Beginning the Journey with Pope Francis
By Erika Olson
“Erika!” I heard James say as I walked back into the office after grabbing a quick lunch. “You missed it. We have a Pope!”
“Are you kidding me?” I honestly thought he was joking.
“No, really. Come see this!”
I walked in to see our staff and a few of our missionaries gathered around a computer screen that had white smoke wafting across it. And I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. I stood waiting to hear the words that have signaled to the world for centuries that, “Habemus Papam (We have a Pope).” We had a new Papa and I couldn’t wait to see him. I was so excited to see WHO this man would be.
Finally, the door opened and Cardinal Tauran announced: “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam: Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum.” (I announce to you a great joy; we have a Pope: Eminent and Most Reverend Lord Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio who has taken the name of Francis.)
“Wait. WHO?!” we all said. Did he say Cardinal George? (Clearly our Latin is a little rusty :)) Then the newscasters announced that it was Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina. I hadn’t heard that name mentioned in the papabili (those likely to be elected Pope). So I waited to meet him and see what he would announce to the world. What will our Papa say to us? Turns out his invitation would be one very much like Jesus‘ invitation to journey with Him.
The one-handed wave to the world
I laughed when Pope Francis I finally stepped out onto the Loggia looking rather overwhelmed. Then, he raised his right hand and waved. In the past, Popes have raised both arms high to greet the crowd that waited below to meet them. He’s humble, I thought. Not that previous Pontiffs were not humble, but this is his first greeting to the world. A wave with a look of shock on his face. He’s vulnerable. When a President is elected, he throws a party.
When a Pope is elected, he walks into a room that has been dubbed “The Crying Room,” and prepares himself (as much as one can prepare oneself) to be the Vicar of Christ, the Successor of St. Peter, and to greet his flock. He was not afraid to show that he was, indeed, a bit overwhelmed. Either that or he was SO overwhelmed that he could not help but express it. Either way, I would much rather have a Pope who is overwhelmed by the task that lies before him – it means he must rely on the Lord for strength and wisdom.
His papal motto is “Miserando atque eligendo” (“Lowly yet chosen”). He opened his mouth and said, “And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us.” His first words sound like Jesus who invited His first Apostles to follow Him (cf. Luke 5:1-11), and when Jesus joined His Apostles as they journeyed on the road to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35). Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals gave the homily at the opening Mass for the Conclave. In his homily, he pointed out 3 themes from the readings for that day that were very applicable to their election of our new Holy Father.
His first extraction from the Mass readings for that day is the message of love:
The first reading has offered us once again a well-known messianic oracle from the second part of the book of Isaiah that is known as “the book of consolation” (Isaiah 40-66). It is a prophecy addressed to the people of Israel who are in exile in Babylon. Through this prophecy, God announces that he will send a Messiah full of mercy, a Messiah who would say: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me… he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the wounds of broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to prisoners, and to announce a year of mercy of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-3).
Pope Francis I, while he was still Cardinal Bergoglio living in Buenos Aires, would go out often to the streets to administer the Sacraments to those who needed them. In 2001, He went to a hospice in Buenos Aires to wash and kiss the feet of 12 AIDS patients.
This is what Benedict XVI wrote in his Lenten Message for this year (n.3). “Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term ‘charity’ to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization …. Cardinal Bergoglio said in 2012, “all ordinary activities of the Church take place in view of the mission.” He is a man dedicated to the work of love, giving the highest form of charity, evangelization, it’s rightful place in the life of the Church, following in the footsteps of Christ as he brings the good news to the flock He now shepherds (cf. John 21).
The man who drew the world to silence
The second point Cardinal Sodano makes is the message of unity that comes from the Mass readings of that day, reminding his brother Cardinals that the Church is the body of Christ and it falls specifically to the role of the Successor of Peter to be the “visible foundation of the unity of the Church.” Cardinal Bergoglio is of Italian descent, but he was raised in Argentina, thus His Holiness is the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere and Latin America. He speaks Italian, Spanish, Latin and German. He originally wanted to be a Chemist, yet joined the Jesuits and studied in Germany. He took the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a model of humility and poverty. In his one person, he represents so many facets of the Church today and many parts of the Body of Christ.
In His first words to us, Pope Francis I says:
And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.
He invites us into a brotherhood with him. He even asked the faithful to bless him, to pray over him in silence as he bowed his head to receive their prayer of blessing. In this action, he bows to receive the people, to receive their love and to draw them into the embrace of God present in prayer. He began His papacy by drawing the Church together in prayer.
Man on a Mission
The last point Cardinal Sodano draws from the readings is the mission of the Pope:
… the last popes have been builders of so many good initiatives for people and for the international community, tirelessly promoting justice and peace. Let us pray that the future Pope may continue this unceasing work on the world level….
It is a mission of charity that is proper to the Church, and in a particular way is proper to the Church of Rome, that in the beautiful expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, is the Church that “presides in charity” “praesidet caritati” (cf.Ad Romanos (preface).; Lumen Gentium, n. 13).
He is aware of the mission that lies before the Church, the journey that he mentions in his first address as Pope. He invites us along to join him on this journey. Your Holiness, I am delighted to join you on this journey of love, unity and mission!
St. Peter, pray for Pope Francis I!
By Erika Olson
1 Pope Francis. “Apostolic Blessing ‘Urbi at Orbi.” Vatican City, March 13, 2013. http://www.vatican.va/holy_
2 Cardinal Sodano, “HOMILY OF HIS EMINENCE CARD. ANGELO SODANO
DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS.” Vatican, March 13, 2013.
4 Allen Jr., John. “Profile: New pope, Jesuit Bergoglio, was runner-up in 2005 conclave” http://ncronline.org/node/
5 Tornelli, Andrea. “Careerism and Vanity: Sins of the Church.” Rome, February 2, 2012. http://vaticaninsider.
7 Pope Francis. “Apostolic Blessing ‘Urbi at Orbi.” Vatican City, March 13, 2013. http://www.vatican.va/holy_