Pope Francis’ first 100 days
June 20 marks the first 100 days of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis. The Argentinian-born Pontiff is the 266th Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ on earth. As the Successor of Saint Peter, it would be interesting to value his challenging, yet, enlightening Pontificate during this critical time of contemporary Church history.
Pope Francis’ closeness to the people is shown in his fatherly concern for the poor and the marginalised. It is clearly the Holy Father’s resolve to restore the Church’s credibility by portraying what the authentic life of poverty and simplicity is all about.
For the Bishop of Rome “money has to serve, not to rule”. Poverty and marginalisation are eradicated if “the rich… help the poor, to respect them, to promote them”. The Pope appeals for disinterested solidarity and for a return to person-centred ethics in the world of finance and economics.
But before preaching to others, the Holy Father, like Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of his Petrine ministry, started living out austerity and honesty in his personal life.
In fact, he boldly decided to stay in the Domus Sanctae Marthae house instead of moving into the prestigious papal apartments. He opted to use the latter only for official audiences and his weekly Sunday Angelus address.
Another evangelical decision he took was that of not spending his summer holidays at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. Rather, he prefers to follow a reduced schedule during the July-August period at his Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where he has lived since his election on March 13 as Peter’s successor.
Pope Francis’ prophetic gesture in favour of evangelical poverty and simplicity highly contrasts with other pontiffs’ papal escape to the luxurious Castel Gandolfo summer residence.
Secondly, God’s unconditional and loving mercy is a habitual subject that practically surfaces in his simple yet profound homilies. This theme is so central in Pope Francis’ spiritual life that it was soon made visible in his first Angelus address of March 17.
While commenting on the adulterous woman episode, which is found in John 8:1-11, the Holy Father made a profound reflection on Jesus’ behaviour in the situation.
“Jesus’ attitude is striking: we do not hear words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversion. ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again’ (v. 11).
“Ah, brothers and sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us. He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. ‘Great is God’s mercy’, says the psalm.”
The concluding reflections of that memorable address turn immediately into an ardent appeal for asking continually God’s forgiveness, which is always available. “Let us never tire, let us never tire! He is the loving Father who always pardons, who has that heart of mercy for us all”
Thirdly, since we incessantly receive God’s mercy we are to be merciful towards each other and care for the environment that surrounds us.
In the homily at the inauguration of his Petrine ministry on March 19, he said that this “means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.
“It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another and then, as parents, they care for their children and children themselves, in time, protect their parents.
“It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect and goodness…
“It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live”.
Lastly, Pope Francis started a courageous process of restructuring the Vatican’s troubled bureaucracy under the wings of honest transparency. The collegial spirit of his Papacy made him choose eight cardinals to advise him on the governance of the universal Church.
Co-responsibility is the benchmark of Jorge Bergoglio’s charismatic Pontificate.