Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

Well, I guess my parochial vicar called it right in his prediction that the conclave would be over in two days!  So much for all the speculation about deadlock!

As far as I know, however, in all the recent speculation hardly anyone was particularly predicting the 76-year old, Jesuit Archbishop of Argentina, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, whose first public words to the world were: "You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop.  It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one... but here we are... I thank you for your welcome. 

Latin Americans represent 42% of the Church's population worldwide. So it is more than about time for a Latin American pope. What a joyful moment this is - not just for the 501 million Catholics that live in Latin America and for the Latino immigrants that are forming the future of the Church in the United States, but for the whole Church, whose universality has again been demonstrated and displayed to the world as the first non-European in more than a millennium is elected Successor of St. Peter.

Precisely because Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, was such a surprising choice (at least to most of us), the professional analysts on whom we tend to rely so much in the media  were obviously much less ready than they might otherwise have been to analyze what his election may mean for specific concerns in the Church - what his election may mean for the new evangelization, for the Church's response to secular modernity, for the Church's identification with the poor, for vocations, for ecumenism and interfaith relations, etc. Substantively certainly, Pope Francis will be on the same page as Pope Benedict was on fundamental doctrinal matters. But that would be true, of course, of anyone who might have been elected pope. What remains to be seen, however, is how the new pope's personality, evident humility and spirituality, his experience, Latin American background, Jesuit formation, etc., will inform his personal style and his papacy's priorities.

Meanwhile, our new pope has stepped out onto the world's stage by humbly requesting the faithful to pray for him. 

O God, who chose your servant Francis in succession to the Apostle Peter as shepherd of the whole flock, look favorably on the supplications of your people and grant that, as Vicar of Christ on earth, he may confirm his brethren and that the whole Church may be in communion with  him in the bond of unity, love, and peace, so that in you the shepherd of souls, all may know the truth and attain life eternal (Collect, Votive Mass for the Pope).

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