Pope Francis

Habemus Papam, “We Have a Pope.” 
What might we expect in the future of the Catholic Church?

By Michael K. Jones

White smoke from the small inconspicuous copper chimney on the “Sistine Chapel” could be seen from St. Peter’s square, just a little after 7 pm. Wednesday, March 13, 2013. The white smoke announced the 115 voting cardinals had confirmed, “Habemus Papam,” which means “We have a pope.”  An estimated 150 thousand plus gathered in the cool damp rain, awaiting news of who the 266th elected pontiff would be, to some 1.8 billion Catholics.

As the white smoke billowed out into the open sky, a single star shinned through clearing but otherwise starless night. From some angles it appeared the tiny star was shinning near the humble smoke stack on top of the ancient chapel built between 1475 and 1485. The single star personally gave me hope, reminding me of the star that shinned in Bethlehem announcing the birth of the Our Savior. This little star above the Vatican seemed to announce the birth of a new pontiff, “Pope Francis.” In wake of a growing and divided church, if this star is a sign, we have to hope that scandal in the church as well as division between reformers and traditionalists will be healed and put to rest.

Recent studies show that 46% of Catholic’s favor reform (modernism) in the church, while the remaining 56% maintain traditionalist ways. Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square CNN host Anderson Cooper was randomly selecting people from the crowds asking them questions of their hopes in a new pontiff. Three young Catholic women were wearing blue and white campaign buttons on their coats which said, “Ordain Woman.” These women are part of a trend in the U.S. as well as abroad, seeking equal rights allowing woman to be ordained as priests. Speaking to Cooper, these young Catholic women clearly indicated their hope is for a pope who will bring the Church into a new reformed modern era.

Reform and modern concepts within the Church are issues I have been writing about since 2006. Since 06, I have written several articles about the growing trend of modernists attempting to take over the Catholic Church. Modernists have a variety of new agendas. Like the woman who spoke to Anderson, there are those who want the right for woman to be ordained as Catholic priests. Other reformers in the Church seek acceptance of gay and lesbian rights and marriage. Others yet want the Church to accept abortion. Still others think priest's should have the right to marry, be that marriage of the same or opposite sex. There are also reformers seeking to remove dogma from the Church. As an example, some reformers seek to remove the Virgin Mary from the dogma, stating Mary is nothing more than a vessel used by God. Others would have claims of apparitions stopped completely, because many priest today are tried of apparitions. Meanwhile, there are other priests who do not believe in apparitions at all. Countering reform, traditionalists want the Church to return to its grassroots, unchanging, whole, without division. They consider modern reform, the devil’s work. How will these divisions reflect with the newly elected pontiff?

Habemus Papam, “We Have a Pope.”  Jorge Mario Bergoglio has taken the name of Pope Francis. Bergoglio was born December 17, 1936. At the time of this article Pope Francis is 76 years old. He is the first to take the name of Francis (of Assisi.) He is also the first non-European pontiff ever elected, the first South American pope, and the first Jesuit pontiff.

Bergoglio was ordained in December 1969 and was the Jesuit provincial for Argentina beginning in 1973, then rector of the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel from 1980 to 1986. After finishing his doctoral dissertation in Germany, he returned to Argentina to serve as a confessor and spiritual director in Cordoba, according to the press office of the Holy See. He was elevated to cardinal in February 2001 by Pope John Paul II.

Bergoglio is known to be an extremely humble man who has chosen a life of poverty, as did St. Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis often spoke of his love of “Lady Poverty.” Bergogilo has strongly demonstrated his political opposition against same sex marriage and abortion. Humble, he refused his highly status residence, in favor of a small apartment. In his apartment he cares for himself and cooks his own meals. He chooses to use the bus system in Argentina, rejecting a driver and limousine. His simple ways demonstrate how much Cardinal Bergogilo is of like mind with St. Francis, in their love for poverty and simple way of life.

CNN noted that Cardinal Bergoglio is accessible stating, "who needs an appointment with him when one need only talk with him on the bus?" This one thought alone should make us realize how simple, open and charismatic this cardinal really is. Choosing a life of poverty over luxury and accepting the name “Pope Francis,” also tells us a great deal about the lifestyle and character of Bergogilo. Just maybe the little star shinning in the night when the conclave elected this new pope, may well be the hope many conservative and traditional Catholics have prayed for. Just maybe it is possible Pope Francis may lead us back to Catholic basics, as once taught by St. Francis.

Saint Francis of Assisi was the son of a wealthy business man.  He gave his heart to God and the love of poverty. Francis refused his high station in life and the riches of a privileged man. He was known to have a great love for the poor and was a reformer in the Church. Saint Francis believed the Church in his day needed to reform by returning to its roots. Note: The life of St. Francis is well documented and extends far beyond the tidbits here.

What we do know for certain is, Pope Francis, like Francis of Assisi, chose poverty over luxury and has a love for the poor. Likened to St. Francis, Bergoglio stated he is also a reformer. This suggests we can expect changes in the Church, back to its roots. This is exactly what the Church needs to heal and continue in such a complex world.

I was deeply moved when Pope Francis asked we all pray for him in silence, before he gave us his blessing. This request is certainly an act of sincere humility. I am also astonished that his request promoted total silence from the 150 thousand plus in St. Peter’s Square, as each offered an individual prayer for the newly elected pontiff.  After his blessing upon the people, Pope Francis also told the world that tomorrow he would pray to the Virgin Mary, for us all. This act clearly shows his devotion for Our Lady and concludes without saying that, Mary will not be removed from the dogma during his watch.

For many years there has been concern that the next elected pope could lead us into the frightening, “Signs of the Times.”  I have written some articles about this in the past and voiced my concern as well. I have always noted that regardless of any path (good or bad) that good things come to those who pray, fast and trust in God. With the election of Pope Francis, it certainly appears Catholics around the world are receiving an extended period of grace. Mind you, this is not to say the “Signs of the Times,” are not here because Our Lady of Medjugorje has made it clear the “Signs of the Times,” are here. Even though the warning signs are all around us, I have to believe the election of Pope Francis is an excellent positive and extended grace to the world.

An interesting note; Animals were drawn to St. Francis.  History tells us he was seen conversing with the animals. Shortly before the white smoke billowed from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, announcing "We have a pope," a seagull landed on top of the chimney. Could it be possible the seagull was a good sign announcing the next pope would take the name of Pope Francis?

Ending, we can expect to see reformation in the Church which everyone agrees we need.  However, the reformation will not likely be that of 46% of Catholics seeking modernization. All indications tell us, Pope Francis will lead us back to our roots. If this is the case, Catholics are receiving a blessing beyond belief. Jesus told Saint Francis, “Build my Church.” Pope Francis may well be the builder of a new Church forging a foundation back to its roots.

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