Yesterday was a special day for the Catholic Church. It is quite intriguing at times how the Catholics can focus on their “Pope”, “il Papa, abuna, abba, amba”. One died, the “long live” stance immediately starts with the deeds and activities, personality of the new pope. Annd all writers, believers, faithful, commentators, specialists or “ordinary people” will only refer to the writings, the decisions, the “writs” of the last, but “living” pope, Bishop of Rome.
At this point it sounds like a mantra that would be more diversified in the Eastern realm, whether Byznatine or Semitic Aramaic, Coptic or Ethiopian, Armenian as well.
Things changed dramatically five years ago when Pope Benedictus XVI stepped down and left. Cardinal Ratzinger had been in Rome for decades and a close co-worker of late Pope John Paul II, now canonized.
We heard here and there that after the death of John Paul II, it might have been an option for Cardinal Bergoglio to become the pope. It is not really a matter these days. At the present, all will underscore the fact that Pope Francis is a Jesuit, was for years the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in Argentina, in times of terrible political and religious conflicts and hardships. Yes, the archbishop is special in the way he speaks and utters opinions, sometimes a bit “right out of the moon” or “on air”, especially when he is in planes. But he is sincere, he is close to the poor and needy. To be frank, this is typically “church-like”: the Churches are on the verge to “venerate” the poor and the needy. Not the rich but the Church also loves to be a group of “co-opted elected and self-centered leading members, with money, funds, call that charities”. It is a part of the “being”.
Pope Francis could have married an Argentinian woman. He spoke with a Jewish (Argentinian) psycho-analyst to overcome some questions. He washes the feet of the prisoners, not men, but female prostitutes. I often heared in Jerusalem (from the Latin Catholic clergy) that this is a ‘bit shocking” because he suddenly seems to abandon the glorious role of Christ who is resurrected and whose Throne of glory is now in heaven”. It is new, and indeed it sounds new for a pope to leave the conclave and greet the crowds on St Peter’s Square as the new Bishop of Rome, saying them: “Please pray for me and now let’s go home and have dinner”. The prelate has a simple pectoral cross, blesses the people and walks home to his “St Martha house” just the same way the cardinals – at least most of them or some maybe – return to their temporary homes. Others have palaces and servants… Francis just tell them to leave this stuff.
We are not used to this simple look and behavior in the Middle-East, at least hierarchs cannot gather without three panagias showing their archbishopic quality (now direcltly obtained in Jerusalem) and the “pride” or head cover, vestments, pectoral crosses… don’t as ka hierarch to visit the prisons, the hospitals, the refugees’ camps… Visiotrs will be rewarded with (quickly breakable) mother of pearl crosses and panagias or some encolpion of some new “Lamb of the Throne”. We are poor, but not because we laud the needy: our clergy people are poor in a humble pride that consists of huge debts and unredeemed (sic) borrowings.
Pope Francis speaks of the LGBT , of divorcees, of euthanasia and abortion. It sounds a bit messy at times, especially when he marries a couple en route to or fro in the skies. Or, he returns home to Rome bringing along with him some Muslim families that he saved in the Middle-East. The faithful and the others have to try to understand, though pastoral input requires free and inspired actions.
Pope Francis has a friend, definitely : Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and New Rome. They have the same “five initial patriarchate intuitu personæ”. In 2014, at the encounter in the Holy Sepulcher, it was a bit amazing to see Pope Francis kissing the shoulder of Patriarch Bartholomaios as if the fifty years that have passed after the first meeting of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenogras had blossomed into a very close-by sense of Church union if not full Communion yet.
In Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio could light the candles of Hanukkah with some Masorti and trendy rabbis. He invited his friends Shimon Peres and Mahmud Abbas to pray “at his house” (in Rome)… well, nice images and the war got harsher in the following days.
Liturgically speaking things are not so simple: as a Jesuit, Mass and Services are usually made short, simple, to be understood by all, definitely targeting the “ordinary believers”, with popular traditions (the Holy Lady or Theotokos) and mixing Latin rite with some Evangelical or other forms of prayers commonly used in South America. It is down to earth. It shows that indeed the Christians are to share this “communitad de sangre”. When they are victimized throughout the world, they offer their lives for the One Lord and subsequently this would show the true unity of the Body of the Resurrected. Then, the real challenge is to express the same unity not in death, not in competition between the Churches, but in real life, true faith and whilst we all are to speak and to meet.
Definitely a man of freshness. Interreligious contacts are not of the same nature in South America. People meet and also compete; threats show at the present with the extension of the Pentecostists. It is time to reconsider the charismatic input of true faith and Sacraments in all the Churches and avoid to systematically drown in emotional fancies.
There are dreams or “day dreams if not nightmares”: no, the Anathema were not canceled after Paul VI and Athenagoras met in Jerusalem in 1964 and a year later. No. There are still a part of the large Orthodox traditions and expressed each year during the Service of the Sunday of the Orthodoxy. The Catholics abuse themselves whne they think that once they have canceled their part, things are settled. No. Definitely not.
Subsequently, Pope Francis welcomes everybody and is full of hope, indeed. But he is no more the “Patriarch of the West”, a decision taken by Benedictus XVI… that broke the parity of the possible relationships between the Eastern and Western traditions. He cannot only be the “Bishop of Rome” trying to reconsider the role of his primacy, being the protos. But Pope Francis is a man of goodwill who can approach life and conflicts with faith and true dedication.
I would not focus on the 5th anniversary of his pontificate. It is a bit too short. He does show to the world that the Church is no more “European-centered”… but he spoke Italian at home and, in a country of migration as Argentina is, he only could be quite strongly influenced by his original homeland in Europe and the way Italian fathers (Don Bosco) and even the total dedication of the initial Jesuit group to the Bishop of Rome maintains him rooted in a very European continental context.
Mondialization has become a motto… tons of writers, analysts have arrived to St Martha’s House to get some talks with the Pope. Some really reach out to the core of his spirit and prayer embodied in real actions and values. Others became some word-shnoorers for their pride because his life has to be dug from the soil of the very dire Argentinian experience.
I would focus on his 60th anniversary of the beginning of his noviciate in the Society of Jesus. It was precisely yesterday too. Sixty years covers a long period in which he really got educated, trained. He started his path just ten years before the final decisions of Council Vatican II. He face the different wherabouts that impulsed the Churches in the Americas. Some decisions seem to be still “fresh” in his view, because his pastoral daily experience at home in Buenos Aires was not directly connected to the decisions that dealt with European faithful and clery people to begin with.
On the other hand, I consider that his 60th anniversary is far more significant at the present. In 1965, the Catholic CHurch (at least the Lation one) had to face the liberation of the Eastern rite Churches and really experienced the nature of her “Cath’olon/Catholicity”. It is as if, after the framing decisions of Vatican I, they could fly out to the ends of the continents. Subsequently she also had to discover the other “Katholkoi and Orthodoxoi”. It will take a long time to reach the process of a normal dialogue of equal brotherhood or togetherness.
archpriest AvAlexander Winogradsky Frenkel
av aleksandr – March 14, 2018