Opinion: The avuncular Argentine; a spring breeze

John Murphy together

For the last month or so I’ve been glued to Twitter, Zite (an app on my phone,) or just my computer browser, trying to gather a range of current perspectives on the events in Rome, the need to elect a new pope.

Global news cycles unfold at different times, and sometimes I found myself finishing my day at 2am or more often starting at 4am. I’m not sure what my colleagues thought.

Some correspondents questioned the value of the exercise, some thought the papacy had perhaps become irreverent and didn’t speak them as it once used to. They found the email trash can a simple solution.

Others were luke-warm, but even welcomed the initiative.

If website statistics say anything, looking back over the last 6 weeks I’m somewhat stunned by the interest and I apologise to all those who tried to get to CathNews on the day of Pope Francis’ election and couldn’t. We were just swamped.

Over the six weeks, as well as its normal service, CathNews has reported on a wide range of papal topics. We don’t yet know the answer to a lot of these questions, but we are abreast of them. Some of the topics include:

  • The shock of Pope Benedict’s unprecedented resignation
  • Why did Benedict resign?
  • Will Benedict’s resignation destabilise the Church long-term?
  • How might Benedict influence a new pope?
  • What were the cardinals talking about all week?
  • What role is the Vatileaks scandal having in the cardinals’ discussion?
  • Who will likely be pope?

‘Wow what a ride.’

However the ultimate ‘wow’ was the election of Cardinal Bergoglio, Pope Francis.

In Pope Benedict’s final speech, he as it were seemed to speak personally as universal pastor to us, and reflecting on his eight years as pontiff noted that “sometimes God seemed to be sleeping.”

I found Benedict’s comment quite helpful, it is something from time to time, I also felt.

I often wondered, ‘where is God in all this?’

Feeling thirsty, I wondered just how much longer do we seem to walk in the desert?

While God may seem to have been sleeping for some of this period, hopefully he was wide awake when the Cardinals elected Pope Francis.

And if he wasn’t then, I’m sure he is now!

This avuncular Argentine; a spring breeze.

Some years back Joan Osborne asked the question “If God was one of us…”

Putting that question aside, I get the distinct feeling however Francis is one of us.

For example, there were no ‘good mornings’ when meeting Trish, a cleaner, the other morning. With a sparkle in her eye and broad smile, she immediately volunteered “Isn’t he great.”

It was clear who she was talking about.

People of other faiths too are claiming Francis. At a wedding on Saturday, a fellow priest told me Anglican and Presbyterian guests referred to Pope Francis saying “we’ll have him too”.

Also “my rabbi” is what an Argentinian rabbi called Pope Francis.

It is easy to see, even from afar, how “Papa Francesco” is already being loved by the Italians, as clearly he was after Sunday Mass when he unnerved security staff, and went on an unscheduled meet and greet the crowd.

The new Bishop of Rome already a man of the people, but intelligent man who knows of God’s love, talks of God’s love who also knows people understand God’s love when they experience it.

He’s one of us.

At this point there have been no announcements, but significant change is surely ‘a given’.

Small changes are already evident. Almost over night the stiff rigidity has gone. Simple vestments, simple joining of hands when celebrating Mass are papal permissibles.

Hopefully soon we can farewell the ‘frilly lace’ as being almost ‘of the faith’.

Vatican workers too have reportedly caught on quick to Francis’ message of simplicity as they put aside their use of Vatican cars and are reportedly using common taxis to get around Rome.

Small externals I know.

The big changes are of course to come and while all Curia heads have provisionally been reappointed, one gets the feeling Pope Francis wants to make significant change.

Yesterday I read with interest a CathNews story, where Cardinal Bergoglio, who thinking he had no chance of being pope, spoke fairly freely with an Argentinian reporter.

In the story, Bergoglio told the reporter that if he were pope he would ‘eradicate the corruption from the gilded palaces of the Vatican’ and that ‘everyone knows who the corrupt cardinals are’.

In this instance, time will tell more than one story.

Early days for an already universally popular pontiff, and here’s hoping there’s no substance for another David Yallop thriller.

It’s been a pleasure helping to unfold the beginning of the Pope Francis’ story, and it’s now time for it to be integrated with our regular news coverage.

– John Murphy is a Marist priest working in digital media at the Marist Internet Ministry, New Zealand. 

Additional reading

News category: Pope.