by Abbot Tryphon –
In Catholic tradition, Francis of Assisi had a mystical vision in which Christ told him to rebuild his Church. In taking the name Francis, this pope seems to be pledging himself to rebuild the image and integrity of a church that has suffered from widespread allegations of corruption, and the cover-up of the child sex abuse by innumerable members of her clergy.
After becoming archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, he sold the archbishop’s palace, preferring instead to live in an apartment. He was known to cook his own meals, and rejected the services of a chauffeur, preferring instead to ride the bus. As Jesuit Provincial, he put an end to the Liberation Theology being taught among Jesuits under him, demanding they stop their involvement in politics, and place their energies on serving the spiritual needs of their people.
This is the man who went to a hospice during Holy Week, and washed the feet of twelve aids patients. Known for a simple lifestyle and for dedication to social justice, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he had taken a strong stand against the corruption of politicians and business men in Argentina. He has not only been a champion of the poor, but a champion of democracy.
Pope Francis, upon coming out on the papal balcony, asked the crowd to join him in praying “for our emeritus bishop, Benedict XVI.” Following the “Our Father,” the “Ave Maria,” and “Glory Be” prayers in Italian, the Argentinean then continued: “Now, let’s start working together, walking together…this is part of the governance of love, of trust.”
And before giving the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing to those in the crowd, the Argentinean asked “for a favor. Before the bishop blesses his people, he asks that you pray to the Lord to bless me, the prayer of the people for the blessing of their bishop.” As he said these words, he bowed his head and clasped his hands. A 15-second silence lasted in the reported 100,000-person crowd.
In taking the name of a saint known for humility and a simple lifestyle, Pope Francis promises to be the Christ-like image of leadership the Roman Catholic Church, and, dare I say, the whole world, needs. With the rise of secularism, atheism, and Islam, the Christ-like witness we see in this pope, promises to be a leaven for the rebuilding of a Christianity that has been in decline. This, to my mind, is a pope we Orthodox can work with, and a man we can love.