by Corinne Wnek
All eyes were on Rome this week as the papal conclave met to choose the new Pope of the Catholic Church. The excitement generated by this ancient, and admittedly mysterious, process is pretty impressive given all the criticism that has been reaped upon the Church in recent years. Some of this criticism was well-deserved. But it’s a different day now because as of Wednesday, there’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Francis.
It was obvious that upon being introduced, the new Pope connected immediately with the thousands of people who kept vigil in St. Peter’s Square. He exemplifies much of what the Catholic faith is based upon; that is, things are not always what they seem. Sometimes with Christians, it’s like playing the opposite game. If you’re poor, then you’re rich and the first shall be last.
Even the new Pope’s chosen name, Francis, is simple and gentle like the man he spent his whole life emulating, St. Francis of Assisi. For those unaware, St. Francis was born into great wealth but gave everything away to live a life of poverty for God. Although the riches of the Vatican are at his disposal, the Pope is really just a house guest because he doesn’t own anything there, unlike other heads of great organizations or even royalty. Things really aren’t what they seem.
Pope Francis is a Jesuit priest by trade and even that is opposite in nature of the Franciscan order of priests within the Catholic Church. Whereas the Jesuit focus is on the intellectual qualities of man as one means to know God, the Franciscan approach to knowing God is about searching for Him among the poor. Same destination, but two opposite ways of getting there.
Pope Francis also comes from a part of the world that is opposite that where pope’s traditionally come from. The now former Argentinean cardinal made history in becoming the first pope to come from the Americas. Hurray for our side and hurray for the healing that he promised to bring to suffering people everywhere. Maybe he could start with those whose hopes and hearts were shattered in the conclave.
One thing is for sure. Francis has his work cut out for him. Viva IL Papa.