Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’
Tomorrow is Pope Francis’ 100th day on the job and to commemorate the occasion, Jesuit Conference President Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., talks about his first impressions of the history-making pontiff:
People often ask me, “So, what do you think of your new Jesuit pope? How’s he doing?” As a Washington, D.C. resident, I’ve often seen a new leader’s first 100 days in office used as a convenient yardstick for assessing his impact and effectiveness. And as a former English teacher, I’m no stranger to report cards.
So with all due respect to His Holiness, here’s one Jesuit’s report card on Francis’ first 100 days as pope.
Click below for a podcast with Father Thomas H. Smolich, S.J. on the Pope’s first 100 days.
First Impressions: A+ Before delivering his first papal blessing, Francis asked the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him – and from that moment, we knew we were witnessing a different kind of papacy. Francis is a man with a deep connection to the faithful and to the world at large. He knows how to translate what is in his heart into gestures that ring true. Simple acts – paying his own hotel bill, for instance, and wearing his own shoes instead of the red slippers – tell us he knows something about the lives most people lead.
Like any effective chief executive, Francis understands that much of his power as pope is symbolic: he leads by example, by the depth of his passion. His impromptu style may give Vatican officials fits, but it allows him to connect with people all over the world. In the age of Twitter, he is proving himself deft with a pithy phrase: “Shepherds should smell like their sheep” is my favorite, though I’m also fond of his statement that losing direct contact with the poor leads to “gentrification of the heart.”
External Affairs: A Leaving the slums of Buenos Aires for the corridors of the Vatican hasn’t dulled Francis’ mission and message: the poor should be the focus of the Church. At his March 18 installation mass, he pledged to serve “the poorest, the weakest, the least important.” He followed this by washing the feet of prisoners, among them a Muslim woman, at an untraditional Holy Thursday celebration.
In a May 16 ceremony, he told an audience of new ambassadors that “the Pope has the duty, in Christ’s name, to remind the rich to help the poor, to respect them, to promote them.” Moreover, by reopening the process for sainthood of El Salvador’s murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero and accepting a blood-stained relic of Romero from Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, Francis has shown that his love for the poor is not affected by old ideological struggles.
Internal Affairs: Incomplete A papal election often rekindles hope for change in the Vatican bureaucracy. Francis has taken some encouraging steps in this area: cancelling bonuses for Vatican Bank cardinals, and appointing an international group of eight cardinals to advise him on reforming the Vatican’s opaque ways of doing business. Still, the pope’s overall Internal Affairs grade is Incomplete because he has yet to make new appointments to several important positions such as Secretary of State.
Some observers still have high expectations of significant change in Vatican policies, but Pope Francis’ past leadership does not point in that direction. Rather, Vatican offices that focus on the evangelizing mission of the Church rather than internal politics, that take a church of the poor and marginalized seriously, that understand the power of symbol and gesture – these could be the ultimate, positive outcomes of a Vatican truly aligned with its leader.
I believe the report card on Francis’ first 100 days is strongly positive. But so what? Why are these first 100 days important? Here’s why: First impressions matter; they make a real difference.
Something has changed in the last 100 days. The enormous challenges faced by the Catholic Church – sexual misconduct, shrinking congregations and all the rest – are real, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. But in recent weeks I’ve been struck by the number of practicing Catholics who find their step a bit lighter, as well as former and inactive Catholics who find themselves willing to give the Church another listen.
If this trend continues, much credit goes to the pope who, just a 100 days ago, began to share his vision of a mission that unifies rather than divides, a Church that is truly attuned to its world and its people.
Pope Francis is 100 percent Jesuit and his style shows it off, said the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás, in a recent interview with Rome Reports.
“I think we’re already seeing signs. … On Holy Thursday, he told priests that a shepherd should smell of sheep. It’s a great image which speaks to the pastoral mission of clergy, be it bishops or priests,” Fr. Nicolás said.
Fr. Nicolás also said he believes that the election of a Jesuit pope won’t have any repercussions on the Society’s members:
“It’s very clear to us, nothing has changed, nothing. The pope is the person the cardinals chose among themselves because they think he can lead the church. So we obey and work with him with the same intensity as we had with other popes.”
Even though the vow of poverty has always been a basic tenet for Jesuits, Fr. Nicolás believes this idea has gained importance within the church.
“That Cardinal Hummes told the pope the same thing [“Don't forget the poor”], means that it’s part of the church now. And that’s a good thing. It’s good because St. Paul mentioned it in one of his letters: we have to move with freedom because we are free with Christ, but we must never forget about the poor. He said this was one of the signs of being a Christian,” said Fr. Nicolás.
Watch the Rome Reports video with Fr. Nicolás below.
This past Holy Thursday, Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, executive director of the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative, organized Jesuit novices to wash the feet of minors at a Los Angeles juvenile hall, following the lead of Pope Francis, who washed the feet of detainees at a juvenile detention center in Rome. The young people at the center in Los Angeles also wrote letters to the pope, and — much to his surprise — Fr. Kennedy received a response from the pope.
In the letter, Pope Francis wrote: “I was very moved to read the letters you sent to me from the young people of Juvenile Hall and to know that we were close to one another in spirit during the washing of feet on Holy Thursday evening.”
“When I read the letter from the pope, many feelings flowed through me,” Fr. Kennedy wrote in a reflection in The Tidings. “I thought of what Dorothy Day said when working at the margins: ‘To work with the poor is a harsh and dreadful love.’ Most of the time it feels like you are losing. Being at the margins brings its own isolation.”
Fr. Kennedy noted that in a simple letter, Pope Francis “affirmed that the choice to kneel down with a population that society has neglected is where we find God’s presence. With his gesture, he points to where we should serve. Rather than running away from those who are not healthy, we should run toward those who need healing.”
Fr. Kennedy said he realizes a letter will not change the day-to-day workings of being in marginalized places, but “it is a small sign of affirmation from the man at the head of our church. It embodies the Gospel’s message of forgiveness and healing, and it affirms that this is where God truly is.”
Jesuit Father Hernán Paredes studied at Colegio Maximo San Jose in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a Jesuit in formation when Pope Francis, then Jesuit Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was the rector and spiritual director. Fr. Paredes, a native of Ecuador who currently teaches at Loyola School in New York City, shared his thoughts on the election of his friend in an interview that will be published in an upcoming issue of JESUITS magazine. Excerpts of the interview follow:
How did you learn of the election of Pope Francis?
I was attending a Broadway show with Loyola School freshmen. At intermission, a student told me there was a new pope but he couldn’t pronounce the name. He showed me the news story on his phone. I cried and prayed for my friend. It did not surprise me that he asked for prayers from the crowd when he first appeared on the balcony after his election. He always asked for prayers, even in his e-mails.
What can you tell us about his influence in your life and vocation?
I am very lucky to have had him as my superior and spiritual companion and to call him a friend. I’m a Jesuit some 30 years because of him. I learned from Jorge … to be humble, practical and available. He wants priests who are faithful to God and willing to serve.
It did not surprise me that his formal installation as pope took place on Saint Joseph’s Day, when we honor a humble and faithful servant of God. As his installation approached, I traveled to Belize with 10 Loyola faculty members and administrators to build homes for the needy. That is the way Pope Francis would have wanted me to celebrate his installation.
What are some of the characteristics and gifts that Pope Francis brings to the church?
Pope Francis is a man who stands for and with the poor. He knows the poor by name, and I have witnessed this many times. Last year, I visited him in his office in Buenos Aires. Later in the same week, I visited a friend’s home in a poor barrio. Our friend praised then Cardinal Bergoglio for giving what money he had to help. He is known for his humility and generosity. Jorge was the community’s superior but he served others in so many ways, including cooking on Sundays for the scholastics.
What does his election mean for Latin America and the church?
It’s overwhelming. We are the Catholic Church, and the word catholic means universal. I’ve received calls from people around the world, in the United States, Ecuador, Argentina and many other places, and they are so very happy. … Long life to Pope Francis, the pope of the poor!
When Pope Francis was elected on March 13, Jesuit Father Richard Ryscavage was texting back and forth with some of his former seminarians who are now in Argentina. Fr. Ryscavage had gotten to know these friends about 25 years ago when they studied theology together in Cambridge, Mass., when the Jesuit School of Theology was part of Harvard Divinity School.
“Yes, I heard of him 25 years ago,” said Fr. Ryscavage of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man who is now Pope Francis. “His reputation was unusual. He was close to the poor and concerned with them. He was a simple man and a prayerful man.
“Personally, he was a very skilled spiritual director, adept at helping people in their prayer life. Men would go to him just for that direction,” said Fr. Ryscavage, who is a professor of sociology and Director of the Center for Faith and Public Life at Fairfield University in Connecticut.
Fr. Ryscavage said the pope was humble. “He had a quality of trying to stay in the background. He loved to spend time with the poor and would regularly go to the barrios. He was especially concerned with AIDS patients and would visit them often.”
Fr. Ryscavage said his friends halfway around the globe were “very happy” about Cardinal Bergoglio becoming pope, although they — like many Jesuits — were surprised. “It was really shocking to all of us,” said Fr. Ryscavage.
As a Jesuit, the pope is extremely familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and Fr. Ryscavage said he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s reflected in the pope’s talks. Fr. Ryscavage notes that the exercises indicate that “we’re supposed to start by reforming ourselves.”
For more of Fr. Ryscavage’s thoughts on the first Jesuit pope, visit the Minuteman News Center.