Thursday, 14 March 2013

Habemus papam


Tremendous excitement and joy that we have a new pope. This one looks a very holy and simple man.

So much happiness in St Peter's Square. Even the BBC is being polite about the Catholic Church. Though soon we shall have to read thousands of articles by non-Catholic journalists advising the new Pope on what Catholic doctrine ought to be.

Usually the Catholic Church with the liturgy in the vernacular gives me the impression of being an institution founded in the early 1960s but last night one felt one could have been watching something happening many centuries ago. The Catholic Church can conduct ceremonies even better than the British. (Though you might not think so in most English Catholic parish churches apart from a very few fashionable London ones.) Even more moving than the declaration, in strongly accented Latin, by the Cardinal Proto-Deacon, was the joy in the square particularly on the part of people in their twenties. People in their twenties are the yeast of the the world.

Pope Francis is the first pope from the New World and the first from outside Europe since 
Pope Gregory III (who came from  Syria  and reigned from 731 to 741).  Argentinians, however, consider themselves Europeans. Although Argentina is considered the Third World it has a whiter population than Great Britain and before General Peron came to power it had about the same standard of living as Canada.

Aside from the double-named John Paul I, Francis is the first pope with an original name (not used by a previous pope) since Pope Romanus in 897. By the way, he is not Pope Francis I, but Pope Francis.

Pope Francis is the ninth oldest pope elected since 1295. The youngest is either Pope John II or Pope Benedict IX, both of whom were around 18, although one source, according to Bertrand Russell, says Benedict IX was 12.

Pope Francis looks less intellectual than the last pope, but but that was inevitable and this is not the time for a genius but for common sense. He looks more resolute and very humble. For some reason seeing him for the first time, coming onto the balcony, I pictured him with a carrier bag in his hand. He looks like a man who is used to waiting for the bus, which is a great school of humility (and patience).

He is an enemy of liberation theology, thank God. Although a Jesuit he is an obedient Catholic, which led to him being sidelined until he was brought forward by Pope John Paul II. About a bill to legalise same-sex marriage he said:

"We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."

I want to record one question in my mind. It sounds great that the new Pope cooks his own meals and takes the bus but by moving out of the archbishop's palace into an apartment did this not cost the Church more than had he stayed in the palace? 

Perhaps the space in the palace was put to productive use.

The Countess Schoenborn, mother of Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna, will be pleased by the result. She had said that being Pope would 

"be too much for Christoph, it would be much too difficult for him."

This makes me sigh because I no longer have a mother. 

Two friends of mine, who love the Tridentine Rite which Pope Benedict XVI tried to revive, have doubts about the new pope. One says:

Hummes is famously unsound on the clerical marriage issue, Kasper is an unreformed ecumaniac. That these are the men appearing on the balcony with him is not a great sign. Asking the people to bless you before you bless them - bad sign. Saying the Lord's Prayer and Ave Maria in Italian - bad sign. New name - bad sign. Jesuit - bad sign. Not singing the blessing - bad sign. Not doing the blessing correctly - bad sign. Talking about a "walk of friendship" rather than about God and Jesus - bad sign. Not acknowledging his title as Pope and referring to himself only as the leader of the diocesan community of Rome - bad sign. Referring to "church" without the article - bad sign.
The other says: 
He is an unmitigated enemy of the Old Rite. He rused to implement Summorum pontificum in his archdiocese. In 'deep humility' he rused every piece of choir dress (not merely the winter mozetta) meticulously prepared for him by the Master of ceremonies and refused to wear the pastoral stole except for the blessing. He is Roncalli II, a country-style pastor with a career education. 

Hans Kung, the liberal theologian who called himself Pope Benedict XVI's greatest opponent, said:

“It was a very happy surprise. I’m extremely delighted.”

How I wish Father Kung had not said that. (Evelyn Waugh said of Kung that in a more civilised age he would have been burnt.)

Let us wait and see. I hope the new Pope's humility does not have a premeditated element - I find myself wondering if it seems very slightly in your face. But perhaps they said that about St. Francis.

Pope Francis reminds me of Pope John XXIII (whom I am too young to remember, just so you know). I hope he does not call a Third Vatican Council, but perhaps he will.

This very interesting piece suggests that the new Pope is completely orthodox, unlike many Jesuits. 

I give the last word to retired American Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, who took part in the 2006 conclave:

“It’s a very prayerful experience. We spent most of our time in prayer and reflection and that’s the spirit of the conclave it’s not what the world might think. It’s a spiritual experience, truly a retreat, and it’s mysterious. The operation of the Holy Spirit is with us. It’s indefinable but we are aware of it.”

P.S.  The Pope, we learn, once had a girlfriend. Very good for him. (I think Karol Wojtyła did too? Pius VI was engaged. Cardinal Manning, who was once spoken of as a possible pope, outdid them all by having been married.) The Daily Telegraph has this affecting story of the Pope's twelve year old love.


  1. Hope in our Pope..Lord hear our prayer +

  2. The quotes from your friends seem to want him buried before he starts, He is a friend of the East, a reformer, and a humble person,

    Was Jesus not all of these things?

    He should be given a chance, with Gods grace he will make the right changes and reform the Catholic Church back to tradition and take out all the liberalism that has caused so much damage.

  3. I just hope that Pope Francis doesn't say that Argentina owns the Falklands. Oh since no one here knows me I guess I should say,"just kidding".

  4. I thought I was kidding but it turns out I wasn't.

  5. Anonymous etc. :)