Editorial: "May your favour be on the one you have chosen…”Written by Fr. Frank Freeman SDB
Humble, scholarly and passionate about social justice and the preferential option for the poor which have been fleshed out in his Latin American roots, Pope Francis has caught the world’s imagination.
From the very first moment of his appearance on the balcony gracing the great basilica of St Peters, he struck a note of difference, asking the vast crowd to pray for him in silence before giving them his first blessing as pope. Since his election by a rather brief conclave, it took only 5 ballots, a great smile greets his every action. His quick rejection of the more obvious signs of the trappings of the papal office for a simple white soutane and preferring a bus or taxi to the papal limousine were quickly noted and acclaimed.
One senses that he is a master of signs, words and gestures that he knows and understands full well the powerful influence that they can have in personal interactions. His choice to use “Bishop of Rome” rather than the usual more exalted titles of the pope, shows a deeper understanding of the historical role of the papacy yet in no way downplays his role as the church‘s universal shepherd. This and his immediate attention to his role as bishop of Rome has been welcomed enthusiastically by the Romans, pleased as they are with their new bishop.
And all this not out of show but out of deep conviction as the record shows. As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was well known for his simplicity and humility as pastor of his people, a cardinal who preferred to live in a simple unit, to take a bus and to cook for himself.
As pope he has shown his preference for a simple lifestyle by forsaking the very ornate vestments in favour of simple ones. Still for all that, his recent statements betray an inner firmness and determination. Humble, gentle and pleasant he may be, but he is by no means weak. In his first homily as pope, he proclaimed the hard road of Christ’s followers, “When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, when we profess without the cross we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests and cardinals, popes but not disciples of the Lord.”
Certainly no weak man here. There is a touch of steel in a man who can with such ease perform actions that many might feel at least embarrassing such as, in a crowded St Peter’s square, taking a young man, stricken with cerebral palsy from his mother’s arms then kissing and hugging him, or going to a prison to wash and kiss the feet of the young inmates including women and Muslims contrary to the usual practice. So in prayerful support we implore the Lord, “May your favour be upon the man you have chosen, the man you have given your strength.” (Psalm 119)
Fr Frank Freeman SDB
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