The Bishop of Rome: Builder of Bridges

The Bishop of Rome: Builder of Bridges

I thought I was done with Pope Francis links, but it seems I really can’t stop. I am so fascinated with him and I have this strong urge to share all the wonderful tidbits I find. It almost feels like it would be selfish to keep them to myself.


Pope Francis address to diplomats:

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

I note that far from distancing himself from his predecessor, as the media would seem to wish him to do, Pope Francis invokes him constantly. Not only to pray for him but to quote him and to hold him up as a model.
Just as Pope Benedict himself stressed continuity and rejected “the hermenutic of discontinuity and rupture” (see his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia in 2005) so too Pope Francis seems to be rejecting the opposition some want to create between his papacy and that of Benedict XVI.


Pope Calls to Cancel Paper Delivery

This story is just charming: Pope calls Argentine kiosk owner to cancel paper delivery

Around 1:30 p.m. local time on March 18, Daniel Del Regno, the kiosk owner’s son, answered the phone and heard a voice say, “Hi Daniel, it’s Cardinal Jorge.”

He thought that maybe a friend who knew that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires bought the newspaper from them every day was pulling a prank on him.

“Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome,” the Pope insisted.

“I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn’t know what to say,” Del Regno told the Argentinean daily La Nacion. “He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.”

Among the “thousands of anecdotes” the elder Del Regno remembers is one involving the rubber bands that he put around the newspapers to keep them from being blown away when they were delivered to the cardinal.

“At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me. All 30 of them!”


The Pope’s Mass with the Vatican’s Gardeners and Cleaners


On Friday morning Pope Francis invited the Vatican’s service workers to a Mass in the Chapel at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (where he is still residing, by the way, declining to move into the Apostolic Apartments).

I love this picture of him sitting in the back of the chapel.

This snippet from his homily really hit home for me: “When we have a heart of stone it happens that we pick up real stones and stone Jesus Christ in the person of our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest of them. Pope Francis said this, commenting on the day’s Readings”


Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict

Pope Francis presents Pope Emeritue Benedict with an icon of Our Lady of Humility

Speaking to journalists after the encounter, Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, relayed the details of the meeting, the first in person between Pope Francis and Benedict XVI.
He said Benedict XVI was waiting to greet Pope Francis as he alighted from the helicopter. That the Pope Emeritus dressed in a simple white cassock and jacket without the papal sash and cape thus distinguishing him from Pope Francis.

Fr. Lombardi described the beautiful embrace that the men shared before making their way to the Apostolic Palace. On their arrival they immediately made their way to the Chapel for a moment of prayer. There, Benedict XVI invited Pope Francis to take the pew reserved to the Holy Father. But Pope Francis responded “we are brothers” and insisted that the two kneel together in prayer at the same pew.
The Holy Father also brought a gift for his predecessor, an icon of Our Lady of Humility, as a gift for Benedict XVI’s great humility. The two men then spent an estimated 45 minutes in private conversation in the Library before emerging to lunch with two secretaries.

The intensely reserved nature of the encounter confirms what Benedict XVI had confided to the priests of Rome in his last meeting with them as Pope on February 14th when he said: “Although I am retiring now, I will always be close in prayer, and you will be close to me, even if I remain hidden away from the world”.

“We are brothers.”



Pope Francis’s Sister

I was just wondering yesterday whether any of Pope Francis’s siblings are alive. Then today I found this article, an interview with his youngest sister is, the only surviving sibling. She shares some touching anecdotes:

Even though his ministry and duties as Jesuit provincial and then as archbishop of Buenos Aires kept her brother busy and often prevented him from visiting, the two siblings always spoke by phone every week, she said.

His priority was the neediest in his archdiocese, which meant he often spent Sundays or holidays in the city’s shantytowns, instead of attending the family “asado” or barbecue, she said.

“Jorge taught me to always be there for people, to always be welcoming, even if it meant sacrificing something,” she said of her brother.

She said she named her first-born son Jorge, “in honor of my special brother,” who also was moved to be asked to be the child’s godfather.

The pope’s nephew, Jorge, 37, told the paper that his uncle “is someone who is very open, we talk about everything, long talks,” he said.

Bergoglio said the media has only been reporting on her brother’s love of tango, opera and soccer, but that very few people know he is an excellent cook.

“He makes fantastic stuffed calamari; it’s his favorite dish,” she said.

She said she and her family stayed home in Ituzaingo, near Buenos Aires, to watch the pope’s inaugural Mass on television out of respect for his public request that Argentines give to the poor the money they would have spent on airfare.

“We are near him in prayer,” she said.

I love that they painted their gate white and yellow in honor of the election.

And another piece here from CNN, Pope’s sister prayed he wouldn’t be picked; now she’s proud, from afar:

“During the previous conclave, I was praying for him not to be elected … because I didn’t want my brother to leave,” she told CNN en Español on Monday. “It’s a position that was a little selfish.”

But this time around, Bergoglio said she changed her tone.

“I prayed that the Holy Spirit would intervene and not listen to me. And it didn’t listen to me,” she said, laughing. “It did what it wanted.”

Last week, soon after the white smoke billowed out from the Sistine Chapel chimney, she heard her brother’s voice crackling through the telephone line.

“I almost died,” she said. “The telephone rang and my son answered. I heard him say, ‘ooooh, God.’ I couldn’t believe it.”


Palm Sunday Homily

A short video of the blessing of the palms and olive branches that are traditional in Rome. (I think I still have the olive branches I received when I was in Rome on Palm Sunday.)

The pope’s Palm Sunday homily is organized around three words: Joy, Cross, Youth.

I provide three snippets, but Pope Francis’s homilies are very easy to understand. I read this to Bella and she seemed to appreciate it. I encourage you to click over and read the whole thing. It won’t take but a couple of minutes.

“And this is the first word that I want to tell you: ‘Joy!’ Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions, but it comes from having encountered a Person, Jesus, who is among us. It comes from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! This is the moment when the enemy comes, when the devil, often times dressed as an angel, comes and insidiously tells us his word. Don’t listen to him! Follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world of ours. Please don’t let him steal our hope. Don’t let him steal our hope, that hope that Jesus gives us.”

“And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! I think of what Benedict XVI said to the cardinals, ‘You are princes, but of a crucified King.’ That is Jesus’ throne. Jesus takes it upon himself… Why the Cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including our own sin—all of us—and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money, which none of us can take with us, it must be left behind.”

“Dear friends, I too am setting out on a journey with you today, in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We are already close to the next stage of this great pilgrimage of the Cross. I look forward joyfully to this coming July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well in your communities—prepare spiritually above all—so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world.” Then, in an unscripted exhortation, the Pope called out: “Young persons, you must tell the world that it’s good to follow Jesus, that it’s good to go with Jesus. Jesus’ message is good. It’s good to go outside ourselves to the ends of the earth and of existence to bring Jesus! Three words: Joy, Cross, and Youth.”

Join the discussion

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  • YES!  This would be a beautiful mission; heroic in the extreme.

    The Internet seems to bring out the most vitrioic comments I have ever read.  “Not feeding the trolls” is an attempt to stop online discussions from being deliberately interrupted by those who seem to be assigned that task by opponents of whatever topic is under discussion.  Kind souls who attempt to enlighten such trolls are not engaged thoughtfully in return, but enter the ranks of those under attack, usually in off-topic, personal, and hateful remarks.

    The best comments sections are moderated to block those who would bedevil them.  But, that might mean that the individuals who are the target of the missionary activity would be excluded. If registration to comment were required, they could be blocked from continuing to comment, but they might be engaged privately via their e-mail address.

  • Margaret, I understand the intent behind “not feeding the trolls” and I used to agree with it wholeheartedly.

    But here’s what I keep seeing. I’m reading through a thread at Simcha’s blog or elsewhere, a big Catholic blog on a site such as NCR or Patheos. There are some frequent commenters who seem to have designated themselves the troll police. As soon as someone pops up in the comment box who they recognize or thing they recognize they immediately warn everyone else in the thread that “X is a troll.”

    But here’s the thing: often the thing that X said seems pretty innocuous. It isn’t name calling or hurtful or mean spirited. Perhaps it is trolling if you look at their whole history on other threads, but from what they’ve said so far it sure doesn’t feel malicious. They are an atheist, sure, or a non-Catholic, but they are being polite even if they are denying the truths of the faith or calling into question the Church’s teaching on a hot-button issue like contraception or celibacy. Perhaps they are even bringing up the sex abuse scandal.

    And maybe all those things rankle and maybe you’ve had run ins with them in the past, but I haven’t seen that past behavior and all I’ve got to judge is the here and now and given their behavior here and now yelling at everyone in the room not to talk to X because they are a troll just seems mean spirited and uncharitable. Not only does it send a message to the presumed “troll” that we are intolerant and unfriendly but it also tells anyone else who is dropping by that the denizens of this particular corner of the internet, the Catholic corner, are not very hospitable.

    I get banning someone who is being obviously rude. But often what I’m seeing comes across more as misguided and ill-informed than anything else. They are people who hate not what the Church is but what they imagine it to be and they are only confirmed in their poor opinions when no one can be bothered to correct their false facts.

    This is where the spiritual works of mercy come in for me. Every time I see that kind of exchange I think: doesn’t the Church tell us to instruct the ignorant and counsel the doubtful? And even if they are being mean aren’t we told to bear wrongs patiently and forgive offenses willingly? I don’t see many people rushing to live out the spiritual works of mercy in comment boxes and frankly I often walk away from such comment boxes ashamed of the behavior of my fellow Catholics.

    Once when I tried to point out to a troll shamer that her behavior didn’t strike me as very charitable she turned on me and dressed me down for not understanding that “these people” aren’t interested in conversation but are only trying to bait us. Well, so what if that’s true. They are therefore to be pitied all the more, no? They are still human beings and deserving of love.

    So if you want to ban them and delete comments that are off topic and mean spirited, I have no problem with doing that gently. Have a rule about off topic conversations and enforce it gently but firmly. Have a rule about respecting others and enforce it gently but firmly. I have no problem with boundaries. But that should be the role of the site owner or designated moderator. Self-appointed policing of other people’s comment boxes strikes me as self-righteous and counter-productive unless it is done in the spirit of mercy and spiritual poverty such as we’ve been discussing.

  • I have already nominated Dorian Speed to found this order, or at least to serve as their web designer. 

    Seriously, though, thank you for linking and adding more.  I have been finding myself thinking about this more and more, because it seems so paradoxical.  You’re absolutely right that I can find clarity in the spiritual works of mercy.  Don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.

    Another way this poverty would manifest is in a refusal to “innovate” theologically, I think.  They would not put themselves in danger of pride or error by generating new theological scholarship; they would concentrate on passing on what’s been given before. 

    But just as Francis and his followers made themselves visibly poor, making it obvious that they had nothing on which to live without the gifts from God (as is true for all of us), the spiritually poor would try to make it somehow obvious that they themselves could not make a move towards Christ were He not calling them.  They would outwardly indicate, somehow, that their gifts (whatever they were) and any desire for service that they exhibit were and are from Grace.  That’s why being non-judgmental should be a defining characteristic.  “There but for the grace of God go I” is the motto of the spiritually poor, I think—and must be said about even the most objectively horrible people.

  • I love your idea about the new cloistered order – I’d read a novel based on that concept, and if such an order were ever to come about I might be tempted to chuck my life and join!

    As for the combox trolls, I have seen what you describe – in fact I saw the exchange you had with the combox police officer – and I had to wonder at her conclusions and her sense of ownership.  Another thing about those regulars who self-appoint to maintain their idea of order in somebody else’s combox?  It makes the rest of us, seeing that club of regulars, feel less welcome.

  • I don’t think that most Catholic sites have the sort of comments that I was referring to.  If one is an athiest, agnostic, but questioning and questing and polite in discourse, of course, they deserve a sincere and charitable response.  I do think that there has to be some sort of moderation by the blogger to rule out the obviously foul comments that take place on some sites.  Such comments have been directed at a friend of mine who writes many well-researched articles and letters for the local press on sensitive issues of our times.

    If you have had the pleasure of reading David Warren’s blog,
    you will know that he recently required that anyone commenting must use their full name and he insists on moderating comments.  He further requires that comments be brief, to the point, and not repetitive.  As a result, any discussions of his articles are a joy to persue because they are reflective and carefully composed.

    Obviously, the right to conduct a blog and its comments is that of the blogger.

  • Melanie, I love your idea, and I love your thinking about over-policing. Too many conversations among Catholics assume we all already know and accept the right answer, but people who are learning, are young, are new Catholics need some space to question, to respond when opinions are proposed for consideration in ways that might not be 100% my brand of orthodox. Your ‘order’ would certainly need our prayers….could they all use the same Avatar?…like a ‘habit’ and when we saw their responses we’d make a point to learn from their wise and kind ways. So glad to have discovered your blog.

  • Margaret, Perhaps the web would be more civil if everyone had to use their full names in all comments, though I do understand the occasional value of anonymous commenting.

    Charlotte, So true about making assumptions. It makes me mad when I see people assuming that everyone is as well formed as they are and that all errors are deliberate flouting of doctrine rather than ignorance seeking understanding. I try to make my default response a charitable presumption of good faith on the part of the person I’m talking to, never assuming malice when ignorance or misunderstanding would be an alternate explanation. After all St Paul himself tells us to have patience with our brothers and sisters who are weaker in the faith than we are. How are people to learn if they are berated every time they ask a question or make a misstep?/p>

    I love the idea of a uniform Avatar like a habit.

    I’m so glad you’ve discovered the blog too. Please come back soon.