The first time that Pope Francis was announced as the winner of the papal election, St. Peter’s Square fell quiet. No one really knew who he was. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was considered a long shot in the papal election despite the fact he finished second to Karl Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) in the last election. The crowd quickly regained its composure and began to cheer for the new pope once he made his appearance, but the press was already in motion. This papal election would be one of the most talked about in history and one that I believe will go down as one of the most significant.
At first, I didn't know what to think. I didn't follow the news of the Vatican closely enough to know much about the new pope. I had no idea what was in store for the church. I was just happy at the time that we had a new pope. As I learned more and heard all the reports of Francis' actions, I became more and more hopeful for the future. I believe if anyone can start to rehabilitate the interior of the Catholic Church, it is Pope Francis. The exterior view may not be the most popular, but that shouldn't matter. As long as the church starts heading in the right direction, that should be enough for us. I think the Pope's stances on the biggest issues of the church will really help it be more accessible to all, especially the youth and the poor.
As for the Pope's actions, I have been really impressed by his humble and compassionate nature. Like I said, I keep gaining hope in the church as each new report comes out of the Vatican about what the Pope did that day. For example, one of the first things Pope Francis did was decline to live in the lavish papal apartments. At this point, I didn't know what to make of it, but it all made sense to me later. The new approach that Pope Francis is taking is one of humility, service, and compassion. These roots go back to his days as the cardinal of Buenos Aires writes Billy Hallowell. At first, this made headlines but it ended up fitting right in to the bigger plan for the church that the pope has. It has also been reported that Francis has eschewed the Pope-mobile and the lifted chairs in favor of more humble means of transportation. He eats and celebrates mass with the common workers of the Vatican, such as the gardeners and janitors.
For traditionalists, this is all reason for concern writes Billy Hallowell in a separate article. They want the church to go back to the way things were before the Vatican II council made the drastic changes to make the church what is is today. Pope Benedict's agenda included some of these priorities, but Francis hasn't shown any interest in that. He wants the church to move forward with the world. I would have to agree with the new Pope. Many of the traditionalist concerns seem outdated or prejudiced. To a young catholic with no real lean before starting my research, I felt like the love of God that's so often preached in church wasn't being practiced by some of the traditionalists. They seem to make big deals about the pope changing small details in ceremonies and some comments encouraging the church to work together with other faiths, such as Islam. If we're supposed to love like Jesus and love our enemies, why can't we love the Muslims and people of other faiths? Why are they so upset at a Pope who's goals are to make the church more dedicated to service and accessible to all? Do they like it when the church is exclusive, old-fashioned and (to a point) snobby? The pope doesn't need all the fancy pomp that they want to give him. The reason why John Paul II was so beloved was his ability to relate to everyone in the church. I feel like Francis is trying to achieve the same thing, and he's starting by focusing his energy on the poor.
As for moving forward, the celebration of Holy Week is over. The pope has to find ways to continue his humility and dedication to service when there aren't any major events to display them at. He also has to deal with the business end of the papacy, such as naming his advisers and cabinet members. This article by Barbie Latza Nadeau does a great job at describing what's next for Pope Francis. He has to deal with the shattered image of the church and the internal issues of finances and the recent sexual scandals within the church. Steven Avella, a priest and professor at Marquette University, writes here that while Francis faces many issues, his actions have so far inspired confidence.
Blog background picture from http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2013/03/argentine-cardinal-elected-as-new-pope-named-pope-francis-i/the-papal-conclave-day-one-12/
Printed Works Cited:
Graham-Yooll, Andrew. "Our Father, Who Art In Art." Index On Censorship 34.2 (2005): 153-156. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2013.
Omar G. Encarnación. "Latin America's Gay Rights Revolution." Journal of Democracy 22.2 (2011): 104-118. Project MUSE. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.