POPE FRANCIS: THE FIRST FEW DAYS
Picture: The Telegraph
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina has been elected as our new Holy Father following a conclave which lasted a little over 24 hours.
The good feeling reverberating around the Church at the moment is palpable. Pope Francis has, in his first days as Pontiff, touched the hearts of many around the world. His humble and loving demeanour and words as he stood on the balcony overlooking St Peter's Square has not been lost on anyone who witnessed it. I, for one, watched the events of Wednesday evening unfold with a spring in my step and a tear in my eye. It was joyful, but also incredibly moving. And, as the dust settles on his appointment and he starts to move through public life, the joy has continued.
Perhaps it was the fulfilment of his balcony promise to pray to Mary as he attended the nearby Basilica of Mary Major the following morning. Or maybe it was his decision to take the bus "with the guys" (as he put it) when he could have taken the papal limo (pictured, below). Or even his insistence to visit a hotel to pay his bill.
These stories depict a man of devotion to his faith but also a man who can relate not only to his clergy, but also to people on the street. During his time in Buenos Aires he was often found taking the bus and the subway and would cook his own meals, even as a Cardinal. Indeed, he would visit the slums at Christmas to cook meals for the poor.
Kissing the feet of AIDS sufferers and bestowing blessings upon children and pregnant mothers are further evidence of the love and humility of this 76-year old Argentinian. Even the mainstream media has struggled to be anything other than positive about Pope Francis, though some will undoubtedly try to upset the applecart over the coming weeks and months. It's in their nature yet we shouldn't be surprised, as CS Lewis once suggested in the Screwtape Letters, the weekly press is a tool for the devil. Whilst some may balk at such a suggestion, is it really surprising when we consider the constant negativity towards religion and the increasingly secular attitudes they seek to impose?
But back to el Papa and, in particular, the early messages he is seeking to impress upon the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. In his most recent meeting with the Cardinals of the Church he referred to their eternal mission to "lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person."He also told them to "not ever give in to pessimism" which is significant in a world that has a tendency to focus on the negative, and which continually pushes the values of pure love and life to the fringes of society.
The Pope's devotion to Our Blessed Mother was also evident once again as he stated: "Beneath her maternal gaze, may each one of us walk and listen to the voice of her Divine Son, strengthening unity, persevering together in prayer and giving witness to the true faith in the continual presence of the Lord." And it so important to give credence to that maternal gaze of Mary who is, after all, the mother of each and every one of us. She is always there to listen to our prayers and to take them to her son.
But it wouldn't be Pope Francis if there wasn't a little humour thrown in. In a little quip to the more mature among him and his Cardinals he said "half of us are old: I like to think of old age as the seat of wisdom in life....we must give this wisdom to young people." This, it would appear, is a direct instruction to the most prominent Catholic clergy to take their wisdom and experience of life in the Church to the young around the world. It's not a thankless task as over the last few years it is young people who seem to me to be most vociferous and enthusiastic about their faith. That said, however, it is still a most necessary task and it is wonderful to see Pope Francis committing himself and the Cardinals to work amongst the young. They, as Pope Emeritus (Benedict XVI) once said, are "the future of the Church; the Church belongs to you."Our new Pope will continue to make waves throughout the world with his humility, his love and his humour.
He will try to build up the Church and make sure it continues to thrive in a world that often acts contrary to the things the Church holds so dear. He will not change doctrine and he will not make wholesale reform within the Church. He may make minor changes on an administrative level and he may clothe the message of Christ in a slightly different way to his predecessors but he will not be reversing the Church's stance on abortion or same-sex marriage. Neither he, nor any of the other Cardinals who were being considered for election, would do this as it is contrary to the teachings of sacred scripture and, thus, against the Will of God.
It is truly an exciting time for the Catholic Church and it's 1.2 billion adherents. Indeed, that number may well rise as I am already aware of one person who called a UK radio show on Thursday morning to say they would be returning to the Church. That person is surely not alone. Pope Francis is touching the world with his humility and his love and the world, it seems, is reacting positively.