Early reflections on the new pope

The selection of Cardinal Bergoglio as pope set off a flurry of speculation. His opposition to Argentina’s legalization of gay marriage and his role in the “dirty war” came under close scrutiny. How he will negotiate the curia, the crises facing Roman Catholicism, and everything else he has to be and do remains to be seen. But one thing has become clear. He is going to be a different kind of pope. Much has been made of his actions in the first few days of his papacy–returning with the other cardinals on the bus, paying his own hotel bill, wearing his own black shoes rather than the red shoes favored by his predecessors. He has dressed simply, refused to accept many of the symbols of his office, and sought to remain accessible to the people.

No doubt he will disappoint many Catholics and many others who want radical reform in the church. But reform can take many forms. His choice of the name Francis suggests that he will seek to make the church relevant to the lives of ordinary men and women across the world. If he is successful in doing so, not only will that mean a very different church, in the long run, it may also have a profound impact on the Church’s doctrine and practice.

From Reuters:

Pope Francis, giving his clearest indication yet that he wants a more austere Catholic Church, said on Saturday that it should be poor and remember that its mission is to serve the poor.

Is the new pope a reformer? From Phil Lawler at catholicculture.org:

To grasp the full significance of this new Pope’s chosen name, consider this: For 1,100 years, every newly elected Pontiff had chosen a name that had been used by some other Pope before him. Since Pope Lando, who ruled from 913 to 914, every Pontiff on the historical records has a Roman numeral after his name, and the only Pontiff who chose a new name, John Paul I, explicitly said that he was taking the names of the two Popes before him, John XXIII and Paul VI. So when he chose an entirely new name, Pope Francis showed that he was prepared to strike out in a new direction.

James Martin, SJ on the significance of a Jesuit pope

From John Haldane at First Things:

Having held the papacy for most of its history, and watched it go first to a Pole and then to a German, the Italians wanted it back; but they had the problem that much of the recent trouble suffered by the Catholic Church is seen to have arisen, or at least not to have been properly managed, within the Vatican which they dominate. On that account the tide turned against them, but it could have reversed had there been no prospect of timely agreement on a figure from elsewhere.

Another non-Italian European was always unlikely in part because Western Europe is seen to be the site of greatest secularization, and no European cardinal has shown much capacity for dealing with that. At the same time a North American would have been unpalatable to Europeans who dislike the USA’s global power. It was too early for an African or Asian, and so an Italo-South American, with a clean record, high intelligence, evident virtue, and pastoral commitment, who also knows (but is not enamored of) the Vatican, evidently commanded wide-support.

From Simon Barrow (Ekklesia)

Much of what can initially be said of this man may be summed up in the style of the Society of Jesus, which formed the new pope. At the centre of Jesuit life is a combination of the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ set in motion by its founder, Ignatius of Loyola, and a concern to engage the world through learning, culture, social justice, service and ecumenical dialogue.

Jesuits do not have an official habit, but in the Constitutions of the Society, declare: “The clothing too should have three characteristics: first, it should be proper; second, conformed to the usage of the country of residence; and third, not contradictory to the poverty we profess…”.

A collection of reflections from across the world compiled by the Australian Broadcasting Company

John Allen’s analysis of the conclave

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