Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Pope Francis Election Anniversary

Today marks a significant milestone in the history of the Catholic Church as we commemorate the anniversary of Pope Francis' election to the papacy. Elected on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis became the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere.

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on December 17, 1936, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He was elected as the Sovereign of the Vatican City State on March 13, 2013, succeeding Pope Benedict XVI.

Francis was born to Italian immigrants in the Flores neighborhood of Buenos Aires and was one of five children. His father was an accountant employed by the railways and his mother was a homemaker. Bergoglio graduated as a chemical technician and then chose to pursue a path in the Jesuit order, entering the Society of Jesus in 1958.

He studied at the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel, obtaining a degree in philosophy. After his ordination as a priest in 1969, he continued his studies in theology and then taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada ConcepciĆ³n, a high school in Santa Fe, and later at the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires.

Before his pontificate, he served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 2001.

Pope Francis has become known for his humility, concern for the poor, and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He is credited with having a less formal approach to the papacy than his predecessors. Some of his notable writings include the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and his encyclical Laudato si' concerning environmental issues.

His papacy has been marked by a focus on issues such as climate change, poverty, and migration. He has also sought to address issues within the Church, including appointing a commission to advise him on sexual abuse within the Church and creating a tribunal for cases of episcopal negligence.

Pope Francis continues to be an influential voice in global affairs, advocating for peace, social justice, and compassion towards those in need.

Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has been a figure of humility and openness, advocating for issues such as environmental protection, economic equality, and compassion for refugees and migrants. His encyclical "Laudato si'," which addresses climate change and its impact on the marginalized, has been influential in encouraging global discussions on environmental stewardship.

Pope Francis' approach to the papacy has been characterized by a focus on pastoral care over doctrinal enforcement, often prioritizing mercy over judgment. This approach has resonated with many Catholics and non-Catholics alike, leading to a renewed interest in the Church's message of love and acceptance.

However, not many have adopted his approach. Many Catholics, especially in the so-called "traditional" circle have accused him of being a modernist and heretic. He is probably the only pope in history to have faced so much opposition and contention. The criticisms he receives seem to be based more on the political alignments of critics than anything else. They are mostly right-wing supporters who are against saving the planet, immigrants, helping the poor, and Vatican II.  His encyclicals on Climate Change and other issues have brought more criticism against the pope with some calling him a socialist or communist. Others became enraged when he restricted the use of the Extraordinary Form with the motu propio Traditionis Custodes.

Those are the left spectrum have accused Pope Francis of hypocrisy after his back-and-forth commentaries on transgender people and homosexuals. In one instance he seems to favor and excuse their behavior and in another, he calls it evil and a danger to humanity. He has recently angered Ukrainians and their supporters after insinuating that Ukraine needs to use the "white flag" which was interpreted as meaning that he wants them to surrender to Russia. The Vatican has since downplayed the criticism claiming the pope never said for Ukraine to surrender. 

I remember Cardinal Bergoglio's election on March 13. I was taking a course on Thomas Paine at CUNY and was watching it on my then android cell phone. The images of the new pope in a simple white cassock and then bowing asking the people to pray for him were inspiring. His attention to the poor and simplicity really made me a fan of his. However, his later comments which were ambiguous were troubling. Despite this, I still like Pope Francis. He is not perfect, no one is. But I see him as a pastoral pope. Many times when being pastoral we have to be "gray," so to speak and now see the world as black and white. In light of this, I understand why he says the things he says and does the things he does.  

As we reflect on Pope Francis' tenure thus far, it is clear that his leadership has had a profound impact on both the Church and the world at large. His commitment to social justice and his willingness to engage with modern issues continue to inspire people across the globe.

On this anniversary, we look forward to many more years of Pope Francis' guidance and his ongoing efforts to lead the Church in a direction that promotes peace, understanding, and compassion for all humanity. 

Let us continue to pray for him as he asked us to back in 2013.  Viva el Papa! 


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Biography | Francis (vatican.va)

Francis | Biography, Pope, Laudato Si’, Roman Catholic Church, & Facts | Britannica

Pope Francis criticized for ‘white flag’ remarks on Ukraine - The Washington Post

Vatican backtracks after pope’s Ukraine ‘white flag’ blunder – POLITICO

Pope Francis Discusses Gay Catholics: 'Who Am I To Judge?' : The Two-Way : NPR

Pope Francis: Gender ideology is the ugliest danger of our time - Vatican News

Traditional Latin Mass in Miami is growing among Catholics | Miami Herald

Pope Angers Traditionalists With Interfaith Views (voanews.com)

Pope Francis Speaks Out on Homosexuality—and Further Angers Traditionalists | The New Yorker

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