Working away on the next issue of Evangelium with EWTN in the background, I heard “I announce to you a great joy: We have a pope! The most eminent and most reverend lord, Lord Jorge Mario, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, Bergoglio, who has taken for himself the name Francis.” It was of course in Latin, but because of many influences including Credo, I was able to catch most of it.
So Cardinal Bergoglio has decided to call himself Francis. We have not yet learnt which Francis he means to name himself for — Francis of Assisi, Francis Xavier, or even Francis de Sales. But he is a Pope of firsts: the first Francis, the first from the New World, the first Jesuit Pope, very likely the first Pope to ask the people to pray for God to bless him before he blessed them. Probably the first Bishop of Rome to greet his new diocese with “good evening, everybody” and to close with “go get some sleep”. And the first pope properly called a son of Second Vatican.
Perhaps there will be one more first and he chooses simply the patronage of all the great saints of the Church called Francis. We need their patronage for our present needs: Francis de Sales preached to Christians in Geneva, prefiguring in a way The New Evangelization. Francis Xavier preached to not only non-Christians, but non-Westerners; a perennial need given our perennially bad witness. And Francis of Assisi preached to the fishes, but more to the point had the mission from God Himself to rebuild His Church. Howsoever this goes, we hope the newspapers and other media come to realize that he will not be ‘Pope Francis I’ until the time comes to distinguish him from some future Pope Francis. Karol Wojtyla did us a great favor by taking the names John Paul, because his predecessor was being improperly called ‘John Paul I’ from the moment of his election.
In coming days, we’re going to hear about complicity with a murderous dictatorship in his native Argentina, and of Liberation Theology (n.b. there is more than one Liberation Theology). There will be wailing “He’s so old and out of touch!” coming mostly from people with iPod plugs in their ears, purposely putting themselves “out of touch”. There will be thanks given that our new Pope worked to maintain the proud traditions of the Society of Jesus during a difficult time. There will be cheers because he has spoken about the unjust distribution of goods in the world, and jeers for the same reason. Ditto his call to personal holiness. Surely a Sign of Contradiction, all this.
So pray for this Pope of Firsts. He will need all the help we can give him. Go to confession, to Holy Mass and Communion, and pray for Pope Francis, our Bishop Robert, our secular leaders, and the whole world. It is the Catholic thing to do.