by M. Francis Mannion
BEST DEVELOPMENT IN CATHOLICISM: The election of Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope Francis. I like everything about this Pope–everything he says and everything he does. In my adult life, I have never been this enthusiastic about a Pope. While he is completely orthodox on doctrine and moral theology, his joyful spirituality and pastoral outreach to the Church and the world is quite extraordinary.
MOST EXCITING PAPAL CONVICTIONS: First, Francis’ belief that at the heart of the Gospel is Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness, compassion, and solidarity with all who are poor, homeless, spiritually “lost,” or marginalized. Second, the Pope’s oft-repeated statement that he prefers “a church that messes up for doing something than one that’s sick for remaining closed inside itself.”
BEST FORMAL PAPAL MESSAGE: “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium), in which Pope Francis sets out the “program” for his papacy. I must admit that I have rarely read a papal document from beginning to end. (Being a good speed-reader, I have, however, skimmed over most of them!). But this one, like a good novel, I could not put down. Every Catholic should read it, and I encourage every parish to set up a study group to discuss it. It is available from good book-stores, or it can be ordered from on-line booksellers.
BEST MOVES BY THE MEDIA: “Time” magazine choice of Pope Francis as “Person of the Year.” Also the choice of Francis as “Person of the Year” by “The Advocate,” the national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender magazine. While “The Advocate” well recognizes that Francis holds very traditional views on sexuality, modern sexual lifestyles, and same-sex marriage, it is impressed by the “tone” of what he says.
GREATEST FEAR: That Pope Francis will not be able to sustain his plan to reform the Roman Curia (the various departments of the Vatican), given the “conservative” efforts by some high-level Vatican officials to push back against the Pope’ plans. Francis has, however, addressed this matter more than once, and has made it clear that the Roman Curia must change.
MOST DESIRABLE PAPAL APPOINMENT TO COME? That Archbishop Piero Marini, long-time papal master of ceremonies under Pope John Paul II, but later “promoted” to an office of no great importance, become the next Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Piero Marini is thoroughly in the tradition of Paul VI in implementing the liturgical vision of Vatican II, and he is not an enthusiast about recent “restorationist” liturgical directions.
MOST “IMPRUDENT” CHURCHMAN? Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, has said publicly that he never knows what the new Pope is going to do next, and that Francis’ decision not to live in the well-appointed papal apartments was an “affront” to Pope Benedict. Some have said that it is one thing for the Archbishop to express these sentiments in private, but talking to the media has seemed to them extremely “imprudent.”
BEST NEW PAPAL MARIAN DEVOTION: When Father Borgoglio was a doctoral student in theology in Frankfurt, Germany, in the 1980s, he discovered a unique 18th century painting of “Mary Undoer of Knots” (Maria Knotenlöserin) in St. Peter’s Church in Augsburg. The picture shows Mary untying a knotted ribbon that symbolizes the many the knots of human anxiety, illness, and distress. Cardinal Bergoglio made devotion to this image popular in Latin America, but it has yet to catch on in the U.S.
MOST HOPEFUL PAPAL SIGNAL ABOUT THE LITURGY: Get away from the introverted hot-house obsession with liturgical matters among some groups, and focus instead on ministering to a broken world.
Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. By permission of The Intermountain Catholic, Salt Lake City.