Holy Father Demonstrates Humility and Simplicity on His First Day in Office

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Habemus Papem!

 

We have a pope, and our new pope has his own way of doing things. Twenty-four hours after he stood on the balcony and gave us his first blessing as our Holy Father, Pope Francis is already exhibiting an independent streak.

He dressed more simply, refused a Papal limousine, asked for our prayers and (get ready for this) went back to the Vatican hotel where he had been staying before his election to collect his own luggage and pay his bill.

I don’t see these changes as a departure from the papacy as it has been, but as a return of the papacy as a pastoral office that speaks to the world in the name of Christ the Lord that it always has been. Rather than behaving in a manner befitting what the press has termed “Christ’s CEO,” Pope Francis has shown us a Holy Father who has come to serve the Lord, and us in His name.

I think it would be a mistake for anyone to take this gentleness and simplicity as weakness. Pope Francis’ actions demonstrate an unruffled confidence in the Christ of the Gospels that comes from the kind of faith that survives anything the world can throw at it. He is humble, but I predict that we will see that it is the humility of an inner strength born of great faith and holiness.

I’ve excerpted an Associated Press article detailing the Holy Father’s first day in office. You can find the entire article with all the details here.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis put his humility on display during his first day as pontiff Thursday, stopping by his hotel to pick up his luggage and pay the bill himself in a decidedly different style of papacy …

… He kept the simple iron pectoral cross of his days as bishop and eschewed the red cape … choosing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy.

… “He believes the church has to go to the streets, to express this closeness of the church and this accompaniment with those who are suffering.” Francis’ authorized biographer, 

…Sergio Rubin, said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press.

… Rubin recalled how the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio would celebrate Masses with homeless people and prostitutes in Buenos Aires.

… Francis began his first day as pope making an early morning visit in a simple Vatican car to a Roman basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary and prayed before an icon of the Madonna.

He also told cardinals he would call on retired Pope Benedict XVI, but the Vatican said the visit wouldn’t take place for a few days.

… Francis, the first Jesuit pope and first non-European since the Middle Ages, decided to call himself Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the humble friar who dedicated his life to helping the poor.

The new pope, known for his work with the poor in Buenos Aires’ slums, immediately charmed the crowd in St. Peter’s, which roared when his name was announced and roared again when he emerged on the loggia of the basilica with a simple and familiar: “Brothers and sisters, good evening.”

By Thursday morning, members of his flock were similarly charmed when Francis stopped by the Vatican-owned residence where he routinely stays during visits to Rome and where he stayed before the start of the conclave.

“He wanted to come here because he wanted to thank the personnel, people who work in this house,” said The Rev. Pawel Rytel-Andrianek, who is staying at the residence. “He greeted them one by one, no rush, the whole staff, one by one.”

He then paid the bill.

“People say that he never in these 20 years asked for a (Vatican) car,” he said. “Even when he went for the conclave with a priest from his diocese, he just walked out to the main road, he picked up a taxi and went to the conclave. So very simple for a future pope.”

Francis displayed that same sense of simplicity and humility immediately after his election, shunning the special sedan … so he could ride on the bus with other cardinals, and refusing even an elevated platform from which he would greet them, according to U.S. Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

… “I think we’re going to see a call to Gospel simplicity,” said U.S. Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

… Francis’ election elated Latin America, home to 40 percent of the world’s Catholics … On Wednesday, drivers honked their horns in the streets of Buenos Aires and television announcers screamed with elation at the news.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said the cardinals clearly chose Francis because he was simply “the best person to lead the church.”

Reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto, Karl Ritter and photographer Luca Bruno in Rome contributed. (Read the rest here.)

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Cardinal Dolan: The Camera Loves Him on Two Continents

TimothyCardinalDolan DNC 6sep2012

Star quality.

Some folk got it.

Some folk don’t.

You know what I mean. You see them on screen or in a photo and your eyes immediately fix on them. They aren’t always the best looking or the most glib or even the prettiest. But they’ve got that shine that makes people look and then want to look again.

Priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes are not normally rated or valued for their star quality. It isn’t an attribute that goes into the computation of what makes for holiness, fidelity, wisdom or, even, as many stars have proven, good sense. But in these days when everybody has a camera in their pocket and even the most klutzy geekophobe can manage to upload their digital treasures to the virtual Wild West of the internet, media stardom does take on a kind of transitory illusion of relevance and even power.

Every so often, brains, depth of character and moral strength combine in someone who’s been hit by the star wand. The camera loves them, and they can actually hold your attention without a script or teleprompter.

That seems to be what America has in Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Of all the places most of us would go looking for someone with star quality, the face under a cardinal’s hat would be one of last; especially when the cardinal in question is a portly, plainspoken Irishman with unabashedly old-fashioned ideas about faith, morals and modern life.

But star quality is one of those things you can’t explain. You know it when you see it, but you don’t really know why it’s there. It’s a kind of magnetism that draws and fascinates people. Even those who have it are often unaware of it and, if they do know they’ve got it, don’t know where it comes from.

Cardinal Dolan has been a blessing to the Catholic Church in America precisely because he can explain the Church’s position to the many millions on the other side of the camera. We’ve had others with this gift, but they have crashed and burned under the warping power of public adulation.

It appears that Cardinal Dolan doesn’t try to flay the emotional hide off people he disagrees with. He isn’t glib with quickie phrases that entertain the self-righteous while they cut the defenseless to the bone. There is nothing mean or mean-spirited or snide in the things he says. He stands for the church and doesn’t back down. But he also doesn’t try to destroy those who oppose him in this.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that people in Italy are just as charmed by Cardinal Dolan as many Americans. There’s something about a good-hearted man who’s willing to tell the truth instead of run away from it that is refreshing in this world. 

Based on things I’ve read in several places, Cardinal Dolan’s American brashness (and compared to most of the rest of the world, we are all brash, my fellow Americans, believe me) doesn’t offend. It captivates. That in itself is amazing.

There’s no denying it. The Cardinal has a kind of clerical star power, and he appears to have it without the lies, phoniness and outright heresies of many of the few other priests who have star power, too.

God love him.

I’m proud of him.

A New York Times article describing Cardinal Dolan’s situation says in part:

VATICAN CITY —

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, has become an object of fascination in Rome for the fluency of his juggling act: he is simultaneously head of the United States’ most prominent Roman Catholic diocese and president of its national conference of bishops, tapped by the Vatican for numerous prestigious assignments and by network television anchors for their most prized interview spots.

In the weeks since Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to retire, the possibility that Cardinal Dolan could succeed him has been largely dismissed on the theory that his biggest strengths — outsize personality, Everyman affect, relentless public cheer — mark him as distinctively American in a way that makes it unlikely he would be chosen by his colleagues.

But in recent days, his joyful and telegenic orthodoxy is getting new attention in Rome; on Thursday, a prominent Vatican reporter, Sandro Magister, highlighted his qualifications, calling him “the consummate candidate, who represents the impulse in the direction of purification.”

Cardinal Dolan has colorfully dismissed speculation that he could be pope, saying that he expects, and is eager, to return to New York. Nonetheless, this papal interregnum has become an important period for him, presenting an opportunity for him to use mass media to reach Catholics in his vast and diverse archdiocese, and to elevate his stature as he faces battles with President Obama over health insurance regulations and with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York over a proposed liberalization of the state’s abortion laws.

He shows an easy demeanor; he is unfailingly positive, even when asked difficult questions. But even he is quick to say that he represents a new style, not a new point of view, for Catholic bishops. In an interview here, before the cardinals decided to stop speaking to reporters, he described the church’s teachings as a gift to be treasured, but said, “Let’s perhaps work on a way to wrap it in a more attractive way.” (Read the rest here.)


Pope Arrives at Castel Gandolfo

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Pope Benedict Leaves the Vatican

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Interesting Times: Pope Benedict and the Church He is Handing Forward

Young Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI

“May you live in interesting times.”

That saying is reputed by some sources to be an ancient Chinese curse. Other sources claim it is an ancient Hebrew curse. It appears no one knows for sure exactly where it came from. On the other hand, no one seems to deny the underlying truth of it; that historic, or “interesting” times are often tumultuous and unpleasant for the people who must live through them.

Just as no one wants to have a really good medical malpractice suit, no one wants to live their precious life in the dislocation, misery and often dangerous times historians tend to find “interesting.”

We are fortunate because we are living through a truly historic event and no one will suffer or die because of it. Pope Benedict’s resignation takes effect today, and we are temporarily without a spiritual father to guide and govern our great Church. But, interesting as it is, this transit through a historic time is a moment of rejoicing and hope, rather than grief and tumult as we anticipate an orderly transition from one pope to his successor.

We trust that the Church will continue its consistent fealty to the Gospels in the face of whatever attacks opposing forces throw against it. We know that the sacrament of confession is there for us if we sin, the sacrament of the Eucharist will be available to give us strength for our daily journey on all the altars of all the Catholic churches of the world, and that we will have someone to marry us, bury us and, if need be, listen to and console us as we make our pilgrimage through this life to the next.

Pope Benedict XVI made the decision to resign his office and “climb the mountain” of living out the rest of his days as the Pope Emeritus. He has told us he will not go back to a private life of clubbiness and being one of the guys. He will, instead, continue his papal ministry without the administrative burdens of being a head of state and the administrator of this worldwide Church.

I take comfort in the knowledge that he will be upholding us all in his prayers. What a prayer warrior he will be for us and for the Church. I am glad to think that he will be able to rest without the strain and worry of managing this Church, which is a worldwide institution of over a billion people. Pole to pole, dateline to dateline; wherever you go on this Earth, I am convinced that you will find three things: MacDonald’s hamburgers, diet Coke, and the Catholic Church.

If that sounds like less than exalted company, consider that both diet Coke and MacDonald’s deal with the universal human need of food, and the Church provides for that other universal human need of eternal salvation. MacDonald’s feeds the body (albeit not too well) and the Church feeds the soul, and it does that very well, indeed.

President Obama, who is often referred to as the most powerful man on earth, governs a nation of roughly 300 million people. The pope, on the other hand, governs a Church of 1.2 billion.

The pope speaks with the only unified Christian voice in the world today. The Catholic Church is increasingly being forced to stand alone in its support for holy matrimony between one man and one woman, sexual chastity, the sanctity of human life, and the hope of eternal life for all people, everywhere.

The moral and prophetic voice of the Catholic Church is the single best hope this world has of surviving its own dissolution.

Pope Benedict XVI decided that his age had brought him to the pass where he needed to hand the responsibility for this great Church forward to his successor. Christians everywhere owe him a debt of gratitude for the suffering servitude he gave to us and to Our Lord these past 8 years. He is handing forward a Church that has not flinched from the responsibility to be the light, shining in the darkness.

Now that he goes to his new charge of praying and working for the Church and all of us until the end of his earthly days, the best thing we can do is join our prayers to his. We may not be the seasoned prayer warrior that he is, but we are God’s own children.

Let us join Pope Benedict in his prayers for the Church and the world.

At the very least,  we can pray as he taught us in his last audience;

“I adore you, my God and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for having created me, for having made me Christian…”

Benedict Pledges ‘Unconditional Reverence and Obedience’ to His Successor

Pope Benedict met with the cardinals of the Church who are assembled in Rome for his last day this morning.

He told them that “among you is the future pope, whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.”

According to a rather snarky New York Times article below, the Holy Father made this statement to allay “concern among Vatican watchers” that he would do otherwise. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that the “Vatican watchers” who expressed this “concern” is the New York Times and other media of their general outlook. I don’t think anyone else shared this “concern.”

In this same article, the New York Times, which has had a few scandals of its own, characterized Pope Benedict’s reign as pope as “scandal ridden.”

In spite of the negativity in the article, Pope Benedict’s grace, humility and utter devotion to Christ and His Church shine through. You can not report about this man’s last days in office and use even the most rudimentary facts of his actions or quote the smallest bit of his words without that happening.

Perhaps that’s what it means for all of us to be the light of the world that shines in the darkness.

The New York Times article I’m talking about says in part:

VATICAN CITY — In his final hours as head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI met on Thursday with the cardinals who will elect his successor, urging them to be “like an orchestra” that harmonizes for the good of the church and pledging that he would behave with “unconditional reverence and obedience” toward his successor.

It was one of the concluding acts of a nearly eight-year, scandal-dogged papacy that, Benedict said on Wednesday, was filled with “light and joy” but also had its darker moments when “the Lord seemed to be sleeping.”

A day after blessing the faithful for the last time as pope, Benedict will leave the Vatican by helicopter on Thursday for the papal summer residence and his retirement will formally take effect at 8 p.m., when he will become the “pope emeritus.”

After thanking the more than 100 cardinals collectively from a gilded throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, the pope rose and greeted each of them individually.

Draped in a red and gold mantle lined with snow-white ermine, Benedict clasped the cardinals’ hands as they removed their distinctive red skullcaps to greet him and kiss his ring.

Benedict told them, “I will be close to you in prayer” as they meet in coming days to choose his successor from their ranks.

“Among you is also the future pope, whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” Benedict told the cardinals, reflecting the concern among Vatican watchers about what it will mean to have two popes residing in the Vatican.(Read the rest here.)

For more bizarro coverage from the Catholic bashing wing of the media, check out Mark Shea’s post It Turns Out Andrew Sullivan is a Catholic Blogger.

Pope Plans Low-Key Departure

According to news reports, Pope Benedict will slip out of the Vatican quietly when he leaves for his retirement. There will be no public ceremony, only a few private good-byes and a short helicopter ride to his temporary residence.

An Indian Express article describing the pope’s departure plans says in part:

Pope Benedict XVI slips quietly from the world stage on Thursday after a private last goodbye to his cardinals and a short flight to a country palace to enter the final phase of his life “hidden from the world”.
In keeping with his shy and modest ways, there will be no public ceremony to mark the first papal resignation in six centuries and no solemn declaration ending his nearly eight-year reign at the head of the world’s largest church.
His last public appearance will be a short greeting to residents and well-wishers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, in the late afternoon after his 15-minute helicopter hop from the Vatican.
When the resignation becomes official at 8 pm Rome time (1900 GMT), Benedict will be relaxing inside the 17th century palace. Swiss Guards on duty at the main gate to indicate the Pope’s presence within will simply quit their posts and return to Rome to await their next pontiff. (Read the rest here.)

Benedict’s New Title: It’s Changed Again

What are we going to call Pope Benedict XVI after his resignation takes effect February 28?

That question appears to be a dome scratcher for a lot of folks in the Vatican. They, like us, appear to be grappling with the ever-changing reality of history in the making. Thus, the we’ll-call-him-this … no-not-that-we’ll-call-him-this nature of the story of how we should address the man who was our pope.

At first, the story was that he would go back to being Cardinal Ratzinger. Then, it was that he would be the Bishop Emeritus of Rome. Now, the announcement is that Pope Benedict XVI will become the “Pope Emeritus” during his retirement.

Personally, I like this one best of all. It’s what I would have chosen at the beginning, if anyone had asked me.

After all, this title says what he truly will be, the Pope Emeritus.

Deacon Greg Kandra has the story. It says in part:

Benedict XVI will be “Pontiff emeritus” or “Pope emeritus”, as Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, reported in a press conference on th final days of the current pontificate. He will keep the name of “His Holiness, Benedict XVI” and will dress in a simple white cassock without the mozzetta (elbow-length cape).

Go to Deacon Greg’s blog here to read all the details.

Pew Survey: Catholics Want the Next Pope to Maintain Traditional Teachings

Despite claims to the contrary by the chattering class, practicing Catholics like their pope and want the Church to stay the course on its moral teachings.

I’m glad to hear this. I was beginning to wonder if I attended mass in churches that were somehow “different” from other Catholic parishes. The foment for gay marriage, contraception, abortion on demand is nowhere to be found where I worship. I’ve attended mass in Catholic Churches all over this country and I have yet to find a parish that was any different about these things from those that I see here in Oklahoma.

They all have their “respect life” signs and programs for the unborn. There are the usual Altar Guild bake sales, announcements about raising money for this or that family in distress and I swear in each parish, the same rock-ribbed little old lady with a dangerous-looking cane who sits in “her” seat and will not budge for errant newcomers who want to slide past her.

I’ve never seen anything but respect for the Eucharist. There is nary a sign in any of them of all this dissent I keep hearing about. I was beginning to think that I must be lucky in my choices of churches when I travel or that maybe the stories I was hearing were greatly exaggerated.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Foundation, it was the latter.

Seventy-four percent of Catholics approve of Pope Benedict.Sixty-three percent of Catholics who attend mass each week said that the next Pope should maintain traditional Catholic teaching. Less than 10% called for the Church to accept same-sex marriage, women priests or contraception.

What I think that means is that the authors of these stories about “dissent” in the Church are basing their claims on surveys which include Catholics who don’t go to mass and are not practicing Catholics at all.

I have a relative who says that she is a member of the Disciples of Christ church. She does not attend church, ever. When someone dies, that’s where she has the funeral. When her son got married, that’s where they had the wedding. This is the extent of her activity in the Disciples of Christ church. But if you polled her on a survey she would tell you that she was a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. I think those are the kind of “Catholics” who pollsters quiz to get these dodgy numbers that the pundits like to quote.

If they talk to people who actually participate in the life of the Church, the numbers become something that those of us who also attend mass and interact with practicing Catholics can validate from our own experiences.

I recognize the attitudes expressed in a poll that shows that the vast majority of Catholics support the pope and traditional Catholic teachings. Those attitudes are the ones I see at mass every weekend in whatever parish I happen to be. The other numbers that the Catholic bashers like to bandy about don’t gibe with my experience as a practicing Catholic at all.

I think that people who take such pleasure in reporting the impending demise of the Catholic Church are expressing their own wishful thinking. These people don’t like the Church precisely because of its stubborn refusal to change 2,000 years of Christian teaching to suit them and their wishes.

They defame the Church and natter on about its failings because they are trying to create a phony moral high ground for themselves from which to assail the Church and bully it into silence. These constant claims of a Church whose followers do not believe in it and who are about to abandon it are what they wish would happen.

The Catholic Church is the repository of faith. These teachings it won’t bend are its charge. It offers each of us a simple, followable roadmap to heaven. The Catholic Church is not made up of perfect people. All of us, both those who wear collars and those who sit in the pews, are fallible, fallen human beings living out our lives in a fallen world. We can and we do sin.

The teachings of our Church — the ones that cause such anger and wrath on the part of the Church’s critics — are how we know the finer points of right and wrong. The Church guides us in how to discern right and wrong, and then, when we are ready to turn things around and try again, it gives us the remedy of forgiveness and reorientation through the sacrament of confession.

I am gratified to see this Pew survey. But I’m not surprised. It simply verifies what I’ve been seeing at mass every weekend for years.

The CNA article describing this Pew Foundation survey says in part:

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2013 / 02:05 am (CNA).- As the Feb. 28 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI approaches, the vast majority of U.S. Catholics have a favorable view of the pontiff, and the majority support traditional Catholic teaching as well.

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, 74 percent of U.S. Catholics “express a favorable view of the pope.”

Pope Benedict has been regarded favorably throughout his entire papacy, with approval ratings among U.S. Catholics ranging from 67-83 percent.

Pope Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, also enjoyed a high favorability rating over the course of his papacy. The Pew Forum’s polling in the 1980s and 1990s found that more than 90 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of Pope John Paul II.

Weekly Mass attendees were most likely to favor tradition, with 63 percent saying the next Pope should maintain traditional teaching.

Those Catholics who favored taking the Church in a new direction could give pollsters an open-ended response as to where they would like to see change. Nineteen percent said the Church should “become more modern,” while 15 percent wanted a tougher stance on sex abuse.

Fewer than 10 percent called for the Church to accept same-sex “marriage,” women priests or contraception. (Read the rest here.)

What Happens During a Papal Conclave?


We will have a new pope.

Pope Benedict’s resignation becomes effective February 28, at 8 pm. The See of Peter will not be vacant long. In a short time, the College of Cardinals will convene for the Papal Conclave to elect a new pope.

Catholics and other Christians the world over are praying for the Holy Spirit to guide this conclave as they select the man who will lead the Church through the times ahead. This Lent is like no other because of the Holy Father’s resignation and the transition to a new pope.

History is making while we are watching. I pray that this will lead to a new springtime in the Church, a renewal of faith and faithfulness from everyone who bends their knee to Our Lord Jesus.

The following CNA article gives a brief description of the general procedures that the cardinals follow when they are electing a pope. It says in part:

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2013 / 01:12 pm (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI’s successor will soon be elected during a conclave, a secret vote of cardinals that will occur in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel next month.

The number of cardinal-electors, who will travel to Rome from across the globe, is limited to 120, and only those cardinals who are not yet 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave.

Conclaves are events of “the strictest secrecy,” to preserve the impartiality of proceedings.

… The cardinals are not allowed to communicate with those outside the area of the election. Only a limited number of masters of ceremonies and priests are allowed to be present, as are two medical doctors. The cardinal-electors stay at “Saint Martha’s House,” a guest house adjacent to St. Peter’s Basilica.

While the papacy is vacant, all the heads of the Roman Curia lose their office, except the Camerlengo – who administers Church finances and property – and the Major Penitentiary, who deals with issues of absolution and indulgences.

The conclave begins with the votive Mass for the election of the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. The cardinals then invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and enter the Sistine Chapel.

A well-trusted priest presents the cardinals with a meditation on the problems facing the Church and the need for discernment, “concerning the grave duty incumbent on them and thus on the need to act with right intention for the good of the Universal Church, having only God before their eyes.”

The priest who offered the meditation then leaves the Sistine Chapel, and the voting process begins.

John Paul II allowed for a simple majority for a valid election, but Pope Benedict’s “Constitutione apostolica” returned to the long-standing tradition of a two-thirds majority.

Each cardinal writes his choice for Pope on a piece of paper which is folded in two. The ballots are then counted, double-checked, and burned. The voting process continues until one candidate has received two-thirds of the ballots.

When the ballots of an inconclusive vote are burned, the smoke is made black. If the vote elected a Pope, it is white.

… The man elected is immediately the Bishop of Rome upon his acceptance, assuming he has already been consecrated a bishop. One of the cardinals announce to the public that the election has taken place, and the new Pontiff gives a blessing from the balcony of the Vatican Basilica.

Pope Benedict will resign at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, and at that time there will be 117 cardinal-electors. (Read the rest here.)


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