by Fr. C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J.
Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.
Where were you on March 13, 2013 when you first heard the news that a Jesuit had been elected pope? It seems hard to believe that ten years have passed since that historic day when Jorge Bergoglio, S.J. came before the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. After greeting them with “Buonasera” and before giving his first papal blessing, he knelt before the crowd and asked for a blessing from them. The new pope thereby signaled that he would be not only a humble pope, but one who would stay close to the pulse of the people. Certainly in the past ten years throughout the world, great enthusiasm has been generated for the distinctive leadership of Pope Francis. As his fellow Jesuit and journalist Antonio Spadaro has remarked, “It seems that a great parrhesia has developed in the church, which is exactly what the pope asked and is asking for.” Yes, Pope Francis has certainly welcomed a church where believers in Jesus Christ can speak freely and honestly. His promotion of a global synod offers one example of his legacy.
More examples of the pope’s innovative pastoral imprint will be presented this Sunday morning, March 12 at 10:15 in Trinity Hall when another journalist, Victor Gaetan, will offer perspectives of the global diplomatic efforts with which Pope Francis has been engaged. In a recent book titled “God’s Diplomats: Pope Francis’, Vatican Diplomacy, and America’s Armageddon;” Gaetan offers a comprehensive analysis of Pope Francis diplomatic method, that revolves around four principles: Time is greater than space; Unity prevails over conflict; Reality is more important than ideas; the Whole is greater than the parts.
In this comprehensive work, Gaetan demonstrates the ways the pope’s method has been applied to the Church’s diplomatic efforts in China, Colombia, Cuba, Kenya, Panama, South Sudan, Ukraine/Russia and the Middle East (Lebanon, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia).
Gaetan describes three signature abilities displayed by Pope Francis: as a Manager, viz. his “prodigious capacity for managing information, excellent memory and an authoritative decision making style–overall a talent for government–and he doesn’t take vacations;” as a Missionary, “A core idea of missionary work is that all need to hear the Gospel messages, whether on salvation or on justice and a precursor to peace;” as a Mystic: “God works through human history. People can begin processes, but it is the Holy Spirit who brings our actions to fruition.”
During the one-hour format, this Romanian journalist and I will engage in a question-and-answer segment that will include discussion of some of the diplomatic breakthroughs and surprises of Pope Francis’ papacy. Further, we will discuss the pope’s most recent trips to the Congo and Southern Sudan.
Finally, the audience will be invited to raise questions so as to share in our discourse. All in all, this discussion of the decade of Pope Francis’s papacy will reveal what Father Spadara has proclaimed:
“This is a pontificate of fruits, yes, but also a pontificate of seeds, above all a pontificate of seeds. I think that with time, these seeds will grow, evolve and mature. We’ll understand later what the fruits that have been planted during this time are."