Bergoglio was born on December 17, 1936, in
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
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.
Ordained a priest:
Ordained Archbishop of
Elected to the Office of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Francis Conducts Wedding Ceremony for 20 Couples, Some Already
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
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
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
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
BULLETINS FROM THE HUMAN SIDE
By EUGENE CULLEN KENNEDY
AUGUST 30, 2013
POPE FRANCIS'S REAL GAME-CHANGER:
CHOOSING NON-AMBITIOUS PASTORAL BISHOPS
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
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
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
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.
Who Am I
to Judge? Francis Redefines the Papacy
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
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
"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,
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
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
- 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
By Nick Pisa and Peter Allen
PUBLISHED: 03:47 EST, 6 September 2013 | UPDATED: 09:20 EST, 6
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
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
'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
'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
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
'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.'
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
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.'
Year In: The Joyful Surprise of Pope Francis
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 “
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
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:
Global immigration policies and practices on behalf of “the
stranger” who Jesus asks us to welcome;
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.
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service
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
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
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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