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Back to 2013_03_15_TEO_El candidato de Dios

Pablo Blanco Sarto, Professor of Theology at the University of Navarra and biographer of Benedict XVI.

God's candidate

Fri, 15 Mar 2013 12:29:00 +0000 Published in The Business Gazette

"The cardinals have gone to choose a pope to the end of the world." That was the joke he made as soon as he went out to the loggia delle benedizioni. It went down well. A Jesuit from "the end of the world" was elected Roman Pontiff. He is now the bishop of the Romans and the pope of all Catholics. Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose for himself the name Francis I. And why not Ignatius or Xavier, as a good Jesuit? Francis Xavier could however be a good reference letter for this pontificate. The archbishop of Buenos Aires did not appear in almost any of the Vaticanists' pools, but everyone was clamoring for a missionary pope.

"If the Church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it grows old," the future pope had said at the last synod on evangelization. A Latin American pope, son of European emigration. And the statistics are more than eloquent. Of the total number of Catholics, some 350 million live in Europe and North America, while 750 million are in Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific. Latin America today is home to almost 40% of Catholics. However, Messori recalled, "South America abandons Catholicism at the rate of thousands of men and women every day. There are other figures that torment the episcopates of those lands: from the beginning of the 1980s until today, Latin America has lost almost a quarter of its faithful".

A mystical and missionary pope was needed. He wanted to be called Francis, like the pope of Assisi. The poverello was capable of reforming the Church, of rebuilding it. At the Porziuncola he rebuilt a temple with his own hands, and renewed the whole Church with his message of poverty. Perhaps in a world in crisis (not only economic) this proposal may be more than opportune. St. Francis also sought harmony with nature. He called the sun, Brother Sun; the moon, Sister Moon; the wolf, Brother Wolf. Coming from the hands of God, he saw them as brothers. Today we have lost that brotherhood with nature and the environment.

A Pope Francis can remind us of the need to make peace with nature, also in bioethical issues. The simplicity of the new pope should not be interpreted as weakness. Cardinal Bergoglio has stood firm before the governments of first Néstor Kirchner (2003-2006) and then his wife Cristina Fernández. Bergoglio became the only person in Argentina before whom the president had to listen in public and without reply to a fierce criticism of the poverty and growing social inequality the country was going through. The new pope also gives great importance to symbols and has rescued some of the ancient Christian tradition that have fallen into disuse in recent years, such as priests laying hands on the heads of the faithful at the end of some masses. Defending orthodoxy before the civil authorities in subject on abortion and homosexual unions has been one of his priorities.

With a reserved character, he knows how to turn an intimate ceremony from a cathedral mass to a family baptism into an intimate ceremony. Pope Francis began his speech by praying, continued by asking for prayers and ended by asking people to pray for him. And also for peace and fraternity. St. Francis of Assisi sought to establish peace with Muslims and died in the Holy Land. At a time when Islamic fundamentalism (which, according to Ratzinger, owes more to ideology than to Islam) a pope search engine of peace can be a prophetic sign.

Peace is also needed in the Church. Different groups and different sensibilities are sometimes above the call of Jesus "that we may all be one". We have not yet lived the spirituality of communion proposed by Vatican II, which John Paul II pointed out as one of the signs of identity for the third millennium. Some only see the Church as an NGO or a political organization. They do not hear that Jesus himself said that it was necessary to "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's". The name Francis can evoke this desire for unity, for true communion within the Church.

If we all walk together, in the same "company", we can better fulfill the will of Christ. "The Church is Jesus Christ's, not ours," Benedict XVI often repeated. Perhaps we forget this. By not taking into account the spirit of Francis, the spirit of Jesus, we turn his Bride into a guerrilla war, a confrontation between different sides. The bridge now built between Europe and America - the past and the present - can be the symbol of so many other bridges that must be built within the Church. Any pilgrim understands very well the need for a bridge, especially now that the waters are rising. Francis I can be a good pontiff, a good bridge builder.