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Back to 2019-03-12-Opinión-TEO-El papa que nos hizo rezar

Pablo Blanco Sarto, Professor of the School of Theology at the University of Navarra

The pope who made us pray. Six years of pontificate

Tue, 12 Mar 2019 12:22:00 +0000 Published in ABC

At 7:07 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13, the human tide gathered around St. Peter's place broke into applause. After a few seconds in which it was not clear whether the smoke was white or black, the bells of the basilica gave the unmistakable signal: the Church already had its 266th successor on the papal throne. French Cardinal Protodeacon Jean-Louis Tauran stepped out onto the balcony of the loggia delle benedizioni, and pronounced the name of the new pope in Latin. The crowd broke into cheers and applause, while waving flags and ringing bells. Cell phone flashes formed a modern continuous crackle.

Buona sera," was the new pope's greeting. "It seems that the brother cardinals went to look for him almost at the end of the world, but here we are". And from his new assignment, he wanted to offer a tribute: "First of all I would like to say a prayer for our bishop emeritus Benedict XVI, let us all pray together so that the Lord may bless him and Our Lady may protect him". An Our Father, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be. "And now, we begin this journey: bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches. A path of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for each other: one for the other. Let us pray for the whole world, so that there may be a great fraternity". Some appreciated the strong Argentinean accent, porteño for more signs.

The statistics were more than eloquent: the absolute issue of baptized Catholics had continued to rise in recent years in France, Italy and Spain, but had fallen in Germany. The Catholic Church was no longer Eurocentric. This was clearly evident, although perhaps we did not quite believe it: "Catholics have changed hemisphere and color," Juan Rubio summarized. They will be less and less white, less European and more African, Brazilian, Mexican, Filipino, Indian and who knows if Chinese as well. [The dream of the old missionaries has come true. Today the Church is more Catholic, in its universal meaning". The new pope had to be "world-centric": to take into account the potential of Europe's Christian roots, but without forgetting that the future of Christianity lies in other continents.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan recounted a few hours after the election of the new pope: "And when the last bus pulls up, guess who gets off? Pope Francis. I imagine he said to the driver: 'No problem, I'm going with the boys'." During dinner, the pope showed his most sympathetic side: "May God forgive them," he said with his usual sarcasm. But - jokes aside - history was taking its course: a month later, the self-styled Islamic State was born, marking the history of the coming years. Meanwhile, in Rome, the reform already designed by Benedict XVI had been inaugurated and would be continued by his successor - "the man of the reform internship"- to the rhythm of tango. Situations that were crying out to heaven: the cases of abuse, financial issues or the reform of the Roman Curia from agreement with more pastoral and missionary criteria were just three initial lines.

Pope Francis has continued the roadmap first sketched out by his German predecessor. But he has given it his own style, a more Latin rhythm. There has been no shortage of difficulties. The credibility offered by his message of mercy and the gestures that corroborated it has been beyond doubt. The images do not lie and one only has to ask or look at the statistics. After the systole of the Benedictine pontificate, a diastole was needed to take the Church to its real status : to the peripheries. The Church is still young and alive, John XXIII had said. And going back to that March 13, we are left with the last words of that enigmatic new pope: "Brothers and sisters, I leave you. Thank you very much for your welcome. Pray for me and see you soon. I will see you soon. Tomorrow I would like to go and pray to Our Lady, so that she may protect all of Rome. Good night and have a good night's rest.