What Benedict stored, Francis scatters…Some Reflections on the Papal Transition

Francis and Benedict seated cropped

The following address was given to over 500 Catholic journalists and those working in Catholic Media in Canada and the United States at the Presidential Medallion Awards Luncheon of the Catholic Media Convention in Denver, Colorado on June 21, 2013.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

First of all I wish to thank you for the great work that you all did during the Papal transition.  I had the pleasure of dealing with many of you during those momentous days from my position in Rome and was able to witness up close your dedication, zeal and journalistic excellence.  I wish to thank in particular our friends from Catholic News Service for their outstanding work and assistance to the secular media, and many television and radio networks.  CNS, along with Catholic News Agency helped us to fill in the gaps of solid, Catholic information on many occasions.

For four solid weeks this past Lent, through the momentous transition in the papacy, we had a golden opportunity to teach, catechize and evangelize the nations and put the Synod on the New Evangelization into practice.    Pope Benedict’s resignation on 2/11, shifted the plates of the earth for the Church.  We had no playbook, script, notes or film footage left behind by that Benedictine monk, Pietro Morrone who would later become Pope Celestine V.  Overwhelmed by the demands of the office, Celestine stepped down after five months as pope in 1294.

Almost six hundred years later, acknowledging what he called his “incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me,” Benedict told us that we must be painfully honest with the human condition, that we cannot be enchained by history.  A man who has been the champion of tradition and labeled “conservative” left us with one of the most progressive gestures made by any pope. This man known for brilliant writing, exquisite kindness, charity, gentleness, humility and clarity of teaching, offered us the epitome of a courageous and humble decision that will forever mark the papacy and the life of the Church.

Two Popes in PrayerOne of the most poignant moments of my Roman sojourn took place on February 28, the last day of Benedict’s pontificate.  His carefully orchestrated departure from the Apostolic Palace and the Vatican captured the heart and mind of the world.  The touching farewell from his co-workers on that crisp, Italian afternoon, the brief helicopter flight to Castel Gandolfo, his final words as Pope, reminding us that he would become “a pilgrim” in this final stage of his life, moved the world.  I experienced that moment with the heads of many of the television networks of the world.  There were no dry eyes in Rome that evening.

Then began the ‘Sede Vacante.’  We were off to the races!  I cannot tell you enough what a great pleasure it was to work closely with Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ throughout the entire transition.  He is a good and honest man skilled in communicating.  We owe him an immense debt of gratitude.  Sitting at his side, spending hours with him on daily scavenger hunts for Vatican information, admiring his patience with journalists taught me many lessons about patience, charity and the necessity of humor through it all!

The Vatican strategy of spreading the multi-lingual banquet table of information during the papal transition bore much fruit this past Lent. As Cardinals gathered in Rome and met in secret sessions (at least we thought they were secret!) to assess the state of the Church and trace a profile of the next pope, many of you saw Fr. Lombardi, Msgr. Gil Tamayo and me answering hundreds of questions on a daily basis from the media around the world.  Those daily televised press conferences and briefings topped some of the Italian soap operas for viewership.

Questions coming to us at press conferences and briefings revealed an immense interest (some would say obsession) in things Church!  From the Italian fascination with the retired Pope’s abandonment of the red shoes; to the Mexicans’ delight with the emeritus Pope’s predilection for brown loafers from Leon, Mexico; to the Germans’ intense preoccupation with environmental dangers of black and white smoke pollution over the city of Rome; to the French “souci” with just about everything, and again to the Italian preoccupations with the sealing of Papal apartments and the smashing of Papal seals… we had our hands full.  The world was watching and listening.  I chuckled several times thinking that the Church had made such great strides these past years in the area of social communications.  But for such a major event and happening as a conclave, we still relied on smoke signals.

I was asked to handle the media requests in English (and later French) and thus worked 18-hour days with television, print and radio media from every corner of the globe.  My young colleague, Sebastian Gomes guided me through the maze of media requests and kept me steady through it all.  I lost count after doing 165 television and radio interviews with every possible network you can imagine… first in English, then French, Spanish, Italian, and German.

The Conclave

When the College of Cardinals finally entered into the conclave on Tuesday, March 12, the excitement and expectation were palpable.  As much as Italy tried to dominate the whole process, and delight in the so-called Vatileaks that continued to flow during the pre-conclave meetings, they got it all wrong… as did many others throughout the world who stared in utter amazement at the man who appeared on the loggia of St. Peter’s basilica the night of March 13.

With the “Habemus Papam” 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.

Francis the “defibrillator”

Some have called the man from Argentina a “tweetable” Pope made for 140 characters! We delight in his words of wisdom telling us: “Eternity will not be boring”; “Long faces cannot proclaim Jesus”; “War is madness.  It is the suicide of humanity”; “We are not part-time Christians”; and “The Church is not ‘spa therapy’.”  He’s got the world talking, and listening!  With each day’s new provocative statements, Pope Francis tells those privileged to work at the Vatican and for the Vatican that it’s time for a change, that the Church does not belong to them, that the movement of the Holy Spirit cannot be managed or scripted. He is sending a message with the style, as well as the substance, of his remarks.

Pope Francis embraces emeritus Pope Benedict XVI at papal summer residence in Castel GandolfoA French journalist recently referred to Francis as a “defibrillator” pope. We need defibrillators when we have serious heart problems.  Defibrillation is a common treatment for life-threatening heart rythms, blocked arteries, and problems with pulses.  Defibrillation consists of delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the affected heart.  This depolarizes a critical mass of the heart muscle, terminates the dysrhythmia, and allows rhythm to be reestablished by the body’s natural pacemaker.  Francesco is a badly needed ecclesial defibrillator for our times!

Let’s look at a few of Francis’ electroshocks over the past three months:  He started changing the tune of the papacy from day one, when he returned to the Casa Paolo VI to pack his bags and pay his bills!  He has made it pretty clear to us that he is not fascinated with a certain form of unhealthy traditionalism and pomp which seemed to be on the rise.

He jolted some liturgists and canonists on Holy Thursday night when, in a Roman prison, he washed the feet of outcasts, including two women and two Muslims in a gesture of profound service.

He has established a new form of magisterium at Domus Sanctae Marthae, by celebrating mass with various groups of Vatican employees each morning and giving a homily  which has become a staple in spiritual nourishment for millions around the world – Chrstian and non-Christian.  The colorful, provocative and off-the-cuff homilies he delivers have become one of the distinctive features of his pontificate.  Perhaps some curial types are wringing hands and quietly singing a new version of one of Rogers and Hammerstein’s masterpieces: “How do we solve a problem like Francesco?  How do we hold a moonbeam in our hands?”

He has railed against the scandal of poverty and stressed the importance of personal involvement with the poor.  Money must “serve” man, not “rule” over him.  The pope’s condemnation of runaway capitalism and an exclusive focus on profit are ideologically in line with Pope Benedict, but the energy and frequency with which Francis strikes these chords are definitely new.

He has decried the “self-referential” mentality of Catholics.  He has challenged the mentality of ecclesial framework managers and been critical of a Church  that loses its dynamic spiritual principles.

He has challenged priests and bishops in the exercise of their ministry and their stewardship of material goods.  This morning, in a long, heartfelt address to a rare meeting of the Nuncios of the world gathered in Rome, Francis told them that pastors “must know how to be ahead of the herd to point the way, in the midst of the flock to keep it united, behind the flock to prevent someone being left behind, so that the same flock… has the sense of smell to find its way.”

Christianity, for Francis, is not a “salon Christianity” where we sit around at high tea and discuss religious or theological things that do not have a direct impact on our lives.

He has cried out against hypocrisy, clericalism, duplicity, narcissism, consumerism and hedonism in all their ugly forms.

To representatives of communities and movements gathered in Rome on Pentecost weekend,  Francis asked them if they were open to surprises of God?   Are we brave enough to go through the new paths that the novelty of God offers us, or do we defend ourselves, trapped in obsolete structures that have lost the purpose?

Pope Francis’ daily mantra can be summed up in one expression: “Go out to the peripheries.”  He calls us out of our cocoons to go to “the existential peripheries.”  Think outisde the box.  Go to uncharted places on the fringes.  You will be surprised who you find there!  For the Pope, the Church is Missionary or she will die.  Do we really want to go to these “existential peripheries”?  How many times do we feel assaulted and challenged by them?

Personally, I needed to experience these “Franciscan” electroshocks.  I think the Church needed to experience them.  They are never pleasant, but they often reverse death-dealing powers, unblock arteries of life, give us back our pulse, depolarize our atrophied muscles and help us to live again and love again.  They invite us into a deep conversion of mind and heart.

Benedict and Francis

My favorite biography of St. Francis of Assisi is that of the great British writer, G.K. Chesterton. I have read that work many times throughout my life, and one passage has taken on new meaning for me over the past months.  Listen to Chesterton’s words:

“St. Francis must be imagined as moving swiftly through the world with a
sort of impetuous politeness; almost like the movement of a man who
stumbles on one knee half in haste and half in obeisance.  The eager
face under the brown hood was that of a man always going somewhere, as
if he followed as well as watched the flight of the birds.  And this
sense of motion is indeed the meaning of the whole revolution that he
made; for the work that has now to be described was of the nature of an
earthquake or a volcano, an explosion that drove outwards with dynamic
energy the forces stored up by ten centuries in the monastic fortress or
arsenal and scattered all its riches recklessly to the ends of the
earth.

In a better sense than the antithesis commonly conveys, it is
true to say that what St. Benedict had stored St. Francis scattered; but
in the world of spiritual things what had been stored into the barns
like grain was scattered over the world as seed.  The servants of God
who had been a besieged garrison became a marching army; the ways of the
world were filled as with thunder with the trampling of their feet and
far ahead of that ever swelling host went a man singing; as simply he
had sung that morning in the winter woods, where he walked alone.”

“What Benedict had stored, Francis scattered…”  Yesterday Pope Francis marked his first 100 days in office next week, but what is that in light of an institution that thinks in centuries?  These days offer us a time to look back, to give thanks, and to look forward.  Many of us in both religious and secular media have been a bit too quick to interpret Francis’ gestures as a sign of discontinuity with the work of his predecessor. What we forget is that more than any of the choices made by Francis, it was Benedict XVI’s resignation that represented the greatest change of the papal office.  Benedict’s decision does not in any way undermine the papacy.  It really does make little difference what vestments the Pope choses to wear or not to wear, or whether he wears a fanon at a canonization mass or prefers fancy thrones or heavy golden crosses.

There is no question that all of these external things place proper emphasis on the sacredness, uniqueness and universality of the papal ministry.  Benedict, the great teacher also taught us something else: that the Petrine ministry is not about externals, power, prestige and privilege.  Pope Benedict brilliantly emphasized the need for intense theological life, constant prayer and quiet contemplation which would naturally give way to good moral living, a commitment to others, and a life of charity and justice. With Francis, it seems that the perspective is the other way around – it is concrete, charitable actions and visible human affection that redefine the theological life, giving it depth and breath.  And such actions attract others to Christ and the Church and serve as privileged instruments of evangelization.

Francesco Piazza JeepWhat Benedict stored, Francis scatters…  Francis has not yet promulgated any encyclicals or “moto proprios.”  But his striking symbolism is becoming substance. Francesco seeks a simpler church, more closely identified with the poor.  He is undoubtedly aware of the scandals, the corruption, the hypocrisy, the challenges, the leaks and the lobbies, and the things that need to be fixed inside the Vatican.  But many around the world, inside and outside the Church, from the left, right and centre of the Church are witnessing something new happening.  Smallness of mind and meanness of spirit are slowly transformed into wideness of thought and generosity of spirit.  We have heard that many people are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because of what is happening in Rome.  Could this not be a gift of the Spirit and a sign that the New Evangelization has begun in some unexpected places?

What Benedict stored, Francis scatters…  “In the world of spiritual things what had been stored into the barns like grain was scattered over the world as seed… .”  Let us never forget the deep continuity between Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome. It is manifested in their outlook on faith and their awareness that it is the Lord who leads the Church, not the Pope.  Francis teaches the doctrine identical to that of his predecessors.  He reminds us 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 Francis, it’s the same Petrine brand but the packaging has changed!

And now, in the frequent words of the reigning Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Christ,  Successor of St. Peter, Prince of The Apostles; Patriarch of The West; Servant of the Servants of God; Primate of Italy; Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province; and Sovereign of Vatican City State and Bishop of Rome:

Buon pranzo!

Buen provecho!

Buon appetito!

Have a good day and a good lunch!

Thank you!

New documentary asks: Who is Pope Francis?

Do you remember where you were when the white smoke appeared, heralding the election of Pope Francis? That will always be an easy question for me, since I was in the S+L studio doing live commentary. The third smoke signal of the conclave looked distinctly different from the first two, which were easily discernible as black. Initially, this one appeared grey — light grey — and we, along with most other media outlets, were hesitant to make the call. But then as the plumes grew, it became clear: we have a Pope.

I relived these moments as I watched the documentary “Who is Pope Francis?” The conclave ended a mere eight weeks ago. Still, I felt chills as I watched, once more, the announcement of Georgium Marium Cardinalem Bergoglio as Pope Francis. It was an electrifying moment of live television. In hindsight, it’s even more breathtaking, now that we’ve seen his early effect on the Church.

Created by Madrid-based Goya Productions, “Who is Pope Francis?” is one of the earliest and best biographies of the new pontiff. Through interviews and historical footage, a portrait emerges of Jorge Bergoglio, anticipating how his background and character will impact the papacy.

“Who is Pope Francis?” airs tonight on S+L at 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT, repeating at 1:00am ET/10:00pm PT. It airs again on Thursday night at the same times. Consult the S+L schedule for additional repeat times.

Momentous transitions and awesome joy

Pope Francis and Fr. Thomas Rosica
Photo caption: Pope Francis greeting Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., at Audience for Journalists following the Papal election on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Vatican.  Courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano photographic service.

The following article appeared in the Catholic Courier of the Diocese of Rochester, New York on May 2, 2013.

Source: http://www.catholiccourier.com/

Editor’s note:

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica is a Rochester native who attended Nazareth Hall, St. Ambrose School, Aquinas Institute and St. John Fisher College before being ordained to the priesthood for the Congregation of St. Basil by Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark on April 19, 1986, at St. Ambrose Church, Rochester. Chief executive officer for the past decade of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Toronto, Father Rosica assisted in the Holy See Press Office with media relations subsequent to the resignation of Benedict XVI through the election of Pope Francis. Father Rosica agreed to our request that he offer some reflections on the experience for his hometown readers.

February 11, 2013, did not only shift the plates of the earth for the church, but marked a seismic shift in my life. Early that morning in Rome, the pope resigned and caught the world and the church off guard. When my colleague and friend, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, phoned and asked me to come quickly to Rome to assist him, I understood that help was needed in dealing with a deluge of media requests in the aftermath of the pope’s surprise resignation.
Having run World Youth Day in Canada in 2002, founded and led Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada since 2003, and served as the Vatican-appointed media attaché at two world Synods of Bishops in 2008 and 2012, I had some idea of media work for the church. But nothing came close to the daunting experience of serving as a Vatican spokesperson during Lent 2013. The adventure included a papal resignation, the sede vacante (or interregnum), a conclave taking place without the atmosphere of a papal funeral, and the surprise election of the first pope from the Americas — not just any pope, but a Jesuit pope — the first modern pope to have been ordained to the priesthood after the Second Vatican Council.

Over the next month, I experienced not a deluge but a tsunami of images, stories, encounters, people and opportunities that would change the life and direction of the church! Thank God I was accompanied by one of the young producers from Salt and Light Television in Canada, Sebastian Gomes. Together we worked day and night, and Sebastian kept me steady through the experience. [Read more...]

The Media and the Vatican part one: a crucial relationship

Rome1Photo: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB is interviewed by BBC Radio about the upcoming conclave in front of the media stand in St. Peter’s Square.  Fr. Rosica and S+L Producer Sebastian Gomes worked for Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ in dealing with the English media during the recent papal transition.

[Read more...]

Homily for Mass of Inauguration of Pope Francis

Following a historic conclave, Pope Francis was publicly installed as the 266th Bishop of Rome earlier today in St. Peter’s Square. Published below is an unofficial translation of the Holy Father’s homily. Note: S+L will rebroadcast the mass at 1:30 pm ET/10:30 am PT, 8:00 pm ET/5:00 pm PT and 12:00 am ET/9:00 pm PT. For more programming information, visit S+L’s Habemus Papam webpage.

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.

 

Canadian bishops celebrate Papal Inauguration


On March 19, the Catholic Church celebrates Pope Francis’ election to the papacy with a special Mass of Inauguration. Published below is a message from the Most Reverend Richard Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. For broadcast times and more information about this historical Mass, visit our dedicated Habemus Papam webpage.

This Tuesday, March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we celebrate the formal inauguration of the Petrine ministry of Francis, Servant of the Servants of God. Saint Joseph is both patron of the universal Church, and principal patron of Canada.

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of our country, I invite each member of our Church and everyone of good will to share in this moment of joy. Let us pray that God support and strengthen our new Pope in his ministry of universal pastor. May he lead, encourage and teach us all to give glory to God, and thus peace and good will to the world.

Pope Francis takes on the role of the Apostle Peter shown to us in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles: helping the disciples recognize Jesus and be a communion of love, strengthening us in the faith, witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection, and continuing Jesus’ ministry of healing and teaching (Mark 8.29,16.7; Matthew 16.18; Luke 22.32; John 20.6; Acts 2.14-49,3.2-10). He now serves, by the grace of God, as our “rock”.

From the outset, Pope Francis has invited us to turn to Mary, Mother of God, for her protection and intercession. This was manifested symbolically the day after his election, when he prayed to Our Lady at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and left a bouquet of flowers on the altar.

Mary heard God and believed. She received into her very womb the Word made flesh. With Saint Joseph, she welcomed Jesus, and introduced him to the world. She learned from Jesus, and kept faith with him to the last. From the Cross, Jesus made Mary our mother in faith, and we her sons and daughters (John 19.26-27). With Mary, we introduce Jesus to our world, and are called to imitate Mary’s steadfast fidelity to our Lord, even in moments of betrayal, ignorance and suffering, so as to be effective witnesses to God’s life-giving glory.

With gratitude to God, let us welcome Pope Francis as he leads the Church into a new stage along the journey of evangelization and encounter. Just a few days ago, he told the Cardinals, “Do not give in to pessimism and discouragement…. [T]he Holy Spirit gives the Church… the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The Christian truth is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the deep needs of human existence, convincingly announcing that Christ is the only Saviour of the whole person and of all persons.”

Together, with Pope Francis, let us move forward into the future, following the way of Christ, filled with the faith, hope and love we share with Mary, journeying to the Father, emboldened, inspired and united in the Holy Spirit.

+ Richard Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton and
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

18 March 2013

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Credit: CNS photo

 

 

Pope Francis: Audience with the media

On Saturday, March 16, Pope Francis gathered thousands of journalists and media agencies from nearly 82 countries inside the Paul VI Audience Hall. In his address, the Holy Father spoke of how the role of mass media continues to grow and how it is indispensable for telling the stories of contemporary society. Published below is an English translation of Pope Francis’ full text.

Dear Friends,

At the beginning of my ministry in the See of Peter, I am pleased to meet all of you who have worked here in Rome throughout this intense period which began with the unexpected announcement made by my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI on 11 February last. To each of you I offer a cordial greeting.

The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world about the events of contemporary history.  I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you? – when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter.  Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry.

I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith.  Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith.  Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events!  But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public.  The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ.  Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.

Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter.  Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre.  Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church.  Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist.  As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her.  In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit.  He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.

It is important, dear friends, to take into due account this way of looking at things, this hermeneutic, in order to bring into proper focus what really happened in these days.

All of this leads me to thank you once more for your work in these particularly demanding days, but also to ask you to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her.  Be assured that the Church, for her part, highly esteems your important work.  At your disposal you have the means to hear and to give voice to people’s expectations and demands, and to provide for an analysis and interpretation of current events.  Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful.  This is something which we have in common, since the Church exists to communicate precisely this: Truth, Goodness and Beauty “in person”.  It should be apparent that all of us are called not to communicate ourselves, but this existential triad made up of truth, beauty and goodness.

Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis.  Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi.  I will tell you the story.  During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend!  When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me.  And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected.  And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don’t forget the poor!”  And those words came to me: the poor, the poor.  Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.  Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end.  Francis is also the man of peace.  That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi.

For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?  He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor! Afterwards, people were joking with me.  “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…”  And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”.  “But why?”  “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!”  These were jokes.  I love all of you very much, I thank you for everything you have done.  I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life.  I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families.  I cordially impart to all of you my blessing.  Thank you.

(In Spanish)

I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing.  Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God.  May God bless you!

Habemus Papam, Francescum, Cardinal Bergoglio

Pope Francis I

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, a member of the Society of Jesus, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 17, 1936.

Serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires before the papal election, Pope Francis I was ordained a Jesuit priest on December 13, 1969. He completed his studies in theology at the Faculty of Theology of San Miguel, Argentina. He would go on to lecture in theology and act as novice master here after his graduation. From 1973-1979 he worked as Jesuit Provincial, and moved to become rector of the Philosophy and Theology Faculty of San Miguel from 1980-1986.

Pope Francis was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires on June 27, 1992, and later appointed Archbishop of Buenos Aires on June 3, 1997. In this capacity he acted as Ordinary for the Eastern-rite in Argentina for those lacking an Ordinary of their own rite.

He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on February 21, 2001, by Blessed John Paul II.  Pope Francis has served as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from November 8, 2005-November 8, 2011. He has been a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

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(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Habemus Papam! Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio now Pope Francis

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The conclave has chosen to elect 76 year old Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio. He has chosen the name Pope Francis. Watch coverage live at http://saltandlighttv.org/live

White smoke! Habemus papam!

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Habemus Papam! At approximately 7:13pm (Rome time) on Wednesday March 13, 2013, the world has witnessed white smoke!

Follow everything live at saltandlighttv.org/habemuspapam