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Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, one of five children of Italian immigrants. After entering the seminary of Villa Devoto, Buenos Aires, he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) on March 11, 1958. He was ordained on December 13, 1969.

After several years of teaching, Bergoglio served as Provincial for Argentina for the Society of Jesus from 1973-1979 before going to Germany to finish his doctoral dissertation. In 1992, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Buenos Aires, and was consecrated on June 27 of that year by Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, archbishop of Buenos Aires. His episcopal motto was "Miserando atque eligendo" ("lowly, and yet chosen").

Bergoglio succeeded Cardinal Quarracino as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was created cardinal by Blessed John Paul II in the consistory of February 21, 2001. As both bishop and cardinal, Bergoglio was known for his humility, intellect, and commitment to the poor. He opted to live in a small apartment rather than the bishop's residence, and gave up the limousine provided him in favor of public transportation.

Cardinal Bergoglio participated in the conclave of April 18-19, 2005, which elected Pope Benedict XVI. In 2005, he was elected president of the Episcopal Conference of Argentina from 2005-2008, and again from 2008-2011. On February 23, 2013, he was named a member of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

After the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on February 28, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, was elected on the second day of the conclave on March 13, 2013. He took as his name Francis.

St. Francis, founder of the Franciscan order, is one of the world's most beloved saints in popular devotion, and is known for his solidarity with the poor and his emphasis on caring for God's creation. In selecting a name from the Franciscan, rather than the Jesuit, tradition, it is speculated that Pope Francis wished to set a tone for his papacy of unity among all Christians, emphasize concern for the poor and environmental stewardship, and build a bridge between the traditionally European papacy and the rest of the world.

In addition to being the first pontiff to take the name of Francis, Pope Francis is also the first member of the Society of Jesus to be elected pope, the first pope born in the Americas, and the first non-European pope in over 1200 years.

December 17, 1936
Ordained a priest:
December 13, 1969
Ordained Archbishop of
Buenos Aires:
February 28, 1998
Created Cardinal:
February 21, 2001
Elected to the Office of
Universal Shepherd:
March 13, 2013

Pope gives Vatican leadership a withering critique

By John L. Allen Jr. Globe Staff  December 23, 2014

ROME — At the end of a tumultuous year for the Catholic Church, in which divisions among senior leadership over the direction being set by Pope Francis were at times glaringly apparent, the pontiff on Monday delivered a blistering critique of arrogance, careerism, gossip, and division in the Vatican.

Among other points, the pope denounced what he called “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” meaning “a progressive decline in spiritual faculties,” leading people to “build walls around themselves” and to make “idols” of their personal habits.

After the broadside, some observers wondered if the pontiff might risk alienating the very aides he needs to motivate in order to implement his reform agenda, especially ahead of challenges set for 2015 on which he may need the help.

The pope’s comments came in a traditional Christmas address to the cardinals and archbishops who make up the Vatican’s upper echelon, known as the Roman Curia. Francis ticked off 15 “spiritual diseases” to which he suggested such top-level Vatican officials are especially prone.

As part of that list, Francis complained of division and “poor coordination,” the “pathology of power,” and the temptation of “narcissism” and also the risk of becoming nothing more than “bureaucratic machines.”

He warned aides against being sealed off in “closed circles,” in which membership in a camp or movement is more important than belonging to the whole Church. He also criticized a “Messiah complex” and the illusion of being “indispensable.”

Some members of the pope’s Vatican team found the presentation demoralizing.

“I have to say, I didn’t feel great walking out of that room today,” one senior Vatican official said, who had been in the Vatican’s Sala Clementina for the speech and who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

“I understand that the pope wants us to live up to our ideals, but you wonder sometimes if he has anything positive to say about us at all,” the official said, who has been in Vatican service for two decades.

The body language among the cardinals and archbishops suggests that that reaction wasn’t isolated, as there were few smiles while the pope spoke and only mild applause.

In the address, Francis also said it is a kind of sickness to “divinize” one’s bosses, seeking favor through flattery and submission.

“Such people think only about what they can obtain,” the pope said, “and never about what they can give.”

Other items on his catalog of 15 illnesses included:

■  “Excessive planning,” not leaving room for spontaneity and surprise.

■  “Existential schizophrenia,” inducing people to “hypocrisy” and a “double life.”

■  Excessive “melancholy,” producing a “theatrical severity and pessimism” that the pope said are often “symptoms of fear and insecurity.” Officials should never forget, he said, “how much good is done by a healthy sense of humor.”

Traditionally, popes have used the year-end address to the Roman Curia as a sort of State of the Union speech, looking back over the year that’s ended and projecting forward to the one to come.

Francis, however, struck a different tone on Monday, perhaps reflecting the impact of what has been an eventful and sometimes divisive 12 months.

During October’s Synod of Bishops on the family, for instance, senior members of the Vatican bureaucracy were among the most outspoken figures at that summit, which treated hot-button issues such as the role of gays and lesbians in the Church and whether divorced and civilly remarried Catholics should be allowed to receive Communion.

In that context, Francis’ call to unity seemed clearly relevant, as well as his injunction against spreading “gossip.”

The pontiff sharply denounced those who “kill their colleagues’ reputation in cold blood,” saying, “they don’t have the courage to speak to people directly so they do it behind their backs.” He called such behavior “reprehensible.”

For many veteran Vatican-watchers, the question now is whether the pontiff’s sharp rhetoric risks demoralizing his Vatican team, especially looking ahead to 2015.

The pope’s “G9” council of cardinal advisers, a body that includes Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, is expected to make some long-awaited decisions early next year about streamlining the Vatican bureaucracy. The likely result of those moves will be that more work will have to be performed by fewer people.

Next year will also bring the first annual budgeting and accounting cycle under the pope’s new financial regime, meaning that Francis will be counting on departments of the Vatican to cooperate rather than trying to sabotage the process.

Also, a summit of Catholic bishops from around the world devoted to issues pertaining to the family is expected to prompt some tough decisions, and Francis will need key Vatican officials to help manage whatever tumult those decisions may generate.

In other words, this maverick pope may still need help from the system. The question is whether his critiques have served to clarify expectations and get aides on the same page, or if they will instead make his Vatican team reluctant to follow his lead.

Pope Francis Conducts Wedding Ceremony for 20 Couples, Some Already Cohabiting

By Jessica Martinez , CP Reporter September 16, 2014|10:33 am

Pope Francis Conducts Wedding Ceremony for 20 Couples, Some Already Cohabiting, He believes God's mercy extends in particular to sinners and that the Eucharist isn't a prize for the perfect but nourishment for the weak.

Pope Francis married 20 couples at the St.Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday, in an effort to have the Catholic Church become more forgiving in its view on premarital issues as some were already living together and had children.

The Vatican views individuals, who have had sex outside marriage as being in sin, but Pope Francis emphasized that the church needed to be inclusive and open to accepting them.

"This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man. Here we see the reciprocity of differences," the Pope said, reports the National Catholic Reporter.

He added, "The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out."
During his message, the Pope gave the couples sound advice telling them that their wedding bliss will be tested and even told them that Christ would be able to help them resist the "dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment."

At the beginning of the wedding mass, the brides, who all wore white gowns, were accompanied down the aisle of the basilica by their fathers while the grooms entered with their mothers. Each couple also read their wedding vows and exchanged rings.

Among the couples were Gabriella and her partner Guido who thought they would never have the chance to get married since Guido's previous marriage was annulled by the church and the bride has a daughter.

As a token of appreciation, each couple jointly contributed to an educational and recreational center for disadvantaged youth in a suburban neighborhood of Rome.

The ceremony was the first of its kind since the last time a papal ceremony took place was 14 years ago when Pope John Paul II presided over a wedding in 2000.

In addition, the ceremony was just one aspect of Pope Francis' leniency within the Catholic Church compared to his predecessor, the German Pope Benedict, who at one point said threats to the traditional family undermined the future of humanity itself.

In the past, Pope Francis has shown himself more open on the subject of marriage, and has spoken of more realistic attitude to social issues, including the topic of homosexuality, broken marriages and abandoned women.

7 Changes that Pope Francis has made in one appearance
1. Changed the golden throne by a wooden chair... Says it was more appropriate for the disciple of a carpenter.

2. Did not want the gold-embroidered red stole, Heir of the Roman Empire, nor the red chasuble.

3. Uses same old black shoes, not the classic red prada shoes. Which incidentally was the inspiration for the movie title, the Devil wore Prada.

4. Uses a metal cross, not one of rubies and diamonds.

5. His papal ring is silver, not gold.

6. Uses the same black pants under the cassock, he says that it is to remember that he is a another priest.

7. Removed the red carpet... His supporters say that he is not interested in fame and applause.
Eugene Cullen Kennedy is emeritus professor of psychology at Loyola University, Chicago

 AUGUST 30, 2013

Pope Francis's telling a gathering of apostolic nuncios in June that he wants them to recommend men of pastoral experience to become bishops may be the most potent source of game-changing energy he has yet injected into the Church's daily life in his half year as the Holy Father.\

He told the nuncios with the same disarming directness with which he paid his hotel bill after his election, that he wanted these key figures in recruiting possible bishops that he wants them to seek out men who are "close to the people, fathers and brothers" as well as "gentle, patient, and merciful, animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord, and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life." In addition, potential bishops "should not have the psychology of princes."

Francis has, in effect, told central ecclesiastical casting not to summon what Hollywood calls "dress extras," that is, those who already have the costume necessary for the roles they are to fill, in this case men who have already purchased the red trimmed cassocks and gleaming crosses they can don immediately when their longed for call from the Nuncio in Washington finally comes.

Pope Francis has disrupted the clerical game of chairs by, as Vatican expert Thomas Reese, S.J., puts it, warning the nuncios "against ambitious prelates who want to be promoted from one diocese to a more prestigious one," reminding them of "the ancient view that bishops 'are married to a Church' and should not be 'in constant search for another.'

Father Reese notes that notably absent from "Francis's Episcopal attributes were loyalty and orthodoxy, the two criteria that dominated the nomination process under Popes John Paul and Benedict." In short, Francis is revolutionizing the process that had looked for men who were willing to start on a farm team diocese if it were in a town close to Mount Hierarchicus whose peak they longed to scale.

In one address, Francis let Church-watchers know how he plans to reform the Curia, now largely staffed by men who set out, as it is called, "to make a career in the Church." Many of these men are capable administrators but most of them are routine bureaucrats, that is, men who never resolve problems but keep reviewing, restating, or revising them lest they end up actually solving one and putting themselves out of the only work they know how to do, reading and stamping the mail but never delivering any of it. Such bureaucrats thereby protect themselves from ever making a mistake that might harm their chances for advancement.

Curial bureaucrats will do anything to keep on the right side of the Holy Father. They will be puzzled by the Pope's demand for pastors not ambitious to become princes. They have built their careers, mastering the moves as carefully as ballet dancers, only to learn now that the Pope has changed the game altogether and, for them, ambitioning high honors was the only game in town. Curialists, of course, are famous for "waiting out" Popes and then going back to business as usual. But, they ask themselves as they feel their hearts racing, the people like this Pope and suppose his ideas catch on. They may, whether out of their instinct for survival or out of what Saul Bellow termed "our universal eligibility to be noble," abandon the waiting game and reform themselves.

Pope Francis has aimed a blow at what the whole hierarchical system is built on, a graded system with the higher clergy in the skyboxes, the devoted religious in Festival Seating, as they say of the crowds at Rock concerts, and, on the bottom, the laity in Standing Room Only. By looking for pastors who live closely with their people rather than clergy who feel they are entitled to live above them, Francis has loosened the weight bearing beam of the hierarchical structure that made clericalism and all its charms and privileges possible.

This psychological basis of clericalism was symbolized in the nicknames given to the most obvious of the self-serving ambitious. "The Alpine Bishop," was bestowed on a still living high ranking American ecclesiastic, "because he was such a climber." Francis is looking for a simplicity that chills the heart of the purebred cleric who fears that a whole way of life in the Church may be coming to an end.

Such outcomes would fulfill many of the reforms for which Vatican II Catholics have been working. These include lay participation in the selection of bishops, and something that is bound to come with the fall of clericalism, a greater role for women in the Church. These notions are very threatening to the ambitious clergy who did not get the memo on choosing pastors rather than chancery officials to be bishops. They are in a quandary because they have planned their lives and careers on pleasing the Pope in their every thought and action and now they have a Pope who doesn't care about their pleasing him as much as pleasing and serving their people as good pastors. This will one day be regarded as a turning point in the true reform and renewal of Catholicism.

July 20,2013

Who Am I to Judge? Francis Redefines the Papacy

Posted by Alexander Stille

Week by week, during the past several months, we have gotten a better idea of what the papacy of Pope Francis looks and sounds like. From the beginning he has set a new tone, one of informality, openness, humility, and approachability. He has begun to redefine the papacy, replacing the traditional figure of the Pope-a medieval monarch dressed in ermine robes, crowned with a mitre, laying down infallible doctrine-with something closer to the Christ of the Gospels, who washes the feet of the Apostles. He has done this by consistently avoiding questions of doctrine, speaking largely through gesture and example. This behavior was exemplified during his remarkable press conference on Monday, on the flight back from his first foreign trip, to Brazil. His words about homosexual priests prompted headlines around the world: "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?" he said. "They shouldn't be marginalized.… They're our brothers."

It's hard not to hear in these comments an echo of Christ's remark to the crowd ready to stone the adulteress: "He who is without sin cast the first stone." What was remarkable, and rather brilliant, about the Pope's statements was that they appeared to change everything without actually changing anything. (William Donohue, the president of the conservative Catholic League, was quick to point out that "Pope Francis said nothing to contradict what his predecessor said.") Pope Francis did not, in fact, announce a change in the Vatican's position on homosexuality or the celibate priesthood. The Catholic Church has held for some time that it does not condemn homosexuals, only acts of homosexuality. And yet for many gay Catholics the distinction has been cold comfort. Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, Francis's predecessor, seemed to place the emphasis on sin and error. When he was the head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith, he stressed the view that homosexuality was "intrinsically disordered." Indeed, under his guidance, the C.D.F. blurred the distinction between sinner and sin: in 1986, it issued a letter stating that the "the [homosexual] inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

Pope Francis did not condone homosexuality, nor did he absolve gay priests from their traditional bonds of celibacy. But the words "Who am I to judge?" are a far cry from "intrinsically disordered." Without criticizing his predecessors or overtly changing Catholic doctrine, Francis has made the theological hair-splitting of recent Popes seem irrelevant and petty compared to the radical imperative to love others and do good.

"Who am I to judge?" cleverly upends a pillar of the traditional view of the papacy. One of the medieval Popes referred to himself as "the judge of all men who can be judged by none." Seen in this light, Francis's comments-together with a host of other actions and remarks-begin to make his papacy appear radical and far-reaching in its implications.

Recent Popes have focussed almost obsessively on doctrine. John XXIII, a favorite of liberal Catholics, introduced the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. His successor, Paul VI, perhaps afraid that the Church might be changing too quickly, reaffirmed the traditional position on priestly celibacy and issued his famous (or infamous) encyclical against all forms of artificial birth control. John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyla, believed strongly that the Church needed to reaffirm its doctrine on all matters of sexual morality, rooting out anyone who questioned those positions: no to divorce, contraception, married priests, the ordination of women, and communion for divorced parishioners, as well as the instant excommunication of anyone who condoned abortion-even in cases where it saved a woman's life. John Paul II, and Benedict after him, made such an issue of these matters of doctrinal purity that unswerving obedience to them became a kind of litmus test for determining a good Catholic.

Francis has seemed to ask, Can't we talk about something else? Can't we get back to the central mission of the Gospel, and set aside doctrinal differences? When he spoke of not marginalizing gay priests "if they accept the Lord and have good will," he seemed to suggest that we should look at people's hearts and the totality of their lives in judging whether they are good people and good Christians.

Because of his predecessors' obsessions with the hot-button issues of sexual morality, Pope Francis, upon assuming the office, seemed to face an immensely difficult situation: a growing chasm between the Church hierarchy in Rome and the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, many of whom blithely ignore official Church teachings on matters of personal morality. It looked like a lose-lose situation. If Francis moved toward more popular positions, he risked creating a major schism: tens of millions of traditionalists might well break with the Church, as Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had after the papacy replaced the Latin Mass. And yet if he did nothing, hundreds of millions of moderate Catholics would continue the slow drift away. (In the United States, lapsed Catholics are the second largest denomination.) Francis's response, it appears, is to try to find a third away around this sterile standoff. Francis resembles a chess master who uses his knight, the one piece capable of jumping over others, to escape from an overly entrenched position. Francis has indicated in multiple ways that the simple, core message of Christianity is far greater than the ideological battles that have dominated many of the Church's encyclicals over the past hundred and fifty years. He may win simply by not engaging in the culture wars.

He has done this by teaching rather than preaching. When he first assumed the papacy, Francis made a series of what appeared to be stylistic changes. He refused to wear traditional regal vestments or to live in the papal apartment, preferring the simpler guesthouse where he had stayed during the conclave. He abstained from giving a canonical blessing in his first meeting with the press after his election last March, out of consideration for the fact that many reporters were not Catholic and some of them not religious. Many in the press (myself included) wondered whether these were simply flourishes meant to create the illusion of change, to mask continuity on important matters of doctrine. But knowledgeable observers within the Church insisted that there was a great deal of substance behind them.

"He is not just a naïve person who likes to pay his own bills or take the subway to get around," Antonio Spadaro, the director of the Jesuit magazine Cività Cattolica, told me last spring. "He sent a telegram to the Chief Rabbi of Rome the evening he was elected. He never uses the term Pontifex to refer to the Pope, but several times referred to himself as the 'Bishop of Rome.' He is saying very important things about collegial and ecumenical dialogue. He is rethinking the image of the Pope, and maybe the image of the Church." Spadaro gave some credit, too, to Francis's predecessor: "The first big reform was made by Benedict," who gave up the papacy rather than holding onto it until he died, as Popes had done for centuries. "He didn't resign just because he was tired," Spadaro said. "He said that he knows perfectly well that the Petrine ministry can be lived even with suffering and prayer. He said he realized that there are many rapid changes in the world and that the Church needed someone who has great strength in body and soul. Benedict made a big reformation in separating the person of the Pope and the Petrine ministry. Similarly, many of the gestures of Pope Francis have doctrinal implications."

Last March, Francis washed the feet of inmates at a youth detention center in Rome, including two women, one of them Muslim. This scandalized some Church traditionalists who insist that foot washing should be restricted to men, since the Apostles whose feet Christ washed were all male. But tradition is not the same as doctrine. Francis gave an extraordinary homily a few months ago in which he stated that even atheists could be saved. Francis told of a disagreement between Christ and his disciples over those who do not hold the same beliefs. The disciples, the Pope said, complained: "If he is not one of us, he cannot do good." Christ corrected them, saying, "Do not hinder him, let him do good." The disciples, the Pope pointed out, "were a little intolerant.… This was wrong … Jesus broadens the horizon.… But do good: we will meet one another there."

In saying this, Francis is not changing Church doctrine-belief in the resurrected Christ. He is not saying that atheism is right, but he is saying that Catholics do not have a monopoly on doing good, and that those who are doing good should be embraced. This was not the rather bleak "my-way-or-the-highway" approach of John Paul II or Benedict XVI.

Francis's openness should not be mistaken for a namby-pamby, "I'm-O.K.-you're-O.K." theology. He has shown tough resolve in pushing the Church in the direction he wants. He has taken serious steps to clean house at the Vatican Bank, the Istituto per le Opere di Religione, which had been used as a money-laundering operation and papal slush fund under John Paul II and (to a lesser degree) under Benedict. He has declared war against clericalism, the view of many in the clergy that they-and not the entire community of believers-are the Church.

"I want to see the Church get closer to the people," Francis said in Rio de Janeiro, where he held a mass on the Copacabana. "I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools, structures. Because these need to get out!"

Francis's candor and personal charm allow him to get away with things that his predecessors might not have. During his hour-and-a-half freewheeling exchange with journalists, Francis was asked about the possibility of female priests. He answered without evasion: "On the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and said no. Pope John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed." At the same time, he said, "We don't yet have a truly deep theology of women. We talk about whether they can be this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas [Catholic charities]. But we don't have a deep theology of women in the church."

From the mouth of Pope Benedict, the remark "that door is closed" might have been the story of the day, but coming from Francis-and paired with his question, "Who am I to judge?"-it seems to suggest that there are many doors in the Church that might, in this papacy, be opened.

Is that enough? Whether Francis can truly close the gap between the clergy and the people without tackling thorny doctrinal issues remains to be seen. It will be compelling to watch him try.

Pope: Church must not turn priests into 'little monsters'

Pope Francis waves as he leaves at the end of his mass at the Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in downtown Rome Jan. 3, 2014.

The pontiff expressed his vision for a more open and joyful religious education system during a three-hour talk with the heads of the orders in November, but his remarks were not published until now in the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica.

Taking another swipe at clericalism - a term often used to express a very formal, elitist attitude by some priests - Francis said seminaries and "houses of formation" need to keep up with the cultural times.

"Problems are not solved simply by forbidding doing this or that. Dialogue as well as confrontation are needed," he said.

"To avoid problems, in some houses of formation, young people grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told: 'Good, you have finished formation.' This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism which is one of the worst evils.

"Formation [of future priests] is a work of art, not a police action," he added. "We must form their hearts. Otherwise we are creating little monsters. And then these little monsters mold the people of God. This really gives me goose bumps."

In the 10 months since he was elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Francis has become known for his plain-spoken, sometimes blunt style - and it was on full display in this interview.

"Just think of the religious who have hearts as sour as vinegar," he said at one point. "They are not made for the people. In the end, we must not form administrators, managers - but fathers, brothers, traveling companions."

Francis, who was named Time magazine's person of the year for 2013, said men should run toward the priesthood, not away from secular life.

"The ghost to fight against is the image of religious life understood as an escape or hiding place in face of an 'external' difficult and complex world," he said.

Echoing past comments, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires called for priests to work directly with the poor and other on the fringes of society.

"This is really very important to me: the need to become acquainted with reality by experience, to spend time walking on the periphery in order really to become acquainted with the reality and life-experiences of people," he said.

"If this does not happen we then run the risk of being abstract ideologists or fundamentalists, which is not healthy."

Pope rings pregnant woman to tell her he will PERSONALLY baptise her child after she wrote to him saying the father wanted her to have an abortion
  • Anna Romano was on holiday when her mobile rang with an unknown Rome number
  • She was stunned to hear Pope Francis on the other end reassuring her
  • Anna wrote to the Pope about her worries about having a baby with a man who was already married and tried to convince her to have an abortion
  • New Pope has also telephoned an Italian student and a man whose brother was killed and shows a more personable side to the Catholic leader

By Nick Pisa and Peter Allen
PUBLISHED: 03:47 EST, 6 September 2013 | UPDATED: 09:20 EST, 6 September 2013

Stunned: Shop worker Anna Romano, 35, was shocked to answer her mobile and hear Pope Francis on the end of the line. He reassured her about her decision to keep her unborn child

Pope Francis has telephoned a woman who wrote to him to tell her he will baptise her unborn after she refused to have an abortion.
The call was the latest in a string of 'one to ones' Pope Francis has had with general members of the public and once again underlined his attempts at being a more human and in-touch pontiff after the 'stuffy' years of his predecessor Benedict XVI.

Shop worker Anna Romano, 35, was on holiday when she received the call from the Argentinian pope, who was elected in March this year.

Anna, from Arezzo near Florence, central Italy, had written to Pope Francis earlier this summer to describe her turmoil at having discovered she was pregnant by a man, who unknown to her, was already married with a child and who demanded she terminate the pregnancy.

In her letter she described to the Pope her dilemma and said to him: 'I have never been lucky with men, I married when I was young and then things didn't work out and I got divorced. I then had a few brief relationships until I met a man who I thought was the man of my dreams.

'In June I discovered I was pregnant through him and when I told him instead of being happy he told me he was already married, already had a child and to have an abortion.

'I told him that I would not have an abortion and told him to get out of my life.'

Anna added how she was 'in a desperate and anguished state' and that she was writing to Pope Francis because she had 'no-one else to turn to, after being left humiliated and betrayed'.

Speaking from her home she added: 'I addressed the letter simply to Pope Francis, the Vatican and put it in the post. I didn't even send it recorded delivery. I didn't really expect to get a reply but then out of the blue when I was on holiday I had a phone call from him.

'The number was from Rome, with a 06 dial code, and as soon as he started speaking I recognized the voice as his.

'I was just so surprised that he had telephoned me. He said that he had read my letter and he wanted to speak to me personally about it and reassure me that someone was worried about me.

'We were only on the phone for a few minutes but my heart was filled with joy, as we spoke I was rubbing my tummy at the same time.

'Hello. It's the Pope here': Pope Francis spoke with Ms Romano for a few minutes, and she said her 'heart was filled with joy'

'I had only seen the Pope once before, from St Peter's Square when I lived in Rome, I would never have imagined that the Pope would pick up a telephone and call me and speak to me as if I was a dear friend.

'He reassured me and said a child was a gift from God, a sign of Divine Providence and that I would never be left alone. He said that as Christians we should never be afraid.

'He told me I had been very brave and strong for my unborn child. I told him that I wanted to baptise the baby when it was born but I was afraid as I was divorced and a single mother but he said he would be my spiritual father and he would baptise my baby.

'I'm not sure if he will, I feel as if I am dreaming but if he did baptise my baby it would be something else, that telephone call has changed my life.

'I hope my letter will be an example for other women who feel they may be distant from the Church simply because they have chosen the wrong man, they are divorced or they are with men who are not worthy of being fathers.

'I don't know the sex of the baby but if the Pope does baptise it and it's a boy I have no doubt of his name - Francis.'


Popular new Pope: A view of St. Peter's square during the inauguration mass of Pope Francis, Vatican City, on March 19 this year

The phone call was the latest in a string that Pope Francis has made since he was elected and underlines his hands on, man of the people style which has also recently included him posing for a 'selfie' photograph with a group of tourists inside St Peter's Basilica.

He usually makes his calls from a landline in his office and simply says 'Hello. It's the Pope,' to the amazement of recipients who have included an Italian student last month, as well as a man whose brother was killed, his local newsagent back home in Buenos Aries to cancel his newspapers and a shoemaker to tell him not to bother making the traditional and expensive bright red papal loafer shoes.

A Vatican spokesman said: 'I know nothing of this telephone call but then again we knew nothing of the others. The Pope doesn't tell us when he makes these calls - he just does them and then we find out about them later.'

One Year In: The Joyful Surprise of Pope Francis

by Jim Wallis 03-13-2014

Today the world celebrates Pope Francis’ first year. Notice I didn’t say the church is celebrating, but the world. The pope has graced the covers of every magazine from TIME to Rolling Stone over the past year. People all over the world are delighted by the breath of fresh air he has brought. His popularity has moved beyond Catholics to Christians of all kinds, believers from other faith traditions, agnostics, and the “nones,” who are very drawn to this pope who emphasizes love and simple living.

But the pope said last week that he is not a “ superman” and does not want to be a celebrity. He is just trying to talk and live like Jesus, a point he makes repeatedly to shrug off his media darling standing. From the moment he took the name Francis, he made clear his, and thus the church’s priorities: the poor, peace, and the creation. Francis is now challenging the most powerful people and places in the world, as well as a popular culture that mostly asks how we can serve ourselves.

Pope Francis is right: it is not about him; it’s about the Christ he follows. Everything Francis is saying and doing is aimed at pressing this question: Are Christians going to follow Jesus or not? That should be the question on the first anniversary of this new pope. Are we Christians ready and willing to follow Jesus? How can we then serve the world?

Are we ready to love, embrace, forgive, and show mercy as Jesus would have us do and Francis has tried to exemplify? Are we ready to stand with and give our lives for the poor and call the global economy not just to charity, but to justice? Are we willing to take “a preferential option for the poor,” as Catholic social teaching describes it, the way Francis has and apply it to both our personal and public lives?

Pope Francis has lifted up the priority of the poor in ways that are challenging the world from the top to the bottom. I had a meeting with Jim Yong Kim this week, the president of the World Bank. Kim, who has already met with Pope Francis, said that preferential option for the poor is his driving motivation as a “banker,” which is changing the mission of the World Bank. I heard a top political operative on the “religious right” say on a national news show that Pope Francis has placed the poor at the center of the gospel where they belong. My question to the powerful broker would have been, “How is that going the change your life and your public policy commitments?”

How is it going to change our personal lives and choices, our vocational commitments, the priorities of our work places and institutions, what we ask and even demand of our elected political representatives, and our own participation in public life?

The second year of Pope Francis’ ministry may be more challenging than his first. How much success will he have in transforming the Vatican itself? Will he consistently appoint new kinds of bishops who are inspired by the gospel priorities he has lifted up, more than old ideological ones? What will be the role of women be in the changing Catholic Church, and will they feel safe and respected as women in their church; as they always did with Jesus? How can Francis help us to change the “culture” of our churches? Less judgment and more grace; less control and more service; less concern about the influential and more about the poor and more vulnerable; less seeking power and more seeking justice. Francis knows that changing the culture of the church and transforming the church’s role in the culture would, literally, bring more people to Christ.

Will Francis intervene in global issues that have no easy solutions like:

1.     Global immigration policies and practices on behalf of “the stranger” who Jesus asks us to welcome;

2.     Becoming “peacemakers,” the ones who Jesus calls “blessed,” by trying to prevent wars and helping make peace in places like the Central African Republic or Iran, or Syria.

3.     The Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which will need the moral authority, inspiration, and pressure that a pope could lead the faith community in?

Each of these would require hard work, time, and patience.

The powerful symbol that Pope Francis has offered has changed the perception of the church around the world. But it’s time to move to action, which Pope Francis has already begun to do. He has the ability to shepherd systematic change in the global church, economy, and society. That is the opportunity that Francis has brought us, and also the challenge ahead. I believe Francis wants to obey Jesus’ “Great Commission” to make disciples of all nations. And as Christians, we should take his lead.

POPE-INTERVIEW Mar-5-2014 (930 words) xxxi
Pope, in interview, suggests church could tolerate some civil unions
By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis suggested the Catholic Church could tolerate some types of nonmarital civil unions as a practical measure to guarantee property rights and health care. He also said the church would not change its teaching against artificial birth control but should take care to apply it with "much mercy."

Pope Francis' words appeared in an interview published March 5 in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

In the wide-ranging conversation with the paper's editor-in-chief, Ferruccio de Bortoli, the pope defended the church's response to clerical sex abuse and lamented that popular mythology has turned him into a kind of papal superhero. He also addressed the role of retired Pope Benedict XVI and the church's relations with China.

"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," the pope said, but moves to "regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, as for instance to assure medical care." Asked to what extent the church could understand this trend, he replied: "It is necessary to look at the diverse cases and evaluate them in their variety."

Bishops around the world have differed in their responses to civil recognition of nonmarital unions. The president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said in February 2013 that some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of nonmarried couples. But until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.

In the interview, Pope Francis praised Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical "Humanae Vitae," which prohibited the use of contraception.

In contradicting contemporary pressures for population control, Pope Paul's "genius was prophetic, he had the courage to side against the majority, defend moral discipline, put a brake on the culture, oppose neo-Malthusianism, present and future," Pope Francis said.

But he also noted that Pope Paul had instructed confessors to interpret his encyclical with "much mercy, attention to concrete situations."

"The question is not whether to change the doctrine, but to go deeper and make sure that pastoral care takes account of situations and of what each person is able to do," Pope Francis said.

The pope said birth control, like the predicament of divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, would be a topic of discussion at the Vatican in October at an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. He said the synod would approach all such problems "in the light of profound reflection," rather than casuistry, which he described as a superficial, pharisaical theology focused exclusively on particular cases.

The pope said he had welcomed the "intense discussion" at a February gathering of cardinals, where German Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a talk suggesting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics might sometimes be allowed to receive Communion even without an annulment of their first, sacramental marriages.

"Fraternal and open confrontations foster the growth of theological and pastoral thought," he said. "I'm not afraid of this; on the contrary, I seek it."

Asked if the church's teachings on sexual and medical ethics represented "non-negotiable values," a formulation used by Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said he had "never understood the expression 'non-negotiable values.'"

"Values are values, period," he said. "I cannot say that, among the fingers of a hand, there is one less useful than another. That is why I cannot understand in what sense there could be negotiable values."

Pope Francis said cases of sex abuse by priests had left "very profound wounds," but that, starting with the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, the church has done "perhaps more than anyone" to solve the problem.

"Statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show the great majority of abuses occur in family and neighborhood settings," Pope Francis said. "The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. And yet the church is the only one attacked."

Reflecting on his own colossal popularity, the pope criticized "ideological interpretations, a certain mythology of Pope Francis. When it is said, for instance, that he leaves the Vatican at night to go feed the tramps on Via Ottaviano. That never even occurred to me."

"To portray the pope as a kind of superman, a type of star, strikes me as offensive," he said. "The pope is a man who laughs, weeps, sleeps soundly and has friends like everybody else. A normal person."

He acknowledged that he has continued his longtime practice of phoning people who write to him with their problems, including an 80-year old widow who lost her son, whom he calls once a month.

Pope Francis said he has sought out his predecessor Pope Benedict for advice and encouraged him to "go out and participate in the life of the church," most recently by appearing at a Feb. 22 ceremony with the College of Cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica.

"The pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum," Pope Francis said. Noting that bishops never retired until after the Second Vatican Council, but that the practice has since become the norm, Pope Francis said the "same thing should happen with the pope emeritus. Benedict is the first and maybe there will be others. We don't know."

Asked about the Vatican's lack of diplomatic relations with China, whose government requires Catholics to register with a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association and punishes members of the clandestine "underground" church, Pope Francis said he had written to Chinese President Xi Jinping "when he was elected, three days after me. And he answered me. There are some relations."

POPE-ABUSE Apr-11-2014 (390 words) xxxi
Pope apologizes for clerical sex abuse, promises tough sanctions
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- "I feel called to take responsibility for all the evil some priests -- large in number, but not in proportion to the total -- have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they've done with the sexual abuse of children," Pope Francis said.

"The church is aware of this damage" and is committed to strengthening child protection programs and  punishing offenders, he told members of the International Catholic Child Bureau during a meeting April 11 at the Vatican.

 The remarks appeared to be the pope's first apology for the sex abuse scandal, following earlier statements affirming the Vatican's work investigating and punishing perpetrators, and encouraging bishops to support abuse victims. The pope also has said the church deserves to be forced to make monetary settlements to victims.
In December, Pope Francis established a Vatican commission to promote improved child protections policies throughout the church.

Meeting with leaders of the International Catholic Child Bureau, an organization based in France and dedicated to defending children's rights, Pope Francis said it was hard to believe "men of the church" would commit such horrors.

"We don't want to take a step backward in dealing with this problem and with the sanctions that must be imposed," the pope said. "On the contrary, I believe we must be very strong. You don't play with children's lives!"

Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of defending children's right "to grow in a family with a mother and father able to create a healthy environment for their growth and affective maturity," which includes "maturing in relationship to the masculinity and femininity of a father and a mother."

Parents have a right to determine the appropriate "moral and religious education" of their children, he said, and should not be subject to school curriculums that are thinly veiled courses of indoctrination into whatever ideology is strongest at the moment.

The pope said he wonders sometimes whether parents are "sending a child to school or to a re-education camp" like those run by dictatorial governments.

Obviously, he said, children need help in responding to the problems and challenges contemporary culture and the media raise. Young people can't be kept in "glass jars," but must be given the values that will help them evaluate what cultural trends respect their dignity and freedom and the dignity and freedom of others.
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