Loading
March 25, 2013
Pope Francis
By Russell Shaw *

By Russell Shaw *

The surprising election of Pope Francis plainly was nosurprise to the people who really counted: the cardinals, that is, who swiftly chosehim on the first full day and fifth ballot of the conclave. While not a speedrecord, the timing showed the electors had no difficulty agreeing that theArchbishop of Buenos Aires was the man for the job.

 

Here was a grievous blow to punditry. In retrospect, itshould have been obvious that Cardinal Bergoglio, a top contender in theconclave of 2005, might well be chosen Pope Benedict XVI's successor. Althoughsome thought that at 76 his age was against him, many cardinals are men intheir 70s who may not see the age question quite that way.

 

Despite the favorable omens, however, he showed up on fewpre-conclave pundit lists. The best explanation is that journalists don't thinklike cardinals – and vice versa of course, which arguably is a good thing forboth groups.

 

Now that he's been elected, what will he do? We are told PopeFrancis will be a "pope of the poor." No doubt, but what does thatmean?

 

Within the limits of his new position, he will remain a manof simple lifestyle. Furthermore, every pope since at least Blessed John XXIIIhas actively championed the cause of the oppressed, and Francis will be noexception. Will he criticize the libertarian economics of the capitalist West,including the United States, as Pope John,Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI all did?  And if he does,will Americans who've been saying "Isn't that nice?" about hislifestyle shut their ears to his message? How many will adopt a simplelifestyle themselves?

 

Blessed John Paul II did pope-watchers a favor by settingout the agenda of his pontificate in considerable detail in his firstencyclical, Redemptor Hominis, whichappeared in March 1979 only five months after his election the previous October.Thereafter he thereafter largely followed its plan. Absent something like thatfrom Francis, it's best to leave the punditry aside for a while and simplywatch what our new Pope says – and, especially, does.

 

Personnel choices will be of prime importance in the earlygoing. Beyond the staffing of his own household, the first and most importantof these is likely to be for the position of Secretary of State, the Vaticanofficial with the crucial task of overseeing the operations of the Roman Curia.

It would come as a great surprise if Pope Francis chose toretain Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone in the job. But will he step outside curialranks to find a successor--and if so, who will it be? Whoever it is, the choicewill have a powerful impact upon the much-discussed issue of Curia reform.

No less an open question is what approach Francis will taketo the Society of Jesus. The election of the first Jesuit pope was greeted withconsternation by some conservatives who view Jesuits with alarm. But it'sentirely possible that as a Jesuit himself, Francis will have a betterunderstanding of conditions in the Society than an outsider would have and willbe better able to address the situation. Here too we can only wait and see whathe does. 

 

The current honeymoon phase will pass quickly. The Pope'sopposition to same-sex marriage and abortion will bring criticism from gayrights and pro-choice groups, and the media will line up with them.

 

To belabor the obvious: the story of this pontificate hasjust begun.

Russell Shaw is the author of more than twenty books, including three novels and volumes on ethics and moral theology, the Catholic laity, clericalism, the abuse of secrecy in the Church, and other topics. He has also published thousands of articles in periodicals, among them The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, L’Osservatore Romano, America, Crisis, Catholic World Report, The National Catholic Reporter, and many others. From 1967-1987 he served as communications director for the U.S. Catholic bishops and from 1987-1997 was information director for the Knights of Columbus. He lives in Washington, D.C.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
Oct
22

Liturgical Calendar

October 22, 2014

Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 12:39-48

Gospel
Date
10/22/14
10/21/14
10/20/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Eph 3: 2-12
Gospel:: Lk 12: 39-48
Gospel:: Lk 12: 39-48

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
10/22/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 12:39-48

Homily
Date
10/22/14
10/21/14
10/20/14
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: