Pope Francis: Champion for social justice?
'Humble' Pope Francis to focus on social justice: Pinoy priests
MANILA – The election of the first Jesuit and first Latin American pope heralds a new beginning for the Roman Catholic Church which seeks to re-ignite the faith especially among the youth, various Filipino priests said.
Former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who took the name of Francis upon his election as pope, is widely seen to bring radical changes to the style of Church leadership.
"Pope Francis is known in Argentina for his work with the poor. He once fought the dictatorship and has been involved in the fight for social injustices," said Fr. Emmanuel Francisco, executive director of the Jesuit Communications Foundation Inc.
"For the youth, that is important – to be a man of action and have concern for the poor... Pope Francis is well known for his work in this field. He loves the poor. He has worked with the poor and he wants to remain simple.
"'A faith that does justice,' I think is what we can expect from the pope, especially with his Jesuit background," he added.
Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, media director of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, also believes that Francis's experience in dealing with societal issues in his pastoral work in Argentina could indicate the direction the Church is headed for.
"When it comes to social justice, he's very advanced in that. He's been implementing that in Buenos Aires, [Argentina]. The context of Buenos Aires is much like the Philippines. He has been very vocal about this," Quitorio told ANC.
Although he has been vocal about social issues, even criticizing the administration of Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez, Francis is seen to follow the theological position of Pope John Paul II, who had opposed liberation theology.
Intellect, humility a plus
Francisco believes the 76-year-old Francis's vast experience in pastoral work and extensive knowledge trump his old age, which is seen by observers as a limitation to the papacy seeking to veer away from the introverted leadership projected by Benedict XVI.
"Our pope is a chemist and that means he has an understanding of the sciences. You know very well that in the western world today, one cause of atheism is the dominance of the sciences. This person can dialogue with this people," Francisco said.
"It is no issue with him that you have science on the one hand and you have religion. There should be no conflict, actually. Significantly, in the last Synod of Bishops last November, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle mentioned to us that part of the new evangelization that the Vatican is calling for is one on science - that the church should dialogue more with the people of the sciences. This new pope sits very well into that."
Meanwhile, Fr. Francis Lucas, Executive Secretary of CBCP's Episcopal Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media, said the humility Francis had shown when he first appeared at the Vatican balcony, in simple white cassock, indicates that one of the cornerstones of his papacy will be of reaching out to the people.
"He prayed Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be. Even a child can recite those prayers. So what does that mean? He believes that he is the supreme pontiff for everybody," Lucas told radio dzMM.
Lucas also noted the grand gesture made by asking the people for the Lord's blessing and then bowing to the crowds in St. Peter's Square.
"He really showed one of the meanings of the titles of a pope: Servus servorum Dei - servant of the servants of God."
For his archdiocesan motto, Francis has adopted "Miserando atque eligendo" or "lowly but chosen".
The new pope's choice of his papal name Francis – evoking the ascetic St. Francis of Assissi - is also considered a potent manifestation of his brand of leadership.
Although not seen as a Vatican insider - not being able to ever hold a top post in the Vatican administration – Francis is still credited for the posts he held in Argentina.
Francis is also a member of the congregations for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments; for the Clergy; for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; Pontifical Council for the Family; Pontifical Commission for Latin America; and the XI Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
Francisco said the decision to pick the Jesuit Argentine prelate may have also been driven by the cardinals' desire to give the Church a new face while not compromising conservative Catholic traditions.
"Well, this is really, very radical change. Because as we all know, the last time that a non-Europeran pope was, according to research is, 1,300 years ago. It's been a long time. Majority of the Catholic population reside not in Europe," Francisco said.
"We've been praying for this - that it's about time a paradigm shift like this happens. The church, like Jesus Christ, was incarnated. He went to his people. The pope should also be one with the Church."