First and foremost, I would like to extend my gratitude to our former Pope Benedict XVI. I understand that it was not easy stepping down especially if you are at the pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church. This greatly needs humility in action. With this act I felt that he is genuinely doing this for the great love for our Church. I believe that he must be an illustration of what a great leader must be. I am saddened that there are many politicians, members of the Bench or even clergymen like our Pope is who are already incapable of doing their task properly due to poor health, old age or even questionable reputation who would do practically anything in order for them NOT to relinquish their positions. My friends, this is a challenge for all of us. We had learned from Spider man that “With every great power comes with great responsibility” and the responsibility of every leader is to serve others with the best of our competency. Remember that what really measures our worth as human beings are not the titles and positions that we had held in our lifetime but with our service of others. Pope Benedict XVI could have just spend the rest of his papacy inactively because after all, the Church could move without him doing much because many could substitute works for him. However, he understood that this is the trying times of the Catholic Church. He humbly offered his seat in the Vatican to another worthy person in the College of Cardinals. Therefore, we thank you, Holy Father. We are thankful not just for your humility in stepping down as our Pontiff but with your almost 8 years of service with us. Even if you acquired this position at a relatively old age, you defended the conservative doctrines of the Church as well as being brave in opening the sensitive matters on the sexual abuse of some of the priests and did actions towards this problem. Again, thank you, Holy Father.
Anyway, the last day of my final examinations was Monday of the week before Pope Francis was elected. I was so freaking tired. I had about three to four hours’ worth of sleep and if you know me well, you will know that I need 8 hours of sleep usually. I thought the sleepless nights would be over by Monday but it went on because of the conclave. Yes, that smoke from the Vatican comes out at about 3AM in our time. I really do not know why I was so engrossed by it. Okay, I actually know why I am engrossed by it—our local cardinal, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, is ALWAYS on the list of the papabile or the list of possible popes of the international media. I adore Cardinal Tagle with all my heart. He has this weekly show on the cable news channel ANC entitled, “The Word Exposed”. In there he discusses and comments on that Sunday’s first and second reading and the gospel. Sometimes, he answers the questions of his followers in Facebook or he discusses various topics on Catechism which enlightens and nourishes my Christian faith. Imagine having an Asian pope again after several centuries and the best part is it could be a Filipino. However, I think I was only disappointed for three minutes seeing another person other than Cardinal Tagle as Pope. It only took a few moments for me to really fall in love with our new pope, Pope Francis. Looking back, I thought that I was so foolish. I was praying so hard that the Philippine delegate might win that in a way, I looked at the conclave as an international beauty pageant. Then again, I am now exultant because with Pope Francis’ election as the new pope, I believe that all of us have won.
Pope Francis is a man of many firsts being the first pope from South America, the continent with the largest population of Roman Catholics. He is the first Jesuit pope which is why some people thought he chose the name “Francis” because of the founder of the religious order, Society of Jesus. Of course he is the first person who picked Francis for his name because he was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s genuine love for the poor.
I believe that he is the perfect man for the job. I am deeply touched and inspired by his humility. When I first saw him, I wasn’t sure that he was the pope. He was wearing plain white vestments without the signature red velvet cape or the mozzetta. The other priests beside him seem to be more regal in the black and red vestments. He also quietly waved to the people and smiled. This is also a little strange because both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI outstretched their arms when they first faced the public. But the more I research about Pope Francis, the more inspired I become with his humility. When he was cardinal, he refused living in a mansion-like place that is reserved for him as cardinal. He instead rented a small room and even cooked his own meals and rode on Argentine public transportation. In Vatican, too, he refused the room where the popes in the past stayed, remarking that it was “too big”. He chose a much smaller room.
Nonetheless, what really touched me is the fact that he again removed the bulletproof glass in the Popemobile. Of course, I could completely understand why Pope John Paul II established that bulletproof glass in the Popemobile. After all, some insane guy shot him four times. Pope Benedict XVI was also not spared as an insane woman tackled him down one Christmas Eve and attempted to do it again a year after. However, it is truly remarkable seeing that desire of Pope Francis to go very up close and personal to the people. He even goes down at times to bless the children and the sick. I know that this make him like the security “nightmare”. However, I guess that deep inside, Pope Francis care little or not at all for his own life. I feel that as a person, he wanted to embody true goodness, kindness and love which Jesus taught us. He also shows us this deep faith that God will protect us if we obey and do his will even at the riskiest places. Thus, Pope Francis is really a person who always leaves me smiling in my heart.
I could genuinely say that he is the pope that we need at these trying times. Like St. Francis of Assisi, he is humble, warm and welcoming. He truly loves and cares for the poor. We are a world filled of ‘poor’ people but in varying ways of suffering. In Japan, the United States, Canada and European countries, where everything is provided, people are killing themselves because of pressure, stress and extreme loneliness. In emerging economies like the Philippines, Vietnam and China, there are many people who do not get what they deserve. Employers who are driven so much by profit underpay their employees. Of course, there are people from failed states which are mainly in Africa where the people are so poor, they have hardly have food to eat, clothes to wear, and homes to speak of. Additionally, their lives, as well as the lives of their offspring, seem to be doomed by civil wars which they ancestors started. There are countries in the Middle East whose life is a great struggle each day. People kill each other or commit suicide bombing because of religion. But why would the God who is taught with goodness, mercy and love in the conflicting religions want to start wars in His name? We must not forget that He is the very same God who appeared before Abraham, a key figure in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In essence, we are all poor in varying degrees but contain some richness deep inside of us that we could share to one another. Some people who have everything materially are so poor in spirit. But on the other hand, there are also some people who hardly possess anything but are so filled with cheer. Pope Francis, a very simple man, is who we need. You can see clearly in this man that he is a true embodiment of God’s virtue. He is very welcoming, warm and kind—a perfect father-figure for our church. These are the trying times of Catholicism. The number of believers is not increasing in years. States keep on legislating laws which are against the teachings of the church like abortion, same-sex marriage and divorce. Also, the borderline between ethical and acceptable is now ambiguous. It seems like the world is very much against the rectitude taught by the church without understanding the reasons behind the prohibition such as the sanctity of life, marriage and relationships as well as having intelligent choices for ourselves. This is very immature for everyone is acting like a teenage child who thinks everything that his parents impose upon him is revolting, absurd or simply uncool. We need a father-like figure like Pope Francis who knows how to listen and understand with so much compassion but at the same time, he is firm against the unscrupulousness against the teachings of the church just like the time where Argentina legalized same-sex marriage.
“Francis, go and rebuild my Church,” Jesus told St. Francis of Assisi this before and perhaps, this is also what he is telling Pope Francis now that he is our pope. I have high hopes in him. But in the meantime, I say a little prayer for him just like he first requested to all of us when he first appeared to the public. I know he could do great things for the church but he’ll definitely do better with us praying and supporting him as well as living through the righteous teachings of the church.