On Wednesday 13 March 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolgio, has been chosen as the 265th successor of St. Peter and the 266th Vicar of Christ. His name as Pontiff already says a lot: Pope Francis! Obviously to commemorate one of the greatest Church reformers ever, St. Francis of Assisi.
How can we forget that great simplicity and humility with which, the 76-year-old Argentinian Cardinal, faced the whole world who was waiting for his first greeting, message and blessing! He started off his greeting from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square, soon after his election as the Successor of St. Peter, with a simple yet meaningful words: “Brothers and sisters, good evening!”
Here we are! He is calling us his brothers and sisters! The Franciscan fraternal spirit is charging his very first words as Pope! As our Pope! As the Successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ! As the Vicar of Christ, by calling us brothers and sisters, Pope Francis is enfleshing what the letter to the Hebrews tells us about our Elder Brother, Jesus: “Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). As Pope, Francis is representing that Christ who is the high priest in God’s service, who gave and is still giving himself for us, who is merciful and faithful, and whose expiation for our sins is, in effect, giving us life and life in abundance!
Then, Pope Francis, wished us a “good evening!” We all remember that evening of that same Wednesday of March 13 2019. That evening of 2013 was representing the evening of our days and nights, noons and mornings! All of us undergo difficult moments in our lives. Each and every one of us has to face what life presents for him and her. Sometimes the evenings we are offered by life’s surprising agenda are really frightening and, at times, shocking too. However, no matter how hard they may be let us not ignore the fact that the good, the supreme good, which comes from the Good One, is always present with us. Hence, it is to be found in every situation we come across. So, Pope Francis’ “good evening!” was very much in tune with what we experience in life.
Obviously, that “good evening!” as time went on, took another meaning too. It was a message of hope to the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, who is not spared at all from the evening of sin. Hence, prophetically, Pope Francis was greeting and wishing to the Church Christ’s very presence amid her turmoil, scandals, decrease in vocations and, frequently, internal dissent too. By that “good evening!” said on that Wednesday night of March 13 of six years ago, Pope Francis was echoing Christ’s words to his disciples before He ascended into Heaven: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).
And after recalling the duty of the Cardinal electors to give a bishop to Rome and a universal pastor to the entire Church Pope Francis recalled his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. He called him: “our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI”. The obvious emphasis on synodality is easily visible here. And, at the mention of the name of his great successor, the new Pope immediately felt the need to ask us to pray for him to Our Lord and Our Lady. How beautiful and healing when the Church is presented as God’s family and fraternity!
As prayer ended Pope Francis immediately showed that a new chapter has been opened in the current Church history and the papacy. He said: “And now let us begin this journey, [together] as bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which is to preside over all the Churches in charity. It is a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world, so that a great brotherhood may be created. I hope that this journey of the Church, which we begin today and in which my Cardinal Vicar who is present here will assist me, will be fruitful for the Evangelization of this beautiful city”.
What comes clear from these fatherly words, by the newly elected Pope, is the power of fraternity. Yes! Fraternity is a journey. Fraternity is presiding with charity over life situations. Fraternity is love. Fraternity is reciprocal trust. Fraternity is praying for one another. Fraternity is carrying our world in our prayers. Fraternity is the fostering of a global brotherhood. Fraternity is collaboration in ministry. Fraternity is evangelizing the whole world!
But Fraternity needs to be witnessed by those who champion it. So did Pope Francis. He let us be his brothers and sisters when he invited us to pray over him. “Before the bishop blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that He bless me…. the prayer of the people for a blessing upon their bishop. Let us take a moment of silence for you to offer your prayer for me.”
Let us keep taking a moment of silence, everyday, to pray for our Pope Francis. He needs our love through our prayers! Let us keep praying for him so that the Lord continue to form him in his school called Divine Mercy.