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Pope Francis called to restore the Church

16/03/2013

In the social network I had predicted that the future Pope would take the name of Francis. And I was right. Why Francis? Because Saint Francis began his conversion upon hearing the Crucifix of the Chapel of San Damiano, telling him: “Francis go and restore my Church, she is in shambles” (Saint Bonaventure, Major Legends II, 1).

Francis took these words to heart, and rebuilt the small church of La Portiuncula, in Assisi, that is still housed in the interior of an immense cathedral. Later on, he understood that restoring the «Church that Christ had rescued with His blood» (ibid.), was a spiritual task. It was then that he started a movement to restore the Church, which at the time was presided over by the most powerful Pope in history, Innocence III. He began to live with lepers, and on the arm of one of them, he would walk the paths, preaching the Gospel in popular language, rather than in Latin.

It is worth knowing that Francis was never a priest, but only a lay person. Only at the end of his life, when the Popes forbade the lay to preach, did Francis agree to become a deacon, on condition that he would not receive any type of remuneration for that position.

Why has Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio chosen the name Francis? I believe it was because he has seen that the Church is in shambles, demoralized by the diverse scandals that affected her most precious resource: morality and credibility.

Francis is not just a name, it is a project of the Church, poor, simple, evangelical and bereft of power. She is a Church that walks with the least among us, that creates the first communities of brothers and sisters who pray the breviary under the trees with the little birds. She is an ecological Church that calls all beings by the sweet words, «brothers and sisters». Francis was obedient to the Church and to the popes, and at the same time he followed his own path with the Gospel of poverty in hand. Then the theologian Joseph Ratzinger wrote: «the “no” of Francis to that type of imperial Church could not be more radical, it is what we could call a prophetic protest» (Zeit Jesu, Herder 1970, 269). Francis does not speak, he simply inaugurates the new.

I believe Pope Francis has in mind a Church removed from the palaces and symbols of power. He showed that when he appeared in public. Normally the Popes, and principally Ratzinger, would place over their shoulders the muceta, that small short cape embroidered in gold, that only the emperors could use. Pope Francis appeared dressed only in white. Three points of great symbolic meaning are worthy of note in his inaugural speech.

The first: Pope Francis said that he wants «to preside in charity», something that has been sought since the Reformation and by the best theologians of ecumenism. The Pope should not preside as an absolutist monarch, invested with sacred power, as provided by canon law. According to Jesus, he should preside in love, and fortify the faith of the brothers and sisters.

The second: the Pope gave centrality to the People of God, as Vatican Council II does, but as was set aside by the two previous popes in favor of hierarchy. Pope Francis humbly asked the people of God to pray for him and for the people to bless him. Only after that did he bless the people of God. This means that he is here to serve, not to be served. He asks for help to build a path together and cries for fraternity for all humanity, as humans do not now recognize themselves as brothers and sisters, but as joined by economic forces.

Lastly, he avoided the spectacle of the figure of the Pope. He did not extend both arms to greet the people. He remained still, serious and somber, I would say almost as if startled. All that was seen was a white figure who lovingly greeted the people. But he radiated peace and trust. He displayed humor, speaking without official rhetoric, as a pastor talks to the faithful.

It is worth mentioning that he is a Pope who comes from El Gran Sur, (The Great South), where the poorest of humanity are and were 60% of Catholics live. With his experience as a pastor, with a new vision of things, from below, he can reform the Curia, decentralize the administration and give a new and credible face to the Church.

Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.

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11 Comentários leave one →
  1. 16/03/2013 15:20

    I believe and accept the Bright Statment of yours, Leonardo: “Francis is not just a name, it is a Project of the Church……….”. I am eagerly expecting the Church corrects its Trajectory, reach the goal, under the Prophetic Leadership of Pope Francis I

  2. Gordon Collins ( Scotland ) permalink
    18/03/2013 6:52

    yes we are happy in having a new Pope, but he will need a lot of help to make the changes we would like to see. So I will continue to pray for him and the church, but above all will try to live my life as God wishes…

  3. 19/03/2013 3:15

    Eu acredito que nesse novo momento da igreja católica, é imprecindível a volta das vozes de Leonardo Boff e Clodovis Boff ecoando pela igreja.

  4. 19/03/2013 16:18

    Dear Leonardo Boff

    I make use of the book you wrote with your wife in communicating liberation theology here in Scotland, and I would just like to thank you for your commentary on Francis. It is very significant that somebody in your position has spoken like this, and gives me much hope. Let us hope that Francis can live up to it. Then the Roman Catholic church will be worth watching, instead of being an institution worthy of despair. I have gained so much from front-line poverty-fighting Catholics in my time and the insights of liberation theology. Is it too much to hope that Francis might be able to reverse some of the damage that was done by Ratzinger? Let us see. Thank you, and bless you.

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