A Welcome Voice
January 8, 2014
Who is this man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, whom we now call Pope Francis? How is it in less than a year he has developed a worldwide audience eagerly waiting to hear his words while trusting in the wisdom of what he has to say?
The 266th Bishop of Rome is the first Jesuit Pope and the first non European Pope in over 1000 years. In Buenos Aires he is known as a parish priest who became a Bishop and later a Cardinal of the church. The picture emerges of a man who set his heart on serving the poor, the disenfranchised, and those who bear a greater share of life’s burdens. After his election to the Papacy on March 13, 2013 we are told Jorge next greeted his fellow Cardinals by walking among them and not by speaking from the customary Papal throne. That same night, he did not take the Papal limousine but chose to ride back to the conclave residence in the Cardinals’ bus. As in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis has chosen a new but simple residence inside the Vatican.
By his actions Pope Francis tells us he is and will remain a parish priest first and foremost. He appears, by example, to remind his colleagues of the underlying vocation they all share.
In his words to date, Pope Francis has already reached out to address Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Catholics, Protestants, other religious groups, even non believers, to discuss his positive view of personal salvation. These are not new conversations for him but a continuation on a larger stage of the same conversations he has had for years with these same groups in Argentina. He also asked these groups to pray for him. In 10 months, Pope Francis has convinced many he truly speaks as a worthy servant of God and not as a master.
I believe Pope Francis speaks the truth as he knows it, as best he can, to all people, especially the marginalized. He speaks to anyone and everyone who can hear him. He wants all of us to stand with him in front of a mirror and ask if we could perhaps do a little better. He does not use the nuanced dialogue of a Vatican diplomat or theologian. He has not given up his priesthood to become a Papal administrator. He is the real thing, a sorely needed fresh voice of truth in a world full of self absorbed interests and political leaders. I find the New Year promising because of his new voice.