March 2013

Reaction to the election of Pope Francis

Following the election last week of Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church’s 266th pontiff, The Good Oil canvassed some of its writers and readers for their reaction.

Leonie Duenas SGS (Principal, Good Samaritan Kinder School Bacolod, Philippines)

The night before the election, I was reading in the newspaper the names of the cardinals who were supposed to be pope. His name wasn’t there! Papacy, indeed is a matter of faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit works in mysterious ways.

What I like in this new Pope is his love for the disadvantaged and downtrodden. He is a poor-friendly Pope and the simplicity of his lifestyle stands out! The prayer of St Francis is my hope for Pope Francis. May God make him the channel of his justice and peace in our broken Church and wounded world.

Robyn Anderson (Principal, Lourdes Hill College, Brisbane)

The joy that greeted Pope Francis’ election echoed loudly at Lourdes Hill College. We prayed for him in assembly, rejoicing in the stories of his commitment to social justice, deep sense of humility and clear understanding of Christ’s mission. It is our fervent hope that Pope Francis will be a man of unity and action, a leader who provides a vision of inclusion and reconciliation to inspire the next generations to a greater understanding of, and commitment to, the work of the Church in our contemporary world.

Sonia Wagner SGS (Port Pirie)

A new perspective, a new tone, a new Church. Our Argentinean, Jesuit Pope Francis with profoundly simple words and gestures has set a new tone at the Vatican. On the night of his election he asked the crowd to pray for him. He bowed to receive their blessing in silence. Only then did he pray “I give my blessing to you and to all people of goodwill in the world”.

In place of a focus on doctrinal battles, Pope Francis believes that as Church we must “do everything we can do to make sure that everyone feels welcome, respected and cared for”. His first call to action was simple, clear and energetic. “Now let’s start working together, walking together in the Church of Rome.” Are these the first steps in a new style of Church governance of love and trust?

Monica Dutton (Good Samaritan Education Mission Team)

Each time the white smoke wafts from the Sistine Chapel and the bells ring out across St Peter’s Square – we hope, and we pray. We hope for renewal. We pray for unity. The windows thrown open in a spirit of aggiornamento over 50 years ago have slammed shut again in the ensuing years. May the election of Pope Francis be a prelude to prising them open again in a spirit of justice and peace. May there be recognition, acceptance, healing and unification of Catholics across the globe.

Bishop Pat Power (Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra Goulburn)

I wept with joy as I watched our newly-elected Pope Francis being introduced to his flock and to the world. Leading up to the conclave, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give us another Pope in the mould of John XXIII – a humble, pastoral leader who would show us the way to Jesus by his prayerfulness and his simplicity of life. Fifty years since the beginning of Vatican II, I believe that Pope Francis will enable the Council’s teachings to inform the lives of the faithful and all people of goodwill in 2013 and in the years ahead. Our love and our prayers go with him.

Carmel Posa SGS (New Norcia)

What can I say about our new Pope Francis? I could say, he’s going to reform the clergy of our Church, taking them from an hierarchical model based on Greek philosophy back to the original servant model based on the Scriptures. I could suggest that he will deal with sexual abuse with the same vigour and decisiveness that has been the case with the abortion issue and excommunicate the perpetrators. I might even propose that he will end the polarising trends within Catholicism and unite us all in our diversity through transparent processes of dialogue and inclusion rather than random condemnations. I would dare to say that he won’t act alone but always collegially in every facet of his papacy. Nevertheless, I would say, considering his background, it is not unlikely that he will focus our attention on the Gospel demands for social justice in our world. Finally, what I can definitely say, is that I do hope that he will keep our fundamental preference for Christ above all else in everything he says and does.

Margaret Walsh (Sydney)

The Catholic Church has been very deeply humiliated in recent times, unable to extricate itself from a quagmire of guilt, divided, lacking leadership, losing the trust and confidence of its members. What has happened in Rome over the past month seems to me to be a direct, positive proof that the Holy Spirit has intervened dramatically, has taken charge of this situation in a way none of us could have foreseen, planned, or achieved. He has set His seal on a humbled, humble Church.

Pope Benedict’s resignation, stunning in its unexpectedness and in his subsequent steadiness of purpose, was the act of a humbled, humble man acknowledging illness, age, failure. Courageously and with clear insight, he broke the mould of a 600-year old tradition which no longer served any purpose. That honest, humble action lead to the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Borgoglio, a Jesuit priest, a simple man, a man of the people, known for his humility and for his special love for the humble poor.

It is still early days but this is for me an awesome moment; it is a grace, inviting me to hope again, a very powerful affirmation of Christ’s promise to us, His Church: “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world”.

Mary McDonald SGS (Brisbane)

“May God forgive you for choosing me” – such a thought-provoking statement by Pope Francis. He gave no further explanation so maybe it will be the surprise element that we can expect! His own warmth of humanity and the manner in which Francis speaks of God is so unexpected – really surprising! God “has the ability to forget… he kisses you, he embraces you, and he says to you: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now, on, sin no more’. Only that counsel does he give you.”

The Pope’s spontaneity, spirituality, simplicity of life and commitment to social justice along with his desire to move from a self-referential Church to one that is Spirit-filled give signs of great hope for the future.

Alice Priest (St Scholastica’s College, Glebe)

Global spikes in SMS text messages are usually reserved to New Year’s Eve, but my suspicion is that March 14, 2013 may have seen a discernable blip as Catholics et al shared their reaction to the news of Pope Francis. Here are some text messages I exchanged (mine are in italics) post Habemus papam! with:

My sister:
It has to be a good sign that he’s taken the name Francis.
Good 1st Latino, 1st Jesuit, passion for poor. But another oldie at 76! Also, has only one lung. As radical a choice as the old boys could manage. Let us be hopeful.
Yes, I agree. Didn’t Francis reform the Church?!

An Australian bishop:
Happy Day 1 of the new pope. Looking forward to the possibility of a new tone leading the ancient song of the Church.
Very exciting I think. Holy Spirit at work.

A good friend:
A Jesuit at the helm: call that a CHANGE!
Yes, very good. But already 76, think they don’t expect him to be there too long.
Well, let’s hope so. The last thing we need is to go back to the Middle Ages.

Clare Condon SGS (Congregational Leader, Good Samaritan Sisters)

The election of a new Bishop of Rome and therefore of the Pope brings new insight, hope and vision for both the City of Rome and for the universal Church. I was pleasantly surprised when, in his first address after his election, Pope Francis referred to himself as first and foremost the Bishop of Rome.

One of my hopes is that he will embrace the collegiality that was proposed so strongly at the Second Vatican Council. One man cannot govern and re-energise the Church of Christ alone, nor can he do so with a few helpers in Vatican City. May he embrace this collegiality by respecting the local Churches and their particularities. May he be the first amongst equals. May he decentralise by restructuring the curia and spreading its offices throughout the Catholic world.

Moira Byrne Garton (Canberra)

Having signed up for the ‘Aussie Pope Alarm’, I was surprised by the speed of the decision. To me, the choice of Cardinal Borgoglio is encouraging because his South American origins indicate greater awareness of the non-Western Church. His compassion, solidarity with the disadvantaged and background in social teaching will renew attention to addressing injustice. His simplicity of message and lifestyle is a witness to the good within the Church. I was inspired by his seeking blessing from the faithful welcoming him, prior to his bestowing a Papal blessing. This heartening action is emblematic of his willingness to converse with lay Catholics.

Pauline Coll SGS (Brisbane)

I appreciate that he lives out of a strong social justice conscience. Hopefully it has become so much part of him that he will continue this journey even facing the machinations of the institution we call Church, and will call forth from others such a conscience. I hope that in the midst of the accusations from a dark period in Argentina he will exercise the wisdom of a Solomon, frail and human, to bring reform to the Curia and Vatican administration. Hopefully he will lead us to recognise and accept the many cultural differences of Catholicity.

Catherine McCahill SGS (Member of Good Samaritan Congregational Council)

Jorge Mario Bergoglio has chosen to be called Francis, after the saint of Assisi. The often-quoted, possibly misappropriated saying of Francis, “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words” is already apparent in the actions of this new Pope. I hope, and pray, that he will authentically and repeatedly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus. Furthermore, I want the integrity of his life, actions and words, to challenge me as a woman of the Church and as a religious to “be poor” and proclaim the Gospel by my life. May he be an authentic source of reconciliation for the People of God.

Tom Galea (Principal, Rosebank College, Five Dock)

The election of Jorge Bergoglio “came as something of surprise” to use the terminology of much of the media both sacred and secular. In fact, Bergoglio had been tipped as “papible” since the conclave that elected Benedict XVI in 2005. Regardless of the politicking that went on before and during the conclave, the cardinals have elected a man in whom they have expressed confidence. It remains to be seen how Pope Francis fills the role of Bishop of Rome, but he has said and done some interesting things that may well be pointers to how this papacy may develop.

The Good Oil

‘The Good Oil’, the free, monthly e-journal of the Good Samaritan Sisters, publishes news, feature and opinion articles and reflective content which aims to nourish the spirit, stimulate thinking and encourage reflection and dialogue about contemporary issues from a Good Samaritan perspective.

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