The Pope and the Poor | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | Catholic World Report
A Jesuit reflects on the new pontificate and the problem of poverty
The day following the election of the archbishop of Buenos Aires to the papacy, I must have received fifty e-mails from friends and family asking if I knew the man or had any comment on him. What struck me was how little we knew about him. If he has a paper trail (the previous three popes had extensive ones), it is yet to reach us, though I did read the following comment from a statement in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago: “We hope legislators, heads of state, and health professionals, conscious of the dignity of human life and the rootedness of the family in our peoples, will defend and protect it from the abominable crimes of abortion and euthanasia, that is their responsibility.” I presume Ignatius Press is busily translating and preparing what we do have for English publication. What we do have are actions taken and gestures made while he was Jesuit provincial and a bishop in Argentina. He rides the bus, leads a simple life, and loves the poor.
Though Cardinal Bergoglio was reportedly a contender in the previous conclave, his age and health seemed to militate against him, but in retrospect only “seemed.” They turned out to be advantages. We are reminded that Pope Leo XIII was elected as a sort of interim pope but he lasted twenty-five productive years. With the voluntary retirement of Benedict XVI, the whole issue of a pope’s health has changed. I have heard it said that Pope Francis has only one lung. Well, I figure if Schall can get by with one eye, the man on the Chair of Peter can get by with one lung!
Two things immediately strike us about Pope Francis: he is from Argentina and he is a Jesuit. Neither one of these may mean much in the long run. He is now in an office that transcends both, but does not necessarily bypass them. Pope Francis will clearly, I think, have cordial relations with Benedict XVI, as well as with the Jesuit General and the Latin American Bishops’ Conference, not to mention the Franciscans. He is a friend of Opus Dei. With John Paul II and Benedict, we have become used to the attention paid to the various Orthodox traditions, and this connection will continue. Francis was a friend of the Ukrainian Catholic community in Argentina, and he will be meeting this Wednesday with delegates from several Eastern Catholic Churches.
It seems pretty well settled that Francis is Francis of Assisi, not Francis Borgia, Francis Xavier, or Francis de Sales. Yet probably every Francis is ultimately named after Francis of Assisi.