Things are beginning to sink in all round. Pope Francis is a man who defies a neat single labelling.
So far in a quick web survey there emerges that in Buenos Aires he took a strong moral line on such matters as same-sex ‘marriage’, to the manifest annoyance of the Presidentrix of Argentina. He is theologically “conservative” but strong on “social justice” (and as Dr Shaw rightly asks, why the “but”?!). He scaled down the episcopal style of life in Buenos Aires, living in a small flat, taking public transport to work and often cooking for himself. He is said to have refused several offers of curial posts, avoiding coming to Rome unless he had to.
Jesuits are notoriously un-liturgical. Many are suggesting that either he will place a low priority on liturgical matters, leaving things be, or he will positively dismantle the restoration of tradition.On traditionalist blogs some are going hyper about Cardinal Bergogolio’s alleged non-implementation of Summorum Pontificum and his hostility to tradition, yet it seems he allowed the old rite Institute of the Good Shepherd to open a house in his diocese. IN Argentina he had oversight for eastern rite Catholics, which suggest that he is familiar with the eastern liturgies.
I suspect his Jesuit simplicity will indeed see him adopt a simpler papal style, and that he will be vigorous in stamping his authority on the Curia. But for all the mainstream media’s wishcraft that he will simplify the Church by reducing its pomp and grandeur (this on the BBC) and opt for the poor and marginalized, this may be true to a degree, but they may find that he administers a dose of noble Roman simplicity that is far too strong for liberals and progressives. Simplicity for him may well mean, “Do as you’re told and don’t argue”, “Do it my way or no way”, “You are either for me or against me”, “It’s either yes or no, not maybe”. Simplicity can be very direct indeed.
Francis – is it Assisi or Xavier? Maybe it is both – Assisi appeals to all Italians, and certainly chimes with his hitherto simplicity of life; Xavier is a nod to his Jesuit order and to the role of evangelization in the Church.
Rocco Palmo provides a good ad hoc translation of Pope Francis’ first address and it has some interesting moments. Some snippets:
And before anything else, I’d like for us to pray for our bishop-emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord bless him and Our Lady keep him in her care….
Note his graciousness to Benedict, and his use of Bishop Emeritus, not Pope Emeritus. Very promising – Pope Emeritus jars immensely!
And now, together, let us start this road: bishop and people. This [new] path of the church of Rome, which “presides in charity” [over] all the churches. A path of brotherhood, of love, of trust between us. Let us pray always for ourselves: one for the other. Let us pray for all the world, that we all might know a great fraternity. I wish you that this journey as Church, that we begin today and on which my Cardinal-Vicar [of Rome] will help me, might be fruitful for the evangelization of this beautiful city!
Fascinating – he confirms that Rome “‘presides in charity’ [over] all the churches”. What might this mean for his approach to ecumenism? Charity suggests that he will approach the other churches with humility and peace; presiding suggests that he will not shrink from the Petrine primacy one iota. And he plans to bear fruit in evangelizing the city of Rome! Evangelization, very Pope Benedict, very missionary, very St Francis Xavier.
And now I’ll give you my blessing… but first – first, I ask you this favor: before the bishop blesses his people, I ask that you pray to the Lord that he might bless me: the prayer of the people, seeking God’s blessing for their bishop. In silence, let’s please make a prayer for me….
Some are saying that he asked the people to bless him, and horrified they were too! But it seems that Pope Francis asked the people to pray for him that he might be blessed, which is another thing entirely. A bishop asking for prayers sounds mighty healthy to me. And so what if a pope bows to his people: it adds a little more substance to the last of the papal titles, Servant of the Servants of God. Recently I have been asserting that the media presentation of the Vatican Council, and the Council’s reception in some parts of the Church, was marked by a hermeneutic of power, especially with regard to lay activity in the Church, as was evidenced in the reaction to the Bishop of Portsmouth’s restructuring plans. Its antitdote is the hermeneutic of service, and it seems that Pope Francis will be happy to adopt that hermeneutic himself.