The college of cardinals are beginning to speak about their choice and some, like Cardinal Dolan, are positively effusive about their choice. Dolan laughingly reported that during a casual supper with his former colleagues, the Pope said to them "May God forgive you for what you have done."
That self-effacing humor and humility is indicative of the character of the former cardinal who would ride a bus to work and even rode the bus with his cardinals instead of the "popemobile."
This is a man of compassion and grace for the abandoned and ignored. Perhaps his most famous act as a cardinal in Buenos Aires was the washing of the feet of AIDS patients there.
While he has a great concern for the poor and the neglected, he does remain a strong conservative in the areas of same-sex marriage and other social issues. He has been called a "compassionate conservative" and that is a worrisome phrase that first came into vogue as a description of George H.W. Bush and was then adopted as a campaign slogan by George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential campaign. Still, I am more optimistic about the use of that phrase with this pope.
His father was an Italian immigrant to Argentina and worked on the railroads. A disease in his teenage years left the future pope with only one lung. His life experiences seem to have made many character-impressions on him. He is humble and frugal. He does not like extravagance and he pays his own way.
In fact, the rent of the house where he stayed while in Rome was payed with his own money. He is concerned with setting a proper model for the lifestyles of priests and bishops.
The first non-European pope in 1,300 years, he told the audience in St. Peter's Square "pray for me." The cardinals, he said, had to go to the ends of the world to find him. That was a surprise to many, especially the Italians, who considered Cardinal Scola of Milan to be the sure successor.
The Italian bishops even blundered into a "Dewey Defeats Truman" scenario by sending a congratulatory message to Scola, celebrating his victory. Seeing the white smoke, they knew it must be Scola to have been elected so quickly and they sent the ill-advised message. Embarrassing.
There will be changes during this papacy. Openly gay clergy? Certainly not. Married clergy? Probably not. Females in the priesthood? Well, maybe in the diaconate.
But at least the Europeans have lost the choke-hold on the Church and will continue to do so. The plurality of Italians in the college of cardinals will undergo a dramatic change as Pope Francis begins to appoint his own cardinals. As the number of non-European cardinals increase, the choice of pope from the Old World will diminish more and more in the next elections.
There will be a new era of transparency, too. Struggling with the financial and moral issues of the last years, this pope will meet them head on and stand for the oppressed and for simplicity.
The stage has been set for an American, an African, an Asian pope and the Church may truly regain an authority of culture to speak to the whole world.
And it begins with transparency and humility.
This site and the material contained herein is protected by copyright and trademark laws under U.S. and International law. No part may be copied without written permission of the author.
© copyright 2011-2013. Travis Rogers, Jr. All rights reserved.