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January 04, 2014

Pope Francis

Pope Francis I is the TIME magazine's Person of the year 2013. Never mind what I think of the choice. The question is: What do you think about it? Before jumping to conclusions, we need some background information.


Time's Top 5 Finalists for 2013. Now read the Lead Article on Pope Francis. It is a longish article, so in this post I have paraphrased a few extracts.

Who is Pope Francis?

He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old Argentinian. Son of an Italian immigrant, young Jorge trained as a chemical technician before joining the Jesuit priesthood.  He was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires till his election as pope in March 2013, succeeding  Pope Benedict who resigned, due to old age and ill health. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years, he is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

The changes began with the new name that he chose. Of the 266 popes in history,  23 were named John. He is the first in 2000 years to choose the name Francis - after Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint who gave up luxury to follow a radical Christ-like life and is revered as the patron of the poor. He took this name and promptly called for a church of healing.

Social justice has always been a strong plank in his life's work in Argentina. He retains the same focus on social doctrine,  together with the traditional priestly role of upholding faith and morals. The Latin motto on his Coat of Arms means: "Having mercy and choosing him", a reference to the apostle Mathew, a lowly tax collector, whom Jesus called to be one of His twelve disciples.

Why the World Notices

Quite apart from the fact that he is the spiritual head of a huge Global Catholic Population, Pope Francis I comes across as unique. And not simply because of his headline-grabbing pictures of being a caring pastor. He has formally stated:

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.

He has made it clear that it is not just talk. He wants actual transformation. Among the bishops and priests who run Catholic institutions. On the focus of activities. In the church finances. Soon after he was elected, he named a special commission to investigate the Vatican Bank which has been under a cloud since 2010. In turn they asked an independent firm for an audit. In October, the bank disclosed an annual report for the first time in its 125-year history.

The following quotes highlight the reason why he captured world attention in 2013:

"... what makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all.".

People are weary of the many problems besetting the Roman Catholic Church, when all the while (to borrow from Milton), “the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.” In a matter of months, Pope Francis has elevated the healing mission of the Church — the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world — above the doctrinal work which has always been paramount to its leaders.

"...  the new Pope may have found a way out of the 20th century culture wars, which have left the church moribund in much of Western Europe and on the defensive from Dublin to Los Angeles."

Not everybody agrees with the selection of TIME magazine. More about this in another post. Meanwhile:

Do you know how he celebrated his first birthday as Pope? Click Here.

Have you seen his most popular pictures after becoming Pope? Click here.


Anonymous said...

Today's breaking news is that Pope Francis has fired 4 of the 5 cardinals managing the Vatican Bank. Looks like he means business!

Rhoda D said...

Pope Francis does mean business - that is the general perception. May he live long and continue to break new ground!

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