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Loyolans, scholastics reflect on election of Pope Francis

(Courtesy of Shannon Armstrong) Crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square to get a glimpse of the new pontiff.
(Courtesy of Shannon Armstrong) Crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square to get a glimpse of the new pontiff.

Leaders from approximately 30 religious denominations and 132 diplomatic delegations — including several heads of state — gathered with thousands of pilgrims at Saint Peter’s Square for the inauguration of newly-elected Pope Francis, Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J.

During the ceremony, he was vested with the papal symbols — the pallium and the fisherman’s ring — which indicate his position as the successor of the Apostle Peter, the “fisher of men,” who is considered the first pope in Catholic tradition.

In his homily during the mass, the pope stressed that humanity needs to be protectors of creation, bringing hope and service to the world.

“Amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope.”

Steven Patzke, a Loyola student at the John Felice Rome Center this semester, said when the pope explained he was going to serve Rome and the world for peace, “all the negative hype from the media weeks before about the resignation of Pope Benedict seemed to vanish.”

“I could feel the warmth of his personality, and my heart calmed. All was well,” said the junior theology and philosophy double major.

In a call to leaders around the world, the pope emphasized power must be exercised through service and care. “Let us never forget that authentic power is service … Let us protect with love all that God has given us.”

Bergoglio is not only the first non-European pope in 1,300 years but also the first Jesuit to be elected to the Petrine ministry and the first pope to choose the name Francis — after Saint Francis of Assisi, the Italian friar and preacher.

“It was the duty of the conclave to give Rome a bishop. It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one … but here we are … I thank you for your welcome.”

With these words, in a soft, affable voice, the new pope greeted more than 100,000 people gathered at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome Wednesday, March 13 after the announcement of his election.

After praying for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and before giving the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing, he asked the people to bless him and pray for each other and the world.

Patzke described the scene at Saint Peter’s Square as people waited for the result of the fifth vote of the conclave.

“It came as a surprise to me. As I was standing in the first few rows I heard ‘BIANCO!’” the 21 year old said in an email statement. “The demeanor in the square changed to a mosh pit with everyone going crazy — especially the nuns!”

“We watched in awe. While the pope was partaking in election traditions, the crowd outside was full of anticipation. The windows lit up, and we went crazy again,” he said about the waiting period before the pope made his first appearance. “He chose the name Francesco, and everyone began to chant his new name. We chanted it right before he came out, and then the crowd went wild.”

Pablo Javier, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic from Puerto Rico who is getting his masters in Spanish literature at Loyola, believes that the rapidness with which the cardinals reached a decision during the conclave indicates that the stories about division and factions in the Church are not precisely accurate.

“I think sometimes we lose the perspective that, ultimately, God is the one who leads the Church and, despite the deficiencies of its members, He subtly manages to lead it to where He wants,” said the 28 year old, who entered the Society of Jesus in 2008.

Javier also described his reaction to the election of Francis as pope.

“I remember that in the house we were joking about how it seemed that the pope was Latin American because he was taking so long to go out … We were saying it as a joke, and it was a great surprise to see that, in effect, [the cardinals] had elected a Latin American and a Jesuit.”

But for Javier, the fact that the pope is from Latin America and a member of the Society of Jesus is not as important as his mission and his character. He pointed out Francis’ simplicity of life as a cardinal in Buenos Aires.

“The pope has a universal mission and is pastor of all. I believe that what’s important is his humbleness, self-giving and simplicity. I am amazed by his coherence of life. Cardinal Bergoglio preached in his diocese not only with his voice but also with his own life.”

The pope explained the story behind his name during a March 17 press conference. He said that, at the conclave, after it was clear that he had been elected, the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo, Claudio Hummes, who was sitting next to him at the Sistine Chapel, hugged him, telling him not to forget about the poor.

“And those words came to me: the poor, the poor … that is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation … He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!” Pope Francis enthusiastically said.

Just a few days after being elected, Bergoglio, 76, born in Buenos Aires to Italian immigrants, has broken more than one protocol, showing his simplicity and his own, different way of going about his new role.

Francis chose to keep wearing the old, silver cross from his time as cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires instead of the gold pectoral cross usually worn by pontiffs. He took the bus with the other cardinals instead of the car reserved for him after his election and even paid his bill personally at the residence where he was staying before the conclave.

The pope has also shown his spontaneity by cracking jokes at press conferences, homilies and the dominical Angelus prayer, and personally greeting parishioners after his first Sunday mass.

“The spontaneity that we saw at work … indicates a new style of doing things,” said Father Thomas Rosica, the English-language assistant for the Vatican press office, at a March 14 media gathering, according to the Catholic News Agency.

It has not been all jokes for Pope Francis. In his first homily Thursday, during the “Missa Pro Ecclesia” with the cardinal electors, he emphasized the centrality of Christ and the Cross in the Church’s mission, encouraging the cardinals to preach and evangelize in their nations.

“My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood, which was poured out on the cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward,” he stressed toward the end of his seven-minute homily.

For Daniel Mora, a Colombian Jesuit scholastic studying theology and philosophy at Loyola, the pope’s Jesuit training ensures his anti-careerism.

“Even if we are trained not to strive for high offices, precisely because of that, we can be sure that a Jesuit who is chosen to be Holy Father has not sought for the position but has only responded to the service the Church has asked from him,” said Mora, 33.

Mora, who is attending the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in late July, expects a “focus of mission” from Pope Francis. This year’s World Youth Day has, coincidently, a missionary theme.

World Youth Day is a week-long multitudinary encounter between the pope and Catholics from all over the world. It takes place every three years and was instituted by Blessed John Paul II in 1985.

Fr. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., echoed Mora’s feelings in an opinion piece he wrote for the Chicago Tribune, emphasizing the role that social justice may play in Francis’ pontificate.

“The election of Pope Francis, the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere, is an acknowledgment that the map of Christianity and Catholicism has evolved. He represents a part of the world in which our religion is a critical player in the debates over equality and fairness.”

Garanzini, however, has no clear expectations from Pope Francis.

“Only time will tell, but there will no doubt be an emphasis on social justice and concern for the needs and rights of the poor … I am optimistic he will concentrate on access to a good education,” Garanzini said.

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