A Jesuit priest expressed delight at the election of Pope Francis, who is a member of the Society of Jesus, highlighting that the group was founded to serve Christ's Church.
“The whole Jesuit charism is to be at the service of the hierarchical Church,” Father Raymond Gawronski, a priest of the Maryland province of the Society of Jesus, told CNA March 13.
“We are at the service of the Church; wherever God wants to place us to serve the Church, apparently including the Papacy, that's where we're supposed to go,” he added.
“It seems to be God's will that at this point the Jesuit charism come to the center of the Church, in a beautiful way.”
The priest expressed emotion as he called election to the papacy one of the greatest honors “a human being can have, and that it can come to a Jesuit is tremendous. I have to say, I am delighted.”
Pope Francis, he noted, is “obviously a good man, a faithful man,” who is “highly thought of.”
“I gather he has a great love for the poor, and in a world of great social injustice – and Latin America has known much social injustice – a voice for the poor is extremely important.”
Fr. Gawronski has taught at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He is the author of “Word and Silence,” and has written articles appearing in “Communio,” “New Oxford Review,” and other publications.
The new Pope, he emphasized, will be a “faithful voice who would take the legitimate concerns of liberation theology, but keep them in the heart of the Church. So I think that's a beautiful thing.”
Fr. Gawronski expressed an initial surprise at the election, “because we've always been at the service of the Church, but distinct from the hierarchical Church; Jesuits don't generally become bishops or cardinals, and certainly not Popes.”
Reflecting on the fact that Jesuits are not to seek ecclesiastical honors or power within the Church, Father said that while this is a “profound honor,” the election also means that Pope Francis has had to “sacrifice the freedom of being a religious, to serve the Church.”
The priest also discussed Jorge Mario Bergoglio's choice of name, taken in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi.
“It's beautiful that he chose the name Francis. St. Ignatius was a great lover of St. Francis, and he wanted to be like Francis.”
He noted that both St. Francis and St. Dominic were “great heroes” to the Society's founder, and there is a “nice twinning in his name.”
“He comes from the new world, and Franciscan missionaries were so important to the new world, as were the Jesuits in the new world.”
“Taking the name of Francis is a beautiful thing, and it speaks to a desire to rebuild Christ's Church, to continue building it,” said Father.
Pope Francis was the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires. White smoke wafted from the Sistine Chapel at 7:06 in the evening in Rome, announcing his election.
He greeted the crowds of faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square an hour later, after spending time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the Pauline Chapel.
He was elected during the fifth ballot of the conclave, on its second day.
Fr. Gawronski said that “I think as a Jesuit I'm very, very profoundly honored. St. Ignatius always called us the 'least society of Jesus' – the least society.”
He noted that St. Ignatius began the Society with “a handful of men at the service of the Church, and he went to Rome to place all of our gifts at the service of the vicar of Christ.”
“And it is the vicar of Christ this man has become on earth, and our job is to serve that. So, if this is how God wants us to serve, well everything about us is to serve.”
“En todo, amar y servir,” Fr. Gawronski quoted St. Ignatius' motto. “In all things, to love and to serve.”