Il Papa Gesuita

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    TIME MAGAZINE’S Person of the Year in only the tenth month of his Petrine ministry.

    Vogue Italy even beating the world’s number one newsmag to the draw, declaring him already Person of the Year in July 2013, after only three months as Supreme Pontiff. And then there’s the Rolling Stone cover story in January that ended up as the rockmag’s top selling issue ever.

    Really now, this Pope rocks and the Church could only roll. On the fi rst anniversary of his ascension to the Chair of Peter… okay, figuratively now, what with his disfavour of the pomp and pageantry traditionally associated with the papacy, allow me to reprint my initial reading on the Pope which has remained consistent with the circumstances swirling around him.

    “ANNUNTIO VOBIS gaudium magnum: habemus papam.”

    Again to the pealing of bells reverberated March 13, from across St. Peter’s Square to the all the corners of the world the age-old tidings of great joy: We have a pope!

    A Jesuit pope, OMG! So quick are the end-of-world doomsayers to cry: ‘Prophesy fulfilled!” By being a Jesuit, Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio now Pope Francis fits some “black pope” hearsay if not heresy as the last in the line of Peter.

    This directly taken from the derogatory moniker appended to the Jesuit superior general: “Black Pope” said to have been derived from the order’s garb of black cassock in the past centuries (they have since wore white ones), and the “storied power” of the Jesuits within the Church.

    Most probably though from the fact that the superior general of the Society of Jesus is elected for life. Just like the pope – now reduced to presumption in the light of Benedict XVI’s resignation. Rather than indulge – and waste time – in conspiracy theories and doomsday scenarios, I would rather seek to know more about the persona of my novus Pontifex Maximus.

    Even as I pray for him, for his blessed pontificate for the good of Mother Church. Lacking in personal contact, so I shall resort to the next best way to know about him, indeed to learn him. By his words. For as a man, so much more as a prince of the Church, his word is his honor.

    Thus, Cardinal Bergoglio – at least some of his words – then from the web: First on the secular front, I readily find connection with. On politics: “Politics is a noble activity. We should revalue it, practise it with vocation and a dedication that requires testimony, martyrdom, that is to die for the common good.”

    Some totally alien, aye, indeed, very strange, thought there given Philippine political praxis. Some resonance in the current Sabah situation we find in then-Cardinal Bergoglio’s Mass in April 2, 2012 on the 30th anniversary of the failed Argentine invasion of the Falklands which they claimed as their Islas Malvinas:

    “We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the homeland who went out to defend their mother, the homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs, that is of the homeland, and it was usurped.” The Sultanate of Sulu readily finds some solace there.

    In the light of the scandals that surrounded the Roman curia, the governing body of the Church: “I see it as a body that gives service, a body that helps me and serves me. Sometimes negative news does come out, but it is often exaggerated and manipulated to spread scandal.”

    Leading to his take of media: “Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus fomenting coprophagia: which is a sin that taints all men and women, that is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects.”

    For those who have no inkling of what those strange terms meant, cocrophilia refers to obsessive interest in excrement, especially the use of feces for sexual excitement; coprophagia is the consumption of feces. That’s taking bullshit to the literal, aye, gustatorial extreme.

    We leave the muck there and proceed to the realm of the ecclesial. To priests: “Jesus teaches us another way:

    Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.” Evangelization and social reformation, I very well see there.

    Further highlighted thus:

    “We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out on to the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman.

    But if the church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded church that goes out on to the streets and a sick, withdrawn church, I would definitely choose the first one.”

    And then some more, with modern means: “We also try to reach out to people who are far away, via digital means, the web and brief messaging.”

    Of today’s Catholicism: “This Church of, come inside so we make decisions and announcements between ourselves and those who don’t come in, don’t belong” he likened to the Pharisees of Christ’s time: “People who congratulate themselves while condemning others.” Remember Luke 18:9-14, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican?

    No parable now, but real cases of pharisaic hypocrisy: “In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptise the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalise the church.

    Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptised!”

    Bonfi ring vanity thus: “An example I often use to illustrate the reality of vanity, is this: look at the peacock; it’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth … Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them.”

    His choice of papal name – Francis, connected to the 13th century saint from Assisi known as the very embodiment of humility – bespeaking of the then-Cardinal’s own “littleness” – eschewing the archbishop’s palace for a small apartment, riding clattering city buses, making his own meals, and accessibility to people from all walks of life.

    As he is reported to have reminded priests in one of his sermons last year: Jesus bathed lepers and dined with prostitutes and taxmen. His papal name also impacted from another Francis – Xavier, one of the 16th century founders of the Society of Jesus to which he belonged, the religious order famously known for its scholarship and outreach.

    There, by his very name, we may already be looking at the path of Francis’ Petrine ministry. Gaude, populum Dei, habemus papam! (Published in Punto! Central Luzon March 15, 2013)

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