Pope Francis’ Easter Urbi et Orbi message: Grant us life; grant us peace!

Easter urbi et orbi

Before a crowd of over 150,000 people in St. Peter’s Square this morning, April 20, 2014, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Easter Sunday. He did not deliver a homily during mass but gave the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) Message and Blessing to the crowd at the conclusion of mass.

Here is the English translation of “Urbi et Orbi” Easter Message and Blessing:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” (Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you.

Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.

Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.

Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.

Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.

We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.

We pray in a particular way for Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

We ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future.

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace!

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Photo: Pope Francis delivers his Easter blessing “urbi et orbi” from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican March 31, 2013. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters) (April 1, 2013)

Pope Francis’ homily at the Easter Vigil

Pope Francis holds a candle as he celebrates the Easter Vigil

19 April 2014  -  The Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ begins with the journey of the women to the tomb at dawn on the day after the Sabbath.  They go to the tomb to honour the body of the Lord, but they find it open and empty.  A mighty angel says to them: “Do not be afraid!” (Mt 28:5) and orders them to go and tell the disciples: “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee” (v. 7).  The women quickly depart and on the way Jesus himself meets them and says: “Do not fear; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (v. 10).

After the death of the Master, the disciples had scattered; their faith had been utterly shaken, everything seemed over, all their certainties had crumbled and their hopes had died.  But now that message of the women, incredible as it was, came to them like a ray of light in the darkness.  The news spread: Jesus is risen as he said.  And then there was his command to go to Galilee; the women had heard it twice, first from the angel and then from Jesus himself: “Let them go to Galilee; there they will see me”.

Galilee is the place where they were first called, where everything began!  To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called.  Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets.  He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).

To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory.  To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.

For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus.  “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.  To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey.  From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters.  That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.

In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission.  In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him.  It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.

Today, tonight, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee?  Where is my Galilee?  Do I remember it?  Have I forgotten it?  Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it?  Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.

The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection.  This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia.  It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.

“Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15; Is 8:23)!  Horizon of the Risen Lord, horizon of the Church; intense desire of encounter…  Let us be on our way!

 

- Photo Credit: (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Pope Francis holds a candle as he celebrates the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on March 30.

Daily Perspectives: Tues. April 15, 2015

Tonight on Perspectives: Pope Francis wishes all Jews a happy Passover, and prays for those affected by the wildfire in Valparaiso, Chile.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Gobierno de Chile

The Bare Facts and Bare Feet of the Last Supper

Bergoglio foot washing
by Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

Both the Jewish and Christian traditions view eating and feasting as more than simply an opportunity to refuel the body, enjoy certain delicacies, or celebrate a particular occasion. Eating and feasting became for both traditions, encounters with transcendent realities and even union with the divine. In the New Testament, so much of Jesus’ own ministry took place during meals at table.

Jesus attends many meals throughout the four Gospels: with Levi and his business colleagues, with Simon the Pharisee, with Lazarus and his sisters in Bethany, with Zacchaeus and the crowd in Jericho, with outcasts and centurions, with crowds on Galilean hillsides, and with disciples in their homes.

It is ultimately during the final meal that Jesus leaves us with his most precious gift in the Eucharist. The Scripture readings for Holy Thursday root us deeply in our Jewish past: celebrating the Passover with the Jewish people, receiving from St. Paul that which was handed on to him, namely the Eucharistic banquet, and looking at Jesus squarely in the face as he kneels before us to wash our feet in humble service. Instead of presenting to us one of the synoptic Gospel stories (Matthew, Mark, Luke) of the “institution” of the Eucharist, the Church offers us the disturbing posture of the Master kneeling before his friends to wash their feet in a gesture of humility and service.

As Jesus wraps a towel around his waist, takes a pitcher of water, stoops down and begins washing the feet of his disciples, he teaches his friends that liberation and new life are won not in presiding over multitudes from royal thrones nor by the quantity of bloody sacrifices offered on temple altars but by walking with the lowly and poor and serving them as a foot washer along the journey.

On this holy night of “institution,” as Jesus drank from the cup of his blood and stooped to wash feet, a new and dynamic, common bond was created with his disciples and with us. It is as though the whole history of salvation ends tonight just as it begins — with bare feet and the voice of God speaking to us through his own flesh and blood: “As I have done for you, so you must also do.” The washing of the feet is integral to the Last Supper. It is John’s way of saying to Christ’s followers throughout the ages: “You must remember his sacrifice in the Mass, but you must also remember his admonition to go out and serve the world.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus teaches us that true authority in the Church comes from being a servant, from laying down our lives for our friends. His life is a feast for the poor and for sinners. It must be the same for those who receive the Lord’s body and blood. We become what we receive in this meal and we imitate Jesus in his saving works, his healing words, and his gestures of humble service. From the Eucharist must flow a certain style of communitarian life, a genuine care for our neighbors, and for strangers.

Finally, the celebration of the Eucharist always projects us forward towards others, especially those who are poor, marginalized, abandoned or forgotten.

Last year on Holy Thursday evening, many questions and concerns were raised over Pope Francis washing the feet of 12 young people at the Roman Juvenile Detention Centre and especially that two were young women, and two were Muslims.

One can easily understand that in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot washing because Jesus, himself washed 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. The washing of the feet is a gesture of ultimate humble service, not of power or privilege.

We now know of the many photos and stories that show Cardinal Jorge Mario 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 a Roman juvenile detention centre last year, 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 and rubrics that at times, when improperly understood and transmitted, do not mirror the profound messages of the Gospels and of the Lord of the Church.

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 that have been the hallmarks of the current Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions among those who do not yet understand Pope Francis’ love for and outreach to those on the peripheries of society.

This year, as previously announced, Pope Francis will visit the Centro Santa Maria della Provvidenza Don Carlo Gnocchi home, celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s supper with residents, staff and their families, and wash the feet of the residents, many of whom are elderly and have disabilities. The foot-washing ritual is rooted in the story of the Last Supper, when Jesus humbles himself and washes the feet of his apostles on the eve of his death.

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Photo: Pope Francis, as cardinal of Buenos Aires, Argentina, washes and kisses the feet of residents of a shelter for drug users during Holy Thursday Mass in 2008 at a church in a poor neighborhood of the city. (CNS photo/Enrique Garcia Medina, Reuters) (March 4, 2014)

Who am I? Asks Pope during Palm Sunday homily

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On Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, in an unscripted, extremely moving, Ignatian-style homily, Pope Francis invited the crowd of over 100,000 people to enter into today’s passion story from Matthew’s Gospel and ask some very personal questions of our own roles in the Gospel story.

Here is the Vatican’s official English translation:

CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
St. Peter’s Square
29th World Youth Day
Sunday, 13 April 2014

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing , praising Jesus.

But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?

We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?

We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns love and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!” Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!” and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.

After Communion, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address, during which he extended a special greeting to the participants of the World Youth Days (WYD) organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

He recalled that the next WYD will take place in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, under the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5,7).

The Pope recalled how 30 years ago John Paul II entrusted the WYD Cross to the youth, exhorting them to “carry it through all the world as a sign of Christ’s love for humanity.”

He also announced that St. John Paul II would be the patron of the next World Youth Day in Krakow. Then a delegation of young people from Brazil handed to a delegation of youth from Poland the WYD Cross, which had stood in Saint Peter’s Square throughout the Mass.

The Holy Father went on to announce he would be paying a visit to Daejeon, South Korea, on August 15 where he will meet with the youth of Asia.

Pope Francis concluded his address by calling us to turn to the Virgin Mother, “because she helps us always to follow the example of Jesus with faith.”

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CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope Francis homily at Penitential Service

Above is the video of Pope Francis’ homily from Friday’s Penitential Service, with Vatican Radio translation.

CCCB Letter to Pope Francis

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Your Holiness,

One year ago today, the Bishops of Canada along with all the faithful of our great land saw you appear for the first time on the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The simplicity of your manner and your words, the humility with which you invited us to pray for you, and your warm smile quickly gained our affection. In the following days, we learned to know you in greater depth. Already, we heard certain key words: mercy, poverty, periphery, joy, encounter… Jesus. Already, we witnessed how you lived out those key words: residing with your collaborators, washing the feet of young people in a prison, visiting the refugees at Lampedusa. In a few months, your election had become for us a symbol of a new kairos in the Church, a decisive moment of renewal and commitment.

Today, we are united with you in a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s work in you and through you. We pray that the Lord will continue to give you wisdom and strength in the major projects you have set for yourself: two Synods on the family, the year for consecrated life, the reform of the Curia, administrative and economic transparency, openness to the world, particularly the victims of war, abuse and poverty. We feel that, through you, God is sending us a pressing invitation. May God grant us to respond generously by committing ourselves to the pastoral and missionary conversion you constantly proclaim. Thus will the entire Church accomplish more and more her mission of being, in the world and for the world, the universal sacrament of salvation.

Please be assured of our unity in the faith, of our solidarity in mission, and of our constant support for the new evangelization. I implore your fatherly blessing upon your brother Bishops in Canada; upon the priests, deacons and lay pastoral associates who labour with us in the Lord’s vineyard; upon our consecrated men and women, and all the faithful of Christ who, here in Canada, strive to live the Trinitarian life in Jesus Christ and transform our history with him; and finally upon all the inhabitants of our country, so that we will build together that more beautiful and fraternal world of which you have become the herald.

In the joy of the Gospel, your brother in the episcopacy,

+ Paul-André Durocher
Archbishop of Gatineau
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Pope Francis 1 Year Anniversary – Perspectives Daily

 

Today on Perspectives Daily we cover:

  • Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Pope Francis’s election to the papacy and there is no doubt that he has generated a tremendous amount of hope for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
  • What the Pope is doing to celebrate his 1st year as the 266th Bishop of Rome
  • One year after helping to elect Pope Francis, South Africa’s Cardinal Wilfred Napier reflects on the first year of the Holy Father’s papacy

Mass of Thanksgiving on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis

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Special Mass of Thanksgiving on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

His Eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, is the principal celebrant and homilist of the Mass. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, Rector of the Basilica, will concelebrate the Mass.

- Photo Credit: The National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (CNS file photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Francis: The First Year

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The Conclave

When the College of Cardinals entered into the conclave on Tuesday afternoon, March 12, 2013, the excitement and expectation were palpable.  With the “Habemus Papam” the following afternoon came the name of a stranger, and outsider, who instantly won over the crowd in the Piazza and the entire world with the words, “Fratelli e Sorelle, buona sera!” (Brothers and sisters, good evening!) Who would believe a pontificate beginning with those simple, common words?  Never in my wildest imaginings did I expect a Pope to be called Francis!  Nor could I comprehend the scene of well over one hundred thousand cheering people suddenly becoming still and silent as Papa Franceso bowed and asked them to pray for him and pray over him.  It was the most moving moment I have ever experienced at a Vatican celebration.  His words “Pray for me…” still resound in my ears.

From the very first moments, Pope Francis stressed his role with the ancient title of “bishop of Rome” who presides in charity, echoing the famous statement of Ignatius of Antioch.  Francis has brought to the papacy a knack for significant gestures that immediately convey very powerful messages.

The gaze of the Lord

When Francis offers a spiritual self-portrait through the unprecedented interview he gave to Jesuit publications last September, he describes himself as standing under the gaze of Christ. “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” The pope illustrates this gaze of Christ by referring to Caravaggio’s “The Calling of St. Matthew,” a painting he had often contemplated in the Roman Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Pope Francis’ gestures and simple words flow from his episcopal and now papal motto: “miserando atque eligendo.”  Jesus’ gaze of merciful tenderness (miserando), shows this patience of God which is God’s response to human weakness. Taken from St. Bede’s commentary on the call of Matthew – these words of his motto express Jesus’ whole approach to people – having mercy on others and inviting them (eligendo) to follow him.  Such are the bare essentials of the Christian faith. Standing before the face of Christ is a call to repentance, to conversion of life. Francis’ rhetoric both attracts and perplexes us. He invites us to undergo reform by standing under the gaze of Christ. In the transforming light of that face, the Lord has mercy on us and calls us!

A new way of speaking

Now one year after that momentous election in the Sistine Chapel in Rome on March 13, 2013, let us take stock of what has happened and consider some of the new directions for the Church emerging from Rome in this quiet, Franciscan revolution that is sweeping across the face of the earth. Let us recall some of the expressions, words, phrases, and exclamations spoken by the Bishop of Rome that have reverberated across the face of the earth over the past year. Pope Francis washes the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome

“How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!”

“Priests must be shepherds with the smell of the sheep.”

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! Even the atheists. Everyone!”

“We have fallen into a “globalization of indifference.”

“Who am I to judge?”

“I want things messy and stirred up in the church.  I want the church to take to the streets!”

“I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

“The papal apartment is like an inverted funnel.  It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight.”

“I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

“God never tires of forgiving us.”

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.”

 “I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life.”

 “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.”

“I am conscious of the need to promote a sound “decentralization.”

“Mercy is the greatest of all virtues.”

“The confessional must not be a torture chamber.”

“The Church is not a tollhouse.”

“I beg you bishops, avoid the scandal of being airport bishops!”

“We need to promote a culture of encounter.”

“Mary, a woman, is more important than bishops.”

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

Pope Francis startled the world on Monday, July 8 last year when he traveled rather spontaneously to the island of Lampedusa off the coast Pope Francis greets immigrants in Lampedusa, Italyof Sicily- to that dangerous area were so many refugees have lost and continue to lose their lives in their journeys to freedom and safety.  The Holy Father’s voice rang out across the sea:

“The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!”

Francis is speaking powerfully to each of us about how we let patterns of materialism captivate our lives and distort our humanity. The pope disarmingly makes us deeply uncomfortable in a way that allows us to recognize and confront the alienation from our own humanity that occurs when we seek happiness in objects rather than in relationship with God and others.

While two major documents are attributed to him- the “four handed” encyclical “Lumen Fidei” and the astounding Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” it is the probably the widely circulated photo of the Bishop of Rome embracing and kissing a man with a disfigured face that may be considered his real, profound message and signal to the world that was sent to all the bishops and their entire flocks. In this image we get a an HD image of the tenor which Francis wishes to set for the world Church: a Church of tenderness, mercy, welcome, and a true “culture of encounter.”

Economy

Francis is the first Pope from the developing world and he brings a degree of credibility on matters of economic justice that otherworld Pope Francis attends retreat with cardinals and bishops outside Romeleaders lack. That’s not merely because of his origins, but because of his lifestyle choices in favor of simplicity and humility. He walks his talk and walks the walk. The pope’s messages on the need for ethics in economic life are not conservative or liberal, but Catholic.  They are not socialist or capitalist, but Christian. He calls for a church ‘of and for the poor’ that is not turned in on itself, but ‘in the streets.’ Francis has lived the church’s social teaching in his own ministry so he speaks confidently and bluntly on its demands. To be a church for the poor, the Church must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as the pre-eminent moral issues the Catholic community pursues at this moment in our national histories. Each of those issues, poverty and abortion, constitute an assault on the very core of the dignity of the human person.

New Directions

Where does Francis want to lead the church? What does he want the bishops to do? What does he expect of us, ordained ministers?  And what is he modeling for laymen and women? Francis wants the Church to be a reconciler and a means of reconciliation. For Francis, faith enters the church through the heart of the poor, not through the heads of intellectuals. Francis confessed: “perhaps we have reduced our way of speaking about mystery to rational explanations, but for ordinary people the mystery enters through the heart.”  He knows only too well that at times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity. He argues that the message should be kept simple.

Pope Francis embraces patient at hosptial in Rio de JaneiroUsing the Gospel story of Emmaus very frequently, Francis talked to the bishops last July in Brazil about people who have left the church because they “now think that the church — their Jerusalem — can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important.” We need a church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a church capable of entering into their conversation. Are we still a church capable of warming hearts? A church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles. … Are we still able to speak of these roots in a way that will revive a sense of wonder at their beauty?

The Popes of our times

In Francis, we experience once again the warm, paternal embrace of Blessed John XXIII, the clarity and kindness of Paul VI, the contagious smile of John Paul I, the boldness and courage of Blessed John Paul II, and the firmness and gentleness of faith of Benedict. With Benedict XVI, the plea was for reason and faith and how they need one another to make sense. Human reason without religious faith becomes skepticism and religion shorn of the self-critical capacity of human reason becomes fundamentalism and extremism.

What has happened in the church, and how can it be that a 77-year-old, retirement-bound archbishop from Buenos Aires has captivated the world? How can we describe the sense of springtime that has come upon the church? How is it fathomable in our day and age that not only Christians and Catholics but millions of others are speaking about “Papa Francesco” as if he were their own?

Is this all the work of a PR company or clever media strategists hired by the Vatican and frantically working behind the scenes to rebrand its image? Or is there something else at work? Let me tell you what I think is afoot. Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name Francis upon his election as Pope and told us he did so because of his love for Francis of Assisi. For the past year, many of us have been associating the Pope’s gestures and actions with the “Poverello” or “Little Poor One” of Assisi, perhaps the most beloved saint of the Catholic tradition.

We can easily envision Francis of Assisi in that idyllic, medieval Umbrian hilltop town and mythologize about what really happened back in his day. But too often Francis’ radical message is lost and we reduce him to a gentle, whimsical hippie who fed birds, smelled flowers and tamed wild wolves. We easily forget that in reality, Assisi’s favorite son was and is the model of a radical Christian.

One day as a young man, Francis heard the plea of Jesus from the crucifix in the dilapidated San Damiano chapel on Assisi’s outskirts. “Go and repair my Church,” he heard Jesus say. And he certainly did that in his lifetime and through the huge Franciscan family that he left behind to carry forward his dream and continue his work.

We become easily fixated on lots of eye-catching, buzz-causing externals and great photo opportunities: A Pope who abandoned the red Pope with babyshoes – that were never an official part of the papal wardrobe! A Pope who dresses modestly, pays his own lodging bills, drives around Vatican City in a Ford Focus, calls many people on the phone, brings jam sandwiches to on-duty Swiss Guards at his door and invites street people to his birthday breakfast. This Roman pontiff specializes in kissing babies and embracing the sick, disfigured broken bodies, and the abandoned of society. We sit back, smile and utter: “What simplicity!” “Wow!” Awesome!” “Finalmente!”

Everything the Pope is doing now is not just an imitation of his patron saint who loved the poor, embraced lepers, charmed sultans, made peace and protected nature. It’s a reflection of the child of Bethlehem who would grow up to become the man of the cross in Jerusalem, the Risen One that no tomb could contain, the man we Christians call Savior and Lord. Pope Francis has given us a powerful glimpse into the mind and heart of God.

On the late afternoon of March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio received the call to go, rebuild, repair, renew and heal the church. What we have witnessed over the past eleven months is simply a disciple of Jesus, and a faithful disciple of Ignatius of Loyola and of Francis of Assisi, repairing, renewing, restoring, reconciling and healing the Church. There are those who delight in describing the new Pope as a bold, brazen revolutionary sent to rock the boat. Others think he has come to cause a massive shipwreck. But the only revolution that Pope Francis has inaugurated is a revolution of tenderness, the very words he used in his recent major letter on “The Joy of the Gospel.” [Evangelii Gaudium #88]

Pope Francis celebrates birthday with men who live on streets near VaticanIt is this revolution that is at the heart and soul of Pope Francis’ ministry. It is his unflinching freedom that allows him to do what he does because he is unafraid and totally free to be himself at the same time of being such faithful son of the Church. It is his goodness, joy, kindness and mercy that introduce us to the tenderness of our God. No wonder why he has taken the world by storm, and why so many people are paying attention to him. No wonder why magazines and newspapers acclaim him as “Person of the Year”, “best Dressed man,” “Rolling Stone” icon and “Advocate” champion, to name but a few! We need the Francis revolution of tenderness and mercy now more than ever before.

Francis, Bishop of Rome, reminds us each day of the words of his predecessor Blessed John over 50 years ago at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council: “The substance of the ancient doctrine of the Deposit of Faith is one thing, and the way it is presented is another.” With Pope Francis, it’s the same story we have heard for ages, but my God, how the packaging has indeed changed!  Now wonder why the world has noticed, listened, and is taking to heart what this man from the ends of the earth is teaching us!

(all photos courtesy of CNS)