We have reached the first anniversary of the Pontificate of Francis. The context in which he was elected as Pope was marked by an enormous crisis of credibility in the world of the Catholic Church due, in large part, to the sexual scandals of members of the clergy that had become public, the forced resignation, including his age and physical conditions, and multiple circumstances within the Church of Benedict XVI, and the correct historical and numerical possibility that the Catholic majority of Latin Americans might have their first Pope.
From the outset, everything was new and refreshing in the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope: the geographical location and the religious order from which he comes, his humble origin, the name chosen for his pontificate but, above all, his style, his personal manner with each word, each gesture, his way of being and acting. A new and refreshing style that immediately, silently, almost imperceptibly, yet powerfully, began to reveal itself in the options that he chose through his respective denials: an apartment instead of the palatial rooms and offices, a Renault automobile rather than luxury vehicles, worn shoes instead of brand-name footwear, his request for the people’s blessing instead of offering his blessing, etc. Options, procedures, gestures, novel style, especially in the midst of a society where power means privilege, possessions, waste, luxury, comfort, ostentation and appearance.
The intimate and simple word, the warm and welcome gesture, the smiling face, the human and compassionate expressions to the weakest and most needy are other elements that –-like the One from Nazareth or Assisi—characterize the ministry of Francis. Moreover, he is a Pope with a keen sense of humor. Humor that, together with his prayer and that of everyone for his Petrine ministry, is the best “bumper” in the midst of the difficult task of guiding the rudder of Peter’s ship, sometimes through lukewarm mornings or through threatening storms and tempests, but always with confidence in the Lord of the Church and of history.
We are able to say that Francis, in such a short time, has honored the name chosen for his pontificate, that of the poor man of Assisi, but, above all, he has honored the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to which he has dedicated his entire life. His ministry has been an authentic prophecy through the symbolic pedagogy of the testimony of his personal life.
Without a doubt, Francis has become a sign for today’s world, for our historical juncture and for all humanity. A sign of humanity for believers as well as for unbelievers, for Catholics and non-Catholics, for peoples and nations from the most diverse corners of the Earth and the most diverse cultures. Francis welcomes all, impacts all, and calls everyone’s attention through his manner of being and of living out the Church in today’s world.
His style can be summarized in a call, through his very style, to live out a Christian humanism already practiced, proven and evidenced in other times. A Christian humanism that, forgotten in today’s society, seems novel: the humanism of Jesus of Nazareth, elementary and basic, the Christian humanism of the early Christians and, later, of the poor soul of Assisi: the Brother Francis and of so many men and women that have incorporated and lived out in their life the gospel of the humble carpenter and fisherman of Nazareth. Everything is new, yet old at the same time in Francis, because he reminds us of the need to return to the basic fount and proper norm of our Christian life: the way of being and acting of Jesus of Nazareth.
Abundant, from every angle, has been the pontificate exercised by Francis in just a year: renewal of the Roman Curia, renewal of the Vatican Bank, the Advisory Council of eight cardinals for the renewal of the grand subjects of the life of the Church, the convocation of the Synod of the Family, the creation of a commission for the defense of the rights of children and, in the evangelistic and prophetic task, he has begun to place emphasis on the subjects that, in light of the gospel itself, need to be highlighted: on compassion and mercy, on humility and transparency instead of an obsession with legal and sexual subjects that are boring, that scare away and threaten believers.
Ad multos annos! May Francis have many more years to bless us! We join in prayers of thanksgiving for this fresh breeze that bubbled up in all corners of the Church and the world, and that God be pleased, amid gestures and symbols, amid exhortations and documents, to enable Francis, to not only take new positions, execute new decisions that impact in depth fundamental matters that the whole world wants to see dealt with and reconsidered in the bosom of the Catholic Church.
Following Francis and his personal seal on the ministry of Peter, the Church will never be the same. May God and Mary continue to accompany and bless and, through him, that we all be blessed.