GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 21 March) – At his inauguration last Tuesday, March 19, Pope Francis bared the focus of his papacy in his homily before 150,000 to 200,000 in St. Peter’s Square from Rome and around the world. Seated close to the Pope were 250 Cardinals, representatives of 132 nations and leaders of other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Jainist religions. As the Vatican does not give out invitations to occasions like inauguration, these dignitaries came to significantly honor Pope Francis.
Considered most significant was the presence of Patriarch Bartholomew I, head of the Orthodox Christians of Constantinople. He was the first Orthodox Christian Patriarch to attend a papal inauguration since the break of Christendom into the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches in 1054. His presence and that of the representatives of other religions, augurs well for interfaith relations under Pope Francis.
In his homily, he defined his power as service; he addressed directly the Cardinals and those in position of power exhorting them to do what are expected of them as religious, political, social and economic leaders. In so doing, he brought the papacy to bear on the crises within the Catholic Church and on problems confronting nations worldwide.
Pope Francis explained that that “certain power” endowed the Pope to be “authentic power is service” to others – vowing he would serve “the poorest, the weakest, the least important”. Inspired by St. Joseph’s (March19 is St. Joseph’s Day) role as “protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church”, he said service means to be a protector – and referring to St. Francis of Assisi — of “all creation, the beauty of the created world … respecting each of God’s creature and … the environment”.
To the leaders of the 132 nations present, he entreated, “Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!”
Calling for a “poor Church for the poor”, he warned the Cardinals against worldly glories saying that without deep spiritual renewal the Roman Catholic Church would crumble “like a sand castle”. He struck a sensitive but vital chord.
He was stating the expectation for the Cardinals to take the lead with him in reforming the Church in crisis – the intrigue-filled Roman Curia, the scandal besetting the Vatican, the fallout from the sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops, and loss of faith of million Catholics and their conversion to other faiths. He exhorted, “Today, too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.”
As church leaders, obviously lay leaders, urged him to reform the intrigue-filled Roman Curia, he indicated in his homily:
– He will press for a friendlier faith that is closest to ordinary people and for social justice even if the moderate conservative is unlikely to change major tenets of Catholic doctrine.
– He will pursue a more inclusive “collegial” style of leadership together with the cardinals – addressing them as “Brothers” – and bishops. This could mean more autonomy in the administration of archdioceses and dioceses.
– He gave deeper and wider meaning to that “inclusivity” in his welcome of “women religious, and all lay faithful” as well as of “the representatives of the other churches and ecclesiastical communities” and of “the Jewish and other religious communities”.
As we read over and over our media sources – Agence France-Presse as published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The New York Times, The Washington Post and BBC News – liberally adopting their “notes” and “quotes”, we join the faithful in St. Peter’s Square who expressed their optimism for a “changed” Church under a new Papacy – a departure from that of Pope Benedict XVI characterized by “high church preferences, palpable conservatism and shy, almost, exclusive style”.
However, at the heart of this optimism must be Pope Francis’ warning to the Cardinals against “worldly glories” and his exhortation for the need of “spiritual renewal”. That call is to all and for all Catholics as they – not the Pope, Cardinals and Bishops alone – are the Church. (Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews)