St Francis of Assisi, whose name he took as Pope. Francis then said: "First, I would like to offer a prayer for Pope Benedict. Let us pray together for him". Then he said: "Before the Pope (speaking of himself) blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their bishop. Let us make this prayer for me, your prayer for me, and now, I will give the blessing to you, and the whole world, to all men and women of good will." His himility was very evident from the beginning of his papacy, and his decision to live in St Martha’s Hostel rather than in the Vatican indicates the choice of a very simple life.
When Pope Francis gives his definition of the church, it is again unexpected. He said: "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. My hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security" (Evangelii Gaudium). Pope Francis envisions a missionary church, one that opens doors to welcome people in, but also each one of us to step out and bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. As a Christian, it can be tempting to ramain within the safety of our parish and church community. However, Christ Himself also calls us "to go to all nations" ans encounter the hurting world. Pope Francis reminds us of this evangelisting Spirit entrusted us by Jesus Christ, and challenges us to be a churche on mission, one with open doors to welcome the starving, reminding us that Jesus does not tire of saying to us: "Givet them something to eat." (Mark : 6 :37).
During the six years since Pope Francis became Pope, he has concentrated on every aspect of God’s people. His first approach was to consecrated men and women to whom he addressed a letter in preparation for the Year dedicated to consecrated life. About their vocation, he says: "In calling you, God says to you: you are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you. Understanding and hearing this is the secret of our joy". Pope Francis directs our attention to the spiritual foundation of our humanity, to see what is given to us gratuitously by free divine sovereignty and free human response. Jesus said to the rich young man "Go sell everything and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come follow me." (Mt.10:21). Pope Francis in Evangellii Gaudium says : "I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come." It is interesting to discover that the people of the U.K. are currently involved with the new evangelisation.
When he called the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII said that he prayed that there would be a new Pentecost. The 16 documents produced bu the Council covered so many aspects of the life of the people of God, and would have needed a new Pentecost. Maybe we need a new Pentecost now to help with evangelisation throughout the globe which is now so near to us all, given the speed of travel today. We didn’t have a new Pentecost, but maybe when Pope Francis asked the people to point out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come he may have been thinking of another Vatican Council. The Pentecostal Churches are the fastest growing church in the world at present time, and forty per cent of the churches of Amazonia are Pentescostal.
The second special occasion I experienced was the Amazon Synod Meeting which took place in Rome during the month of October, 2019, the month of the rosary. Pope Francis has written an encyclical letter Laudato SI’ "On Care For Our Common Home." The cry of the poor, together of that of the earth, come to us from the Amazon, the Pope said during the Sunday Angelus address as the synod closed. "After these three weeks, we cannot pretend that we have not heard it. During the Synod, the participants reflected on how to open new paths to evangelisation. We felt spurred on to go out to sea to leave the comfotable shore of our safe harbours to enter deep waters, not into the marshy waters of ideologies, but into the open sea in which the Spirit invites us to throw out our nets. The synod members wrote "God has given us the earth as a gift and as a task, to care for it and to answer for it. Caring for the earth requires an integral ecology that connects the exercise of care for nature with the exercise for the most impoverished and disadvantaged people on earth."
Finally, Pope Francis, like Christ, is full of mercy for all people, and he will never condemn anyone, because he always says: "God is merciful," and pope Francis will always be merciful to God’s people.
Sister Josephine Egan, DHS, EIW Province. Published November 11, 2019.