Conclave. Any Cardinal who aspires to being Pope will never be elected. The humble ones, whose names are being bandied about as possibilities, lobby for the others who are being considered. Being called to the Chair of Peter does not even enter the mind of the humblest of them. He is the one sitting, “in the back corner of the Sistine Chapel”, the one unknown, the one unspoken of. It is he who is Chosen.
And so it was of this man, Jorge Bergoglio, of whom his predecessor has spoken so eloquently of the
“… foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today’s Christian … Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.” Pope Emeritus Benedict
It had become painfully obvious amid the emerging awareness of the Vatileaks and sex abuse scandals that many of the Church’s traditional institutions that operated within her had become corrupted and were in desperate need of a complete overhaul. In the midst of his pontificate, Pope Benedict stepped down realizing that it’s scope was beyond his capabilities,
“My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry”.
Pope Francis began his pontificate by calling the Church back to her beginnings; her source. He tells the people of God to wake up! and ‘shake up’ those good and holy things that need to be dusted off and returned or renewed.
Pope Francis said to the Church’s youth at his first World Youth Day in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that he hoped they ‘make a mess’,
“I hope for a mess … that the Church takes to the streets. That we defend ourselves from comfort, that we defend ourselves from clericalism … The Church must be taken to the streets … If not, the Church becomes an NGO. And the Church cannot be an NGO,”
he said, echoing his very first Mass as Bishop of Rome, in which he preached to the cardinal electors that
“if we do not profess Jesus Christ … we may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”
Later that same year, in November 2013, he gifted the world with his first singularly written teaching, the Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) exhorting the Bishops to,
“Be shepherds with the smell of your sheep in the midst of your people like Jesus the Good Shepherd”.
This was followed by several other prophetic works including his Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, which launched the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2016 and was in itself an extraordinary gift to the Church.
But perhaps Pope Francis’ greatest gift to the Church and to the world to date is his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
In it Pope Francis returns to the God-given mandate he expressed at the beginning of his pontificate, to fully explain what he meant when he said,
“The Church must be taken to the streets … to profess Jesus Christ.”
There are 391 footnotes in Amoris Laetitia but, sadly, Pope Francis’ detractors would have us focus on only one, and that one taken out of context of the whole, in the Accuser’s attack to attempt to destroy this much needed prophetic and healing work.
While many of the faithful have provided excellent commentary analysis on Amoris Laetitia, none have written a clearer understanding of the Church’s teaching presented to us in it’s pages, and the Pope who wrote it, than Stephen Walford in, POPE FRANCIS THE FAMILY AND DIVORCE: In Defense of Truth and Mercy (the sub-title of which ought to have been the title, in my humble opinion).
Used widely by study groups, it has already become the definitive guide to serious minds desiring a full understanding and appreciation of the great gift of God we have been given in Pope Francis.
Always leading by example, Pope Francis has confounded equally those sitting on the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ of the Church’s center aisle.
This past October 2018, Pope Francis asked the Church to return to praying the Saint Michael Prayer and many Bishops and Priests took up the standard and re-introduced the ‘after the Mass Recessional’ devotion many remember being practiced for decades at the request of Pope Leo XIII due to the ‘dream’ he experienced of God granting Satan a 100 year ‘free access card’ to the Church and her members.
It is only through the humble and obedient that God accomplishes his greatest works.
Exactly six years ago today, the newly elected Papa Francisco stood on the papal loggia and, before giving God’s people his papal blessing, his first act as Pope was to bow his head and ask for God’s people to bless him.
At that moment, Satan was put on alert.