Pope Francis waves as he leaves the general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis embraces a disabled boy prior to his first ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing at Easter. (photo: Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
The March election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as bishop of Rome sent shockwaves around the world. Observers are taking a close look at the new pontiff — the first to take the name Francis — and trying to discern where he hopes to lead the church. The Holy Father has already sent out signals. Here is some of what he has had to say in the early days of his pontificate. Pope Francis expresses his thoughts and hopes on a wide range of issues — from ecumenism to Christian concern for the poor — that are close to his heart, and close to heart of CNEWA.
We can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not build on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses; it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ — I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy — ‘Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.’ … When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord; we are worldly — we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
first homily as pope
During the election, I was seated next to the archbishop emeritus of São Paolo and prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man. … How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!
address to members of the media
The vocation of being a ‘protector’ is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension that is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families; husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents.
It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are ‘Herods’ who plot death, wreak havoc and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!
But to be ‘protectors,’ we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
homily at papal inauguration
Let us all be intimately united to our savior’s prayer at the Last Supper, to his invocation: ut unum sint. We call on our merciful Father to be able to live fully the faith that we have received as a gift on the day of our baptism, and to be able to give it free, joyful and courageous testimony. The more we are faithful to his will, in thoughts, in words and in deeds, the more we will truly and substantially walk toward unity.
For my part I wish to assure, in the wake of my predecessors, the firm wish to continue on the path of ecumenical dialogue, and I thank you, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, for the help it continues to offer in my name, for this noble cause.
I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to bring my cordial greetings to the churches and Christian communities who are represented here. And I ask you for a special prayer for me so that I can be a pastor according to the heart of Christ. …
I greet and thank cordially all of you, dear friends belonging to other religious traditions — firstly the Muslims, who worship the one living and merciful God, and call upon him in prayer. I really appreciate your presence, and in it I see a tangible sign of the wish to grow in reciprocal trust and in cooperation for the common good of humanity.
message to representatives of various churches and other world religions
The church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
22 March address to diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See
Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world. Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long.
Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.
How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?
Urbi et Orbi message
Following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves … to meet others, to go toward the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step toward our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help.
There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!