Tuesday, April 16, 2013

From Peter to Francis and back

Giotto, Dream of Innocent III (c. 1290-1300),
Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi (Italy)

In 1209 Pope Innocent III had a dream: the Lateran basilica was bending, almost collapsing. A monk was holding it. Francis had submitted the first Franciscan rule and the Pope had been very surprised by its rigor. The Pope said, "Pray to God to manifest his will. When we know it, we'll certainly respond". The Pope understood by that dream, that he had to approve the rule. Francis holds the Church. This is a beautifully fresco painted by Giotto in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1290 - 1300).

     The until now Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected pope, taking the name of Francis (I). We could see here an orientation towards charity and love to the needy that characterized the "Poverello".

From Rome to the end of the world and back

     The Cardinals have wanted to elect the first non-European pope for over 1000 years. So the Pope noted jokingly that the Cardinals have gone to look for the new bishop of Rome "near the end of the world", in reference to his home country, Argentina. Perhaps because the Church knows herself and feels called to go away to regain strength and to take further the message of Christ.

     Immediately he expressed his awareness of being the Pope, inviting us to start a new path: "The Bishop and the people, this journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust”. Yes, because the Vicar of Christ is the common Father of this family of God in Rome and throughout the world, a seed of universal brotherhood.

    He then asked: "Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood". He added: "My hope is that this journey of the Church that we begin today, together with the help of my Cardinal Vicar, may be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city".

    Before giving the blessing to those present and all people of good will, he requested prayer for himself –"the prayer of the people for their Bishop"–, bowing and pausing for a few minutes of silence, as the cameras picked the faces of the crowd concentrated effectively in prayer.

The choice and the mercy

    The motto of his coat of arms as Cardinal is "miserando atque eligendo" (looked with mercy and chosen). St. Bede the Venerable, a great historian among the early Anglo-Saxons (VII-VIII), linked the choice of Saint Matthew to the mercy of God.

    Being a Latin American Pope points to the renewing sap that this continent is now for the Church, always alive, as Benedict XVI said. Certainly among his first words, Francis (I) stood in continuity with the now emeritus Pope of Rome: "Let's pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and the Virgin Mary protect him".

    It is a special joy for us that the new pope's native language is Castilian. Life, family and communication are outstanding values in Latin-American culture, so linked to ours. The new pope, who was a chemical technician, studied theology in Germany and has published several books on religious life, education, patriotism and other moral issues.

    Charity and mercy, confirmation in faith and unity, prayer and new evangelization, young blood for the Church, continuity and renewal. Those are the first chords of the new pontificate.

    This is a dream worth dreaming (see Susan Boyle's performance and lyrics)

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