Phew! I’ve spent the last few days writing some urgent theology papers, while at the same time trying to keep an eye on Pope Francis.
He is one of a kind. He’s been breaking all the Papal protocol, and the people just love him. He wears black - not red - shoes, he wears a simple metal cross, he travels on foot a lot, he still hasn’t moved into the Papal Apartments, he celebrated mass at a parish in the Vatican yesterday, and afterwards he went out into the streets to greet the crowds.
Francis is bringing all his talents and strengths and spontaneity to the Church. It’s so good to have him. A priest-friend of mine said the other day: “John Paul was a philosopher pope, Benedict was a theologian pope, Francis is a parish-priest pope.” I agree. Each Pope is so different and that’s part of God’s plan.
During his homily and his first Angelus address, he spoke about God’s mercy and how we are often much harder on each other than God is on us. He said that often people come to priests and say:
“'Oh, Father, if you knew my life you wouldn't say that.' 'Why? What have you done?' 'Oh, I've done bad things.' 'Good! Go to Jesus; He likes you to tell him these things. He forgets. He has the special ability to forget. He forgets them, kisses you, embraces you, and tells you only: 'Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.' He only gives you this counsel. A month later we are the same … We return to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving us, never! We are the ones who get tired of asking forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace to never tire of asking forgiveness, because He never tires of forgiving us. Let us ask for this grace.”
Tomorrow Francis will celebrate his Mass of Inauguration. This isn’t when Francis officially becomes Pope – that already happened the moment he accepted his election Wednesday. This is more ceremonial, and will include the Pope’s receiving his ring, his Pallium, and the official homage of the cardinals. The gates to Saint Peter’s Square open at 6:30am, and I hope to get in. It should be packed!
Francis has already broken all the rules. It will be neat to see what he does tomorrow. Will he come in on foot? Will he walk up and down greeting people like John Paul did in his earlier years as Pope?
I can’t wait till tomorrow to see. I’ll let you know what happens. God bless our new Pope!
God bless you too,
PS – In case you have time to read it, on Saturday Francis explained how he came up with his name:
“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.”