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Pope Francis

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 14, 2013

I, of course, was very happy to know we have a new Pope. When I woke up at 4 a.m. last Thursday, there were already 5 text messages on my mobile phone. And they all broke to me the good news. I prayed immediately.

A little later, I scrambled to know more about the new Pope. Like everyone else I was also surprised and gladdened to learn about him and his life. The Cardinal from Argentina, a Jesuit, cannot fail but command love and admiration for the way he is, for what he has done, for what he stands.

Even in his appearance, there is already a palpable air of humility, gentleness and compassion. His smile and over-all demeanor say it all. Besides, he takes the bus to go to work. He lives in a small apartment instead of the palace reserved for his office. He only has one lung. In short, he avoid perks.

Of course, as the day wore on, and more impressions and reactions came in, especially from opinion-makers, some dismay crept in. In hindsight, I should be prepared to know about these reactions. Different people can obviously express what they like. These views can only show from where these columnists are coming in.

I noted that many of them had to eat crow after badly failing in their predictions. Cardinal Bergoglio was not in many of their radars. Obviously, the Holy Spirit had something else in mind besides their brilliant reasonings. But not content with that, now they are putting a lot of political coloring in the election of the new Pope.

The usual branding poured in – liberal or conservative, pro-this or anti-that, etc. Several spins spun wildly. Will he bring the Church to a new direction, out from the ashes of the sex scandals afflicting many parts of the Church and the mismanagement of the Vatican machinery? And at 76, will he just be a caretaker Pope?

Well, the world will always be the world until the end of time. Its language and logic will often be dominated by passion rather than by reason, and much less by faith. Yet, in spite of all that, the grain of truth and the seed of charity can never be lost completely. And so let’s just be game and try to sort out things as best as we can.

Patience, therefore, is the name of the game. In the meantime, let’s remind ourselves some basic, indispensable truths about the Pope and the papacy, and try to craft a plan to educate everyone about how we ought to think about the Pope.

The first thing we have to remember is that everything about the Pope and the papacy is a matter of faith. We cannot take them mainly, and much less fully, from an earthly, temporal point of view, be it historical, cultural, political, sociological, ideological, etc. Our attitude should be theological, more than anything else.

Not that all the other considerations have nothing to say and contribute. But we need to understand that the directing force of faith should take precedence. Absent this, then the whole exercise will have no other end but doom. We would be missing the whole point about the Pope and the papacy.

This is not going to be easy to take, I know, especially by those who are very opinionated about anything that has significance in the national or the world stage. Faith is like asking them to deny themselves, which is a central part of Christ’s teachings that they cannot understand.

We have to understand that the Pope, whoever he may be as long as he is elected properly, is the Vicar of Christ here on earth. St. Catherine would call him the “sweet Christ on earth.”

As our Catechism teaches us, “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’” (882) He has full, surprise and universal power over the whole Church.

That description alone should make us realize that we all need to follow the Pope, to be close and united to him in mind and heart, in his teachings and directives, irrespective of who he is.

There is a Latin expression which I think summarizes the proper attitude we ought to have toward the Pope. “Omnes cum Petro ad Iesum per Mariam” (all with Peter to Jesus through Mary).

This is how we ought to welcome Pope Francis!