Figuring Out Pope Francis

Figuring Out Pope Francis October 4, 2013

John Allen continues his excellent reporting from the Vatican with a bumper crop round up of what has turned out to be a wildly busy week with Pope Francis. There has been the meeting of the eight cardinals helping to reform the church, a Vatican bank scandal, the controversial interview with Scalfari and the intriguing report of Pope Francis’ mystical experience as he prepared to don the white soutane. Allen says,

Recently, I spoke to one of the cardinals who elected Francis (not an American, by the way), who had been received by the pope in a private audience. The cardinal told me he had said point-blank to Francis, “You’re not the same guy I knew in Argentina.”

According to this cardinal, the pope’s reply was more or less the following: “When I was elected, a great sense of inner peace and freedom came over me, and it’s never left me.”

In other words, Francis had a sort of mystical experience upon his election to the papacy that’s apparently freed him up to be far more spontaneous, candid and bold than at any previous point in his career.

One should never doubt the mystical imprint upon the contours of a papacy.

The other interesting thing is Fr.Lombardi’s thoughts on (what must be for him frustrating) the pope’s knack for shooting from the hip, abandoning prepared speeches and speaking from the heart.

we’re seeing the emergence of a whole new genre of papal speech — informal, spontaneous and sometimes entrusted to others in terms of its final articulation. A new genre, Lombardi suggested, needs a “new hermeneutic,” one in which we don’t attach value so much to individual words as to the overall sense.

“This isn’t Denzinger,” he said, referring to the famous German collection of official church teaching, “and it’s not canon law.”

“What the pope is doing is giving pastoral reflections that haven’t been reviewed beforehand word-for-word by 20 theologians in order to be precise about everything,” Lombardi said. “It has to be distinguished from an encyclical, for instance, or a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which are magisterial documents.”

This is especially interesting as Allen says Pope Francis’ reputation in Argentina was one of carefully thought out statements, prepared homilies and a great reluctance to give interviews. Now he’s a changed man and speaks freely and openly–moving from being a quiet and reserved prelate to a global rock star.

Better not try to second guess the Holy Spirit.

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