Pope's first six months reveal a 'rich, complex' personality

Pope Francis in St Peters Square on Pentecost Sunday May 19 2013 Credit Stephen Driscoll CNA 13 CNA 5 23 13 Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013. | Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

Six months into his pontificate, Pope Francis' distinct style is beginning to take a more defined shape and is viewed by some as having a strong emphasis on the Church's maternal, merciful nature.

"I think he has a very conscious desire to show the motherly, merciful aspect of the Church which in one hand is tremendously real...and in the other hand, sometimes has been forgotten," Latin American analyst Alejandro Bermudez reflected.

"I think that could be one of the defining characteristics of his pontificate."

Bermudez serves as executive director for Catholic News Agency and runs several television programs for EWTN's Spanish audience. He has been a guest commentator on religious issues for the New York Times and is the Latin American correspondent for the National Catholic Register.

He is also the author of the new book "Pope Francis: Our Brother, Our Friend," which is a collection of interviews and reflections from peers, professors and friends who were close to the pontiff before his election.

As someone who knew Pope Francis personally while he was still the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bermudez told CNA in a Sept. 12 interview that these first six months of his pontificate "have revealed how rich and complex is the personality of Pope Francis."

"He has been able to define himself without the need of comparing him with some of his predecessors," he said, "Francis has defined himself as Francis."

Although much of the Pope's personality remains "in significant continuity with the man we knew as Cardinal Bergolio," such as making personal phone calls to people he doesn't know to console, greet or encourage them, Bermudez said there have also been changes since his election to the Seat of Peter.

One of the most significant changes, according to Bermudez, has been his "energy and enthusiasm in engaging people."

"He wasn't a man that was comfortable with crowds."

However, after World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero earlier this summer, the pontiff is "a completely different person for good, in the sense that he is incredibly comfortable with the crowds as he was not in the past."

Not only has Pope Francis become more accustomed to being in the spotlight that comes with being the Vicar of Christ, but he has also set an example that many from within as well as outside of the Church are edified by.

"He is a Jesuit through and through," said Bermudez, the kind that is "one hundred percent Ignatian, meaning being faithful to the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola."

The Jesuits were founded by St. Ignatius in 1534, and are the order most responsible for spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was revealed to St. Margaret-Mary Alacoque in the early 1600s.

The Jesuits, said Bermudez, "see the heart as the center of the human person that has to be transformed and that has to be completely renewed."

"The transformation of the heart makes the Christian become the heart of the Catholic Church, and when the heart of the Catholic Church is transformed, the Church becomes the heart of the world, and is capable of transforming the world."

Bermudez explained that this transformation is not something that develops in "a rigid chronological line," meaning that once all Catholics are transformed, then the Church will transform, and only after that will the world be transformed.

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Rather, the Jesuits view this process of transformation as a simultaneous process, in which "every change in the human heart reflects in the change of the Church, which will reflect in the change of the world."

This approach was clearly seen in both the "thought and the pastoral practice" of Cardinal Bergoglio, and is something that "we see more and more clear in Pope Francis."

"He's someone that is totally convinced that any reform in the Church begins with the transformation of the heart."

Bermudez stated that although six months is "an interesting landmark to make an assessment," it is still too early to define a pontificate, and that the Church will most likely see more of Pope Francis' defining characteristics after many of the significant events that will happen in October.

Among several items on his agenda for next month, the Pope is slated to meet with the eight cardinals he appointed to advise him on governing the Church and reforming the Curia. The group will hold its first meeting Oct. 1-3.

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