Thursday, 14 March 2013
What The Election Of Pope Francis Means For The Church
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio makes Christianity compelling. Luke Coppen, editor of The Catholic Herald, analyses what his election means for the Church.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has looked like an obvious choice for pope since he reportedly came second in the balloting to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2005 - but he kept such a low profile that few commentators saw him as a leading candidate in 2013.
Clearly he enjoyed the deep respect of the world's cardinals, who must have voted for him in significant numbers from the very first ballot. He was elected last night on the fifth vote, suggesting a massive groundswell of support in the College of Cardinals.
As he showed in his first address yesterday evening, he is a man of great humility, asking first for the blessing of the crowd in St Peter's Square before he delivered his own.
His choice of the name "Francis" evokes St Francis of Assisi, the Italian mystic who received a call from God to "rebuild my Church". Pope Francis must believe that it is his task to rebuild a Church that has been profoundly damaged by abuse scandals and corruption within the Roman Curia.
The Jesuits have often been seen as an alternative power base to the papacy in the Catholic Church. With the election of the first Jesuit as pope, these two bases have been united for the first time in history.
Like any pope, his task is to conserve the Catholic faith, rather than alter it, so he is unlikely to effect any of the changes commonly cited by the media: approving contraception, making priestly celibacy voluntary or ordaining women.
But he will surely surprise us with his spontaneity, unstuffiness and evident personal holiness.
When I read about him in preparation for the 2005 conclave I was touched the stories of him washing the feet of Aids patients and living humbly among the poor in Buenos-Aries. Many thought the cardinals would elect a kind of management consultant pope who would turn the Curia into an efficient bureaucracy. They have chosen, instead, a simple and holy man, who makes Christianity seem compelling because he so clearly lives it out.
Culled from The Telegraph