six months of pope francis
It is six months today since the Holy Spirit, working through the College of Cardinals, elected Pope Francis to be the Bishop of Rome.
No doubt, in these ‘anniversary’ hours and days, news channels and columns will offer their half-year opinions on how he is doing. It is remarkable that the media honeymoon continues to focus only on the “welcome” aspects of the new pope’s style and teaching. The media consensus at this point is overwhelmingly positive. People like an extrovert who smiles. They are prepared to overlook the fact that his teaching is consistently Catholic, and that he is simply repeating many of the things that Pope Benedict (and earlier pope’s) have emphasised.
I remember in 2005 being impressed by the new style that Pope Benedict brought to papal teaching. Whereas Pope John Paul referred to saints constantly, Pope Benedict was happy to quote athiests and agnostics, the living and the departed, believers and just about anyone who was serious about the human hunger for truth, beauty and life.
Pope Francis brings an informal extroversion to the papacy. Whereas Pope John Paul never gave interviews. Pope Benedict broke new ground on several occasions offering question and answer sessions with media interviewers, book authors, children and priests. Pope Francis has taken this to a new level of informality on several occasions. His most remarkable interview to date is the in-flight chat with journalists on the trip back to Rome after World Youth Day.
His daily reflections at the early morning Masses give us the opportunity to hear a gentle pastor, who is uncompromising with the gospel.
Even though Pope Francis is less than a decade younger than Pope Benedict, he is of a different generation and background. His earliest years were spent in the post-war New World instead of Benedict’s pre-war Europe. His easy and extroverted style is a timely gift for the church.
Every morning of my high-school years at St. Patrick’s in Timaru, the entire school would begin every school day at assembly praying the morning offering, and the prayer for the pope. I still remember it almost 40 years later:
Let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis
May the Lord preserve him,
and give him life,
and make him blessed upon the earth,
and deliver him not
up to the will of his enemies.