New Pope Francis is first and foremost a pastor - Omaha.com
Published Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:58 am
New Pope Francis is first and foremost a pastor

Photos: Pope Francis

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio, will be expected to clean up the Catholic Church's administration and finances and restore its moral leadership role, turning a page on recent scandals.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, is seen as a great spiritual leader. But many commentators have described him as a poor manager of everyday affairs, who left the Roman Curia, the church's government body, in disarray. He also lacked the popular touch of the late John Paul II.

Experts agree that what the church now needs is not just a fine intellectual but also an inspiring pastor and someone with proven management skills.

“You put all that together and it looks like Jesus Christ with an MBA. That's a pretty tough job description for anybody,” Father Thomas Reese, a theologian from Georgetown University, told Vatican Radio this week.

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Pope Francis — the first Jesuit pope — has spent nearly his entire career at home in Argentina.

The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, reportedly got the second-most votes after Joseph Ratzinger, the last pope, in the 2005 papal election. He has long specialized in the kind of pastoral work — overseeing churches and priests — that some say is an essential skill for a pope.

In a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, which has the largest share of the world's Catholics, the former Bergoglio has shown a keen political sensibility as well as a self-effacing humility, according to his official biographer, Sergio Rubin. His personal style is the antithesis of Vatican splendor.

Bergoglio is also known for modernizing an Argentine church that had been among the most conservative in Latin America.

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Recent popes

Pope Francis March 13, 2013-

Benedict XVI April 19, 2005-Feb. 28, 2013.

John Paul II Oct. 16, 1978-April 2, 2005.

John Paul I Aug. 26-Sept. 28, 1978.

Paul VI June 21, 1963-Aug. 6, 1978.

John XXIII Oct. 28, 1958-June 3, 1963.

Pius XII March 2, 1939-Oct. 9, 1958.

Pius XI Feb. 6, 1922-Feb. 10, 1939.

Benedict XV Sept. 3, 1914-Jan. 22, 1922.

Pius X Aug. 4, 1903-Aug. 20, 1914.

Leo XIII Feb. 20, 1878-July 20, 1903.

The new pope inherits a church wrestling with an array of challenges, including a shortage of priests, growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere, a sexual abuse crisis that has undermined the church's moral authority in the West and, difficulties governing the Vatican itself.

Francesco Clementi, an expert on Vatican governance from the University of Perugia, is convinced that the new pope has what it takes.

“He has a very strong pastoral profile, he is a simple man who lives simply, but he also has a great expertise of government since he has occupied practically all posts in the Curia,” Clementi said.

At the same time, his relatively advanced age — 76 — might make him “a transitional pope” rather than “the pope for the new millennium,” Clementi said.

The new pope will also inherit power struggles over the management of the Vatican bank, which must continue a process of meeting international transparency standards or risk being shut out of the mainstream international banking system. In one of his final acts as pope, Benedict appointed a German aristocrat, Ernst von Freyberg, as the bank's new president.

Francis will have to help make the Vatican bureaucracy — often seen as a hornet's nest of infighting Italians — work more efficiently for the good of the church. After years in which Benedict and John Paul helped consolidate more power at the top, many liberal Catholics also hope that the new pope will give local bishops' conferences more decision-making power to help respond to the needs of the faithful.

A doctrinal conservative, Francis has opposed liberation theology, abortion, gay marriage and the ordination of women, standing with his predecessor in holding largely traditional views.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires beginning in 1998 and a cardinal since 2001, he frequently tangled with Argentina's government over social issues. In 2010, for example, he castigated a government-supported law to legalize marriage and adoption by same-sex couples as “a war against God.”

In his first outing before the faithful, Francis appeared relaxed and at ease. When he stepped from behind red velvet curtains onto the central balcony of imposing St. Peter's Basilica, he waved with one hand to the crowd of tens of thousands below in St. Peter's Square, looking almost embarrassed.

“You know that the duty of the conclave was to give Rome a bishop,” he said, referring to the pontiff's role as bishop of that city. “It seems that my brother cardinals picked him from almost the ends of the Earth. But here we are! I thank you for the warm welcome.”

He exhorted his listeners to foster love, trust and unity.

Francis spoke by telephone with Benedict on Wednesday evening, said a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Frederico Lombardi, who called it “an act of great significance and pastorality” that Francis' first act as pope was to offer a prayer for his predecessor.

The conclave followed more than a week of intense, broader discussions among the world's cardinals about the problems facing the church and their criteria for its next leader.

“We spoke among ourselves in an exceptional and free way, with great truth, about the lights, but also about shadows in the current situation of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, a theologian known for his intellect and his pastoral touch, told reporters this week.

“The pope's election is something substantially different from a political election,” Schonborn said, adding that the role was not “the chief executive of a multinational company but the spiritual head of a community of believers.”

Many had predicted that the cardinals would pick a younger, more physically robust man, to avoid a repeat of Benedict's relatively short papacy and his decision to resign as a result of declining health. At 76, Bergoglio is only two years younger than Benedict was at his election and is said to dislike travel.

“We just wanted to choose a man of God, governance and a pastor, and he's all those things,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told reporters afterward.

This report includes material from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Pope's next steps

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The pomp surrounding his selection was just the beginning of an exceptionally busy few days for Pope Francis.

A look at the first night — and what comes after.

THE SELECTION

From the moment he uttered “I accept” in Latin, in front of his fellow cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, the job was his, and it started instantly.

According to tradition, his first act was declaring his choice of name as the Roman Catholic Church's 266th pontiff. That done, he was whisked off to the Room of Tears, just beyond the chapel to be dressed in papal white.

Since Monday, the day before the conclave began, three white robes — in small, medium and large to cover all the bases — had been hanging on a clothes rack in the room. Seven pairs of red shoes waited in white boxes to be tried on for size by the new pontiff.

Per tradition, outfitted in papal garb, the new pontiff headed back to the Sistine Chapel, where the other cardinals pledged obedience to the man they chose.

NEXT STEP

Just before Benedict XVI left the papacy last month, to begin the first papal retirement in 600 years, he added another step in the ritual before a cardinal steps out onto the central loggia, or balcony, of St. Peter's Basilica to announce the name of the new pope. The newly elected pontiff paused to pray in solitude in the Pauline Chapel, another magnificent chapel decorated by Michelangelo and smaller than the nearby Sistine Chapel.

GREET THE MASSES

Next up was greeting crowds in St. Peter's Square.

“Brothers and sisters, good evening,” Francis said to wild cheers in his first public remarks as pontiff. “You know that the work of the conclave is to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as if my brother cardinals went to find him from the end of the Earth. Thank you for the welcome.”

FIRST FULL DAY?

As the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters a few hours before the election, it's up to the new boss to set the agenda. Holding to tradition, he will celebrate a Mass today at the altar in front of Michelangelo's “Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel with the cardinals. On his first full day he also planned to pray at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

A prominent American cardinal also said Pope Francis will visit his predecessor, Benedict XVI, today at the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo south of Rome. Timothy Dolan said Wednesday that Francis told fellow cardinals after the conclave that made him pope: “Tomorrow morning, I'm going to visit Benedict.”

WHERE DOES HE LIVE?

What else he does depends somewhat on him. He might remove the seals on the papal apartment if he's eager to move in, although the Vatican has said that in case the place needs some repairs, the first days of the papacy might be the time to do them.

The apartment was sealed on Feb. 28, after Benedict left the Vatican to spend his last few hours as pope in the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo.

But the three-room papal suite in Room 201 of Santa Marta, the simple hotel on the Vatican grounds, is also waiting for him for his first days as pontiff.

THEN WHAT?

The first couple of days might also see the first appointments by Francis. Four days after Benedict was elected, he met with the media, thanking them for all the attention they paid in the preceding weeks, including during the death and funeral of John Paul II.

On Sunday — following two Sundays with no pope to appear at the papal studio window and bless the crowd in St. Peter's Square — Francis will be expected by Catholics to speak to them.

Two days later, on Tuesday, the church feast day of St. Joseph, there will be his installation Mass, a morning-long affair, with much pomp, prayers and VIPs in the pews, with as many as 200 foreign delegations expected as well as hundreds of thousands of rank-and-file, including many from the pope's homeland — in this case, Argentina.

That ceremony is traditionally held on Sunday, when the city's streets can be closed to traffic near the Vatican. But St. Joseph's feast day is a Vatican holiday, and it's likely that many Romans will skip work or school to turn out for the formal embrace of Rome's new bishop.

Who voted for the pope?

One thing is sure — the new pope will never truly know who voted for him.

Cardinals used to sign their names to ballots, but stopped doing so "due to an old history of intrigues and tensions, when people used to fear the most serious reprisals for their choices," says Michael Bruter, who teaches political science at the London School of Economics.

Even so, factions of cardinals will have made their views known during informal talks between votes.

Romain Lachat, a political scientist at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, says the formation of coalitions — where voting cardinals slowly rally around a man who may only be their second or third choice — is inevitable.

There is no formal process of elimination and cardinals can even vote for themselves — which may explain why conclaves often need more than one round of balloting to produce a pope.



Heavy workload awaits next pope

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The moment Cardinal Albino Luciani learned that his colleagues had elected him pope, he responded: “May God forgive you for what you've done.”

The remark, by the man who became Pope John Paul I, was seen as an expression of humility — but also a commentary on the mammoth task ahead.

There is no job like that of pope. He is the CEO of a global enterprise, head of state, a moral voice in the world and, in the eyes of Roman Catholics, Christ's representative on earth.

And the man who emerges as pontiff from the conclave, which began Tuesday, has a particularly crushing to-do list.

Here are some of the challenges awaiting the next pope:

REFORM

The next pope will have to restore discipline to the scandal-plagued central administration of the church. Benedict XVI, now pope emeritus, had commissioned a report on the Vatican bureaucracy, or Curia, that will be shown only to his successor. Benedict's butler had leaked the pope's private papers revealing feuding, corruption and cronyism at the highest levels of administration.

SEX ABUSE

The Vatican remains under pressure to reveal more about its past role in the church's failure to protect children worldwide. The issue erupted ahead of the conclave, when victims from the United States, Chile and Mexico pressured cardinals to recuse themselves because they had shielded abusive priests from prosecution. Benedict instructed bishops around the world to craft policies to keep abusers from the priesthood, but church leaders in some nations haven't yet complied.

EMPTY PEWS

Secularism has already taken a toll on churches in Europe and the United States, where a growing number of people don't identify with any faith. As the church loses members, it also loses influence in public life in many countries. The next pope must be a missionary-in-chief, with the gravitas, charisma and personal holiness to bring Catholics back to church.

EMPTY PULPITS

Europe and North America need more priests. Clergy in developing countries need more resources.

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION

Catholics and other Christians live as religious minorities in many countries, including Syria, India and China, where they face discrimination, government interference and, in many cases, violence as they try to practice their faith. The issue is a rare one that unites religious leaders across faiths. The pope is considered a key voice in the fight.

GLOBALIZATION

While the church is shrinking in the West, it is booming in Africa and Asia. The pope will have to shift much of his attention to the challenges facing those relatively new dioceses: a life-and-death fight against poverty, threats from radical Muslim movements and preservation of Catholic orthodoxy with room for local worship styles.

OTHER FAITHS

The new pope will have to keep up friendships with a long list of other Christian groups and other religions, including Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and Jews. But his most pressing task will be navigating relations with Islam.

UNITY

The next pontiff inherits a church that is divided over the role of lay people and women, on doctrine and social justice teaching, and even on what is required to be considered Catholic. In Benedict's final audience with cardinals, he urged them to work “like an orchestra” where “agreement and harmony” can be reached despite diversity. He could have been talking to the whole church.

— McClatchy Newspapers and the Associated Press

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