Monday, April 8, 2013

What in the World is going on in the Vatican? Why I think Pope Francis is Going to be Great

            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.
            Press coverage and controversy has followed Francis wherever he’s gone since his election. In this day and age, it was natural that he would receive a lot of media attention, but his actions have attracted more than usual. It started with his historic election. He is the first pope of the Jesuit Order. Some people might not realize that there are different orders of priests in the Catholic Church.  The main ones are Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits. What makes the Jesuit's different is their core values of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They believe that reform of the church starts with the individual. You can read more here. Cardinal Bergogolio was considered a long shot to win the papal election. Some bloggers and reporters didn't even prepare a biography of him when they were preparing for the election. When his name was announced, he came out in simple white garments instead of the traditional fancy red ones. All this led to some speculation among Catholics as to what the new pontiff might do. Traditionalists took pessimistic views as progressives we're hopeful. The first few weeks of Francis' papacy has confirmed fears and fulfilled hopes.
            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.
            The beautiful thing about Pope Francis that I can see is his new approaches without changing the fundamental teachings of the church. For example, he might include 2 women in his washing the feet of the 12 on Holy Thursday, but that doesn't mean he'll change the church's view on having female priests. While he will bring some progressive actions to the church, he can also satisfy some traditionalists by not changing the church's teachings. For example, Argentina had a movement to allow gay and homosexual marriages. In a peer-reviewed article by Omar G. Encarnación documenting this, then-Cardinal Bergoglio spoke out against it, deeming it a war against God. In another article, this one by Andrew Graham-Yooll, a prominent artist made an exhibit criticizing the church with very controversial images. Then-Cardinal Bergoglio was quoted declaring it blasphemous because it so blatantly and condescendingly judged the church's teachings. It was an issue at the time, but the cardinal was right to declare it so.  So while some progressive moves, such as the washing of the girl's feet might seem like progressive, his views on the more popular issues of the day won't change. This new direction in the church has created mixed feelings, illustrated well in this article by Allan Brawley. He wrote about his hope for the church's progress but turned around with a scathing criticism of the church's teaching, declaring some of them “destructive and inhumane”.
            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.
            Francis' new approach became much more evident after the washing of the feet. This is the event that really caught my attention. I absolutely was stunned at the Pope's actions. Not only did he celebrate Holy Thursday at a juvenile prison, he washed their feet. He also did what some traditionalists might have deemed unthinkable. He went above cannon law and washed the feet of women, one of whom is a Muslim. If you thought the pope's humble nature was just a facade, this would have confirmed his authenticity. As a young Catholic, I absolutely love the Pope's devotion to service and the poor. During Benedict's papacy, I feel like the head of the church became much more distant. Popes like Blessed John Paul II and Francis make the church much more accessible and appealing to young people when they devote themselves to leading by service, instead of leading from the balcony over St. Peter's Square. Jimmy Akin writes that the pope, “takes his role seriously as a servant of all people and an evangelist to all people.” He raises the concern that he is setting an example that, by cannon law, no one else can follow. I believe that the example he is setting is that Catholics need to be humble and compassionate to all people, not just each other. The gender and religion of the people in this case don't matter as much. They just illustrate how we should live everyday, not just on Holy Thursday. This article by Julia Kammler is a good summary of all the pope's actions during Holy Week.
            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.
            On the day the pope was elected, I was on my computer in my dorm, playing video games and doing homework as I waited for the announcement. At the time, I was quite indifferent as to who the new pope would be. During Benedict's papacy, the Vatican seemed so far away and so far above me which drove me to not really caring who the pope was. As the week went on and as I kept seeing Pope Francis make more and more headlines, I became more curious. I became inspired and full of confidence in the church due to Francis' dedication to service. So as we move away from Easter and toward Ordinary Time, away from the honeymoon and toward serious business, I rest assured that the cardinals elected a holy man that would lead us toward positive change in the church.

Blog background picture from

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. <>.

1 comment:

  1. This paper is pretty good but i have just a few things to say. One it seems like your giving a lot of your opinion, wishes and wants. I say you should give more facts that in turn convince your readers instead of you saying why you like this new Pope. You should also give the opposing sides argument and give facts that disproves and voids their points.