Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Pope Francis: Keys to His Thought

Many of thee books I read or glanced at over the recent six months have not been too helpful in understanding the newly elected Pope, Francis. A recent publication, Pope Francis: Key to His Thought, has promise. Penned by Monsignor Mariano Fazio, Vicar of the Prelature of Opus Dei in Argentina since 2010, begins the substance of his narrative when he first met Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio in Rome in 2000. Fazio was then working at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross; he was rector there from 2002-2008.

The author’s thesis is based on many friendly meetings with Francis and thus sketches in a lively manner some of the key ideas that are fundamental in knowing who the Pope is as a person and as a shepherd. I think this perspective opens wider the door of our opinion of the new pope and hopefully engenders in us a spirit of greater collaboration based on something concrete versus the media hype that is prevalent these days.

Monsignor Fazio’s text covers Francis’ “urgency to defend human life and marriage, and the need to ‘go out to the periphery’ to meet people where they are. The latter concern is reflected in the strong encouragement given by Cardinal Bergoglio to the so-called “shantytown priests” for the envangelization of the poorest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires. This effort was grounded on sacramental catechesis and educational projects that foster human dignity, and was never to be confused, Bergoglio always insisted, with an overly political ‘liberation theology.'”

As Fazio says, “I have three letters he sent me in recent years. Whenever I sent him anything, he would respond in writing, in his own hand. The format was always the same: a large card with an image of La Virgen Desatanudos (Our Lady Undoer of Knots), a title originating in Augsburg, Germany (Maria  Knotenlöserin) that he had made known in Buenos Aires . . . In the blank space he writes in small letters, much like Benedict XVI, a few personal and affectionate lines. Here are some: ‘I wish you a holy and happy Christmas. May Jesus bless you and our Lady take care of you. And, please, I ask that you pray and have others pray for me’ . . . These notecards were always accompanied by two holy pictures: one of St. Joseph and the other of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, saints to whom he had great devotion . . . On the back of the picture of St. Joseph is the famous text of St. Teresa of Jesus about the efficacy of devotion to the Holy Patriarch. On various occasions when, having spoken with him, I asked for his blessing, he always invoked these saints and in addition placed me under the protection of St. Josemaria.”

Pope Francis: Keys to His Thought is available from  Scepter Publishers.

Pope wants a Church that brings the world to Christ: this is the task of Social Communications

On a yearly basis the Pope meets with the full assembly of the various departments at the Holy See that assist him in his ministry. This past Saturday (21 September 2013) Pope Francis spoke to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. This Council’s head is Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, 72, and the Secretary is Monsignor Paul Tighe, 55, a priest of the archdiocese of Dublin. There are several cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity who serve as a advisors to the Council.

I’ve been noticing nowadays how often Francis uses the words “discernment,” “journey,” “dialogue,” “understanding,” “encounter” –words that contribute to the building of relationships in Jesus Christ. For me, the notion of relationships is key: it is more than mere social networking, or having a familiarity with technology, or a keeping a Facebook community entertained. Being in relationship means being with another in the Christian sense is caring for the destiny of the other, of sharing life, being human, of telling the other the reasons for our hope, having the capacity to be concretely present to another person who may be difficult. Being relational is not the same as engineering a meeting; it is the fundamental posture of openness to someone greater, an openness to everyone.

The controlling ideas of the Pope are thus: meeting Christ today, really, and faithfully, so that we make a journey of faith by building the Kingdom and confessing Jesus as Savior, without fracture, sans fantasy. The concern of Pope Francis ought to be our concern, too: do we communicate that the Church is a home to all people, or a museum of plastic saints???

The address, like the Pope’s recent interview, needs to be read in continuity with the tradition of the Church and in dialogue with each other. Hence, the the following is not meant only for the advisors and other interested parties, but for all the baptized: cleric, religious and lay person. No exception.

Here’s the Pope address with emphasis added.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I greet you and I thank you for your work and commitment to the important sector of social communications – but having spoken to Archbishop Celli, I must change “sector” to the important “dimension of life” which is that of social communications. I wish to thank Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli for the greeting that he extended to me on your behalf. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

social communicationsFirst of all: the importance of social communications for the Church. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica. This anniversary is more than a commemoration; the Decree expresses the Church’s attentiveness towards communication and all its instruments, which are also important in the work of evangelisation. But towards its instruments – communication is not an instrument! It’s something else. In the last few decades, the various means of communication have evolved significantly, but the Church’s concern remains the same, taking on new forms and expressions. The world of social communications, more and more, has become a “living environment” for many, a web where people communicate with each other, expanding the boundaries of their knowledge and relationships (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the 2013 World Communications Day). I wish to underline these positive aspects, although we are all aware of the limitations and harmful factors which also exist.

In this context – and this is the second reflection – we must ask ourselves: what role should the Church have in terms of its own practical means of communication? In every situation, beyond technological considerations, I believe that the goal is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today, in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts, and their hopes. They are men and women who sometimes feel let down by a Christianity that to them appears sterile, struggling precisely to communicate the depth of meaning that faith gives. We do in fact witness today, in the age of globalisation, a growing sense of disorientation and isolation; we see, increasingly, a loss of meaning to life, an inability to connect with a “home”, and a struggle to build meaningful relationships. It is therefore important to know how to dialogue, and how to enter, with discernment, into the environments created by new technologies, into social networks, in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses, and encourages. Do not be afraid to be this presence, expressing your Christian identity as you become citizens of this environment. A Church that follows this path learns how to walk with everybody! And there’s also an ancient rule of the pilgrims, that Saint Ignatius includes, and that’s why I know it! In one of his rules, he says that anyone accompanying a pilgrim must walk at the same pace as the pilgrim, not ahead and not lagging behind. And this is what I mean: a Church that accompanies the journey, that knows how to walk as people walk today. This rule of the pilgrim will help us to inspire things.

last supperThe third: it’s a challenge that we all face together in this environment of social communications, and the problem is not principally technological. We must ask ourselves: are we capable of bringing Christ into this area, or rather, of bringing about the encounter with Christ? To walk with the pilgrim through life, but as Jesus walked with the pilgrims of Emmaus, warming their hearts and leading them to the Lord? Are we capable of communicating the face of a Church which can be a “home” to everyone? We talk about the Church behind closed doors. But this is more than a Church with open doors, it’s more! Finding “home” together, building “home”, building the Church. It’s this: building the Church as we walk. A challenge! To lead to the rediscovery, through means of social communication as well as by personal contact, of the beauty which is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith, the beauty of the encounter with Christ. Even in the context of social communications, the Church is required to bring warmth, to warm hearts. Does our presence and plans measure up to this requirement, or do we remain mired in technicalities? We hold a precious treasure that is to be passed on, a treasure that brings light and hope. They are greatly needed. All this, however, requires a careful and thorough formation in this area for priests, for religious men and women, for laity. The great digital continent does not only involve technology, but is made up of real men and women who bring with them what they carry inside, their hopes, their suffering, their concerns, their pursuit of truth, beauty, and good. We need to show and bring Christ to others, sharing these joys and hopes, like Mary, who brought Christ to the hearts of men and women; we need to pass through the clouds of indifference without losing our way; we need to descend into the darkest night without being overcome and disorientated; we need to listen to the illusions of many, without being seduced; we need to share their disappointments, without becoming despondent; to sympathise with those whose lives are falling apart, without losing our own strength and identity (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of Brazil, 27 July 2013, n. 4). This is the walk. This is the challenge.

Dear friends, the concern and the presence of the Church in the world of social communications is important in order to dialogue with the men and women of today and bring them to meet Christ, but the encounter with Christ is personal. It cannot be manipulated. In these times we see a great temptation within the Church, which is spiritual harassment: the manipulation of conscience; a theological brainwashing which in the end leads to an encounter with Christ which is purely nominal, not with the Live Person of Christ. In a person’s encounter with Christ, both Christ and the person need to be involved! Not what’s wanted by the “spiritual engineer”, who wants to manipulate people. This is the challenge. To bring about the encounter with Christ in the full knowledge, though, that we ourselves are means of communication, and that the fundamental problem is not the acquisition of the latest technologies, although these are necessary to a valid, contemporary presence. It is necessary to be absolutely clear that the God in whom we believe, who loves all men and women intensely, wants to reveal himself through the means at our disposal, however poor they are, because it is he who is at work, he who transforms, and he who saves us.

Let us all pray that the Lord may warm our hearts and sustain us in the engaging mission of bringing him to the world. I ask you for your prayers, because this is my mission too, and I assure you of my blessing.

Pope to new bishops: You are spouses of your community

pope with new bishopRemember the three words the Pope had for us in the first Mass he offered following his election? They’re easy to remember: to walk, to build, to confess. You can change them slightly, but you ought to recall them frequently. Pope Francis does and he reminds the Church –even baby bishops– of these words because they are essential in serving God and His Church. The following are a few paragraphs of an address the Pope gave (19 September 2013) when the greeted the group of new bishops at the conclusion of their meeting in Rome this week. He notes many essential things: humility, austerity, unity, communion, paternity, concrete witness, spousal relationship, etc. This is an amazing text to ponder, to live with vigor. Don’t this be a dead letter! Ecclesiology will never be the same.

Francis said in part (the full text is here):

To welcome with magnanimity. May your heart be so large that you are able to welcome all men and women that you meet in the course of your days and that you will go to seek when you begin your journey in your parishes and in every community. Henceforth ask yourselves: how will those who knock on the door of my house find it? If they find it open, through your kindness, your availability, they will experience God’s paternity and they will understand that the Church is a good Mother that always welcomes and loves.

To walk with the flock. Welcome all to walk with all. The Bishop is journeying with his flock. This means to go on the way with your faithful and with all those who turn to you, sharing their joys and hopes, difficulties and sufferings, as brothers and friends, but even more as fathers, who are able to listen, to understand, to help, to guide. To walk together calls for love and ours is a service of love, amoris officium, said Saint Augustine (In Io. Ev. Tract.123,5: PL35, 1967).

And in journeying I would like to mention affection for your priests. They are the first neighbors of a Bishop, indispensable collaborators to whom we look for counsel and help, to take care of as fathers, brothers and friends. Among the first tasks you have is the spiritual care of the presbyter, but do not forget the human need of each priest, above all in the more delicate and important moments of his ministry and life. Time spent with priests is never lost time! Receive them when they request it; do not fail to answer a telephone call; be constantly close, in continuous contact with them.

Then presence in the diocese. In the homily of the Chrism Mass of this year, I said that Pastors must have “the scent of sheep.” Be Pastors with the scent of sheep, present in the midst of your people as Jesus the Good Shepherd. Your presence is not secondary, it’s indispensable. The people themselves ask for it; they want to see their Bishop walk with them, being close to them. They need it to live and to breathe! Don’t close yourselves! Descend in the midst of your faithful, also in the fringes of your dioceses and in all those “existential fringes” where there is suffering, loneliness, human degradation. Pastoral presence means to journey with the People of God: in front, pointing out the way; in their midst, einforcing them in unity; behind, so that no one will remain behind but, above all, to follow the scent that the People of God have to find new ways. A Bishop who lives in the midst of his faithful has his ears open to hear “what the Spirit says to the Churches” (Revelation  2:7) and the “voice of the sheep,” also through those diocesan organizations that have the task of advising the Bishop, promoting a loyal and constructive dialogue. This pastoral presence will also enable you to know in depth the culture, the usages, the customs of the territory, the richness of sanctity that is present there. To be immersed in one’s flock.

Fo me, these words are some of central points of our teaching: “the Bishop is a man of communion and unity, the ‘visible principle and foundation of unity’ (Lumen gentium, 27).”

Messing with the Associated Press???


Is the Associated Press confused now? I’m not. Neither should you be.

Earlier today this post showed up on the AP. No doubt some are confused, others awkwardly changing their underwear after yesterday’s media frenzy about the Pope changing directions.

In an address to a group of Catholic gynecologists gathered by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, Pope Francis said in part,

The cultural disorientation has affected an ambit that seemed unassailable: yours, medicine! Although being by their nature at the service of life, the health professions are induced sometimes not to respect life itself. Instead, as the encyclical Caritas in veritate reminds us, “openness to life is at the center of true development. […] If  personal and social sensibility is lost to welcoming a new life, other forms of reception useful to social life are hardened. The reception of life tempers moral energies and makes possible mutual help” (n. 28). The paradoxical situation is seen in the fact that, while new rights are attributed to the person, sometimes even presumed, life is not always protected as primary value and primordial right of every man. The ultimate end of medical action always remains the defense and promotion of life.

The full text is here.

Pope Francis’ exclusive interview

FranEarlier the world was given the text of an exclusive interview by Pope Francis. The interview was conducted by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica.

America magazine is one several Jesuit publications honored with the task of getting the word out.

Here is “A Big Heart Open to God.”

Hopefully we’ll read the interview first, let it sink in, and refrain from spin, in any direction. Pope Francis, like his predecessor, is a nuanced thinker.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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