Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pope Francis

Your Excellency, I am eagerly awaiting a decision from the current Vatican Conclave, as the Cardinal-Electors therein seek to elect a new Pope. I would be fascinated to know, from your unique position as General Superior of the Ordo Sancti Graal, what particular qualities would you like to see in a selected Pope, to face the problems of this phase of history? With thanks, for all your wonderful work and writings. Peter Michaels (12 March 2013)

I am hoping and praying that Francis might possess the qualities we all so desperately seek in a Pope.

One of the five children of Italian immigrants, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on 17 December 1936, and now as Pope Francis is the 266th and current pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he was ordained as a priest in 1969. In 1998 he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 a cardinal. Elected as Pope on 13 March 2013, following his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI's resignation, Bergoglio chose "Francis" as his name. This marked the first time in papal history that this name had been used, and along with Pope John Paul I is one of only two times since Pope Lando's brief 913 reign that a serving pope held a name unused by a predecessor. He is both the first Jesuit priest and the first native of the Americas to be elected Pope. He is also the first non-European pope since the 8th century. St Francis is one of the most popular saints ever to have lived. I chose to be episcopally consecrated on the feast of St Francis of Assisi and venerate a relic of him at a shrine in my private retreat.

Bergoglio has affirmed church teaching on homosexuality specifically that homosexual actions are immoral. He opposes same-sex marriage, and unsuccessfully opposed legislation introduced in 2010 to allow same-sex marriage in Argentina, calling it a "real and dire anthropological throwback." In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote: "Let's not be naïve, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God." In this context, Bergoglio also opposed adoption by same-sex couples, arguing that it threatened the "identity ... and the survival of the family: father, mother and children." He stated that "children ... are discriminated against in advance depriving them of human growth that God would be given to a father and a mother."

In 2007, as Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio presented the final version of a joint statement of the bishops of Latin America – the Aparecida Document – upon its approval by Pope Benedict XVI. The document links worthiness to receive the Eucharist, to compliance and acceptance of Church teaching against "abominable crimes" such as abortion and euthanasia: "We hope that legislators, heads of government, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and of the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia; that is their responsibility ... We should commit ourselves to 'eucharistic coherence', that is, we should be conscious that people cannot receive Holy Communion and at the same time act or speak against the commandments, in particular when abortion, euthanasia, and other serious crimes against life and family are facilitated. This responsibility applies particularly to legislators, governors, and health professionals."

Bergoglio has encouraged his clergy and laity to oppose both abortion and euthanasia, describing the pro-choice movement as a "culture of death," and had opposed the free distribution of contraceptives in Argentina.

In 2007, Bergoglio denounced what he characterised as a cultural tolerance of child abuse and "discarding of the elderly." He spoke strongly against the abuse of children as "demographic terrorism" and decried their exploitation. "Children are mistreated, and are not educated or fed. Many are made into prostitutes and exploited" and against a "culture of discarding" the elderly and treating them as if they are disposable and worthless due to their advanced age.

However, Bergoglio has not supported any return to the Old (Latin) Mass as had been encouraged by Benedict XVI, much to the dismay of many traditionalists.