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Pope Francis: web reaction roundup

Theres no shortage of reaction and analysis on the first full day of the papacy of Francis. With some five thousand journalists reporting from Rome, and innumerable others commenting from all corners, what else could we expect? The general press continues to key in on the simplicity-and-humility theme, as unflinchingly expressed in the headline of this AP story: Pope Francis is Known for Simplicity and Humility (which is nevertheless a bit more helpful than this CNNflash: Pope Francis succeeds Benedict, who retired). If youve already absorbed those details, here are some of the items we thought worth sharing today.

Greg Metzger, at Faith and the Common Good, highlights speeches and articlesthat he thinks demonstrate the profound desire of Cardinal Bergoglio to see the gospel unleashed as Good News for all, and a willingness to stand in prophetic word and action to bring that Gospel to all. Then-Cardinal Bergoglio as quoted in a 2012 interview with Vatican Insider:

We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But if the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one.

Brian Lehrer of WNYC radio (New York) hosted Peter Steinfels this morning, where the discussion touched on the significance of a Jesuit as pope, among other things; you can listen to their whole conversation here.Erik Kain, writing at Mother Jones, says its unhelpful to focus on Pope Franciss social conservatism and consider how this papacy could be defined by economic issues:

In an era defined by economic hardship and collapse in which the fires of austerity have burned their way across Europe, it might be a very good thingnot only for the world's poorest nationsto have a pope who, at least at first blush, appears to be an opponent of the politics of austerity.

Concerning questions about Bergoglios response to the military junta during Argentinas dirty war, biographer Sergio Rubin argues it was a failure of the Roman Catholic Church in general, and that its unfair to pin on Bergoglio the collective guilt that many Argentines of his generation still deal with. According to the Washington Post, some leading Argentine human rights activists agree that

Bergoglio doesnt deserve to be lumped together with other church figures who were closely aligned with the dictatorship.Perhaps he didnt have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for documenting the juntas atrocities, said Thursday. Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He cant be accused of that, Perez Esquivel told Radio de la Red in Buenos Aires.

Others express doubts. An interview with Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who first reported on the story,appears here.Meanwhile, in the New Republic, Michael Sean Winters discusses Bergoglios response to the rise of liberation theology in Latin America:

[T]he liberation theologians strangely mimicked the neo-con capitalists they criticized, exercising an economic reductionism that equated the achievement of social progress with salvation. The neo-cons suggest the market will heal human ills, and the liberation theologians thought Marxist analysis would achieve the same end. Both ended up diminishing the most obvious Christian doctrineoriginal sinand collapsing their hopes for the end time into a political program. Liberation theologians and neo-con American Catholics are loathe to admit it, but both committed the same mistake, reducing the mystery of man to a manageable problem capable of either Marxist or market manipulations. They approached the problem of the poor from different directions, but their relationship is strangely symbiotic.Bergoglio was never seduced by the promises of the liberation theologians. For Christians, salvation comes from Christ, not from re-arranging social structures, and it must conquer death, not merely debt. Christians are called to love the poor, and to learn from the poor. Bergoglio and the other bishops in Latin America have been relentless in questioning and criticizing those who exercise power in ways that marginalize the poor. The criticism of capitalism is trenchant: He called the IMFs efforts to squeeze interest payments out of a struggling Argentine economy immoral. Here, Bergoglio stands in continuity with Benedict whose criticism of modern capitalism never made headlines but was there for anyone who cared to look. Catholicism does not propose any specific economic or political systems, but it must always criticize whatever systems insult human dignity.

But Michael Brendan Dougherty at Slate sees in Francis a Catholic nightmare.

[The] other way to look at the dawn of this papacy is that it is one more in the pile of recent Catholic novelties and mediocrities. Besides his lack of knowledge of the ins and outs of the Vatican, there is almost no evidence of him taking a tough line with anyone in his own diocese. Are we to believe that Buenos Aires has been spared the moral rot and corruption found almost everywhere else in the Catholic clergy? Or, more likely, do we have another Cardinal who looked the other way, and studiously avoided confrontation with the filth in the church, no matter the danger to children or to the cause of the church? Presumption and detraction are sins, but Catholics should gird themselves; the sudden spotlight on his reign may reveal scandal and negligence.Liturgical traditionalists (myself included) can only be depressed by this electionit is almost the worst result possible for those of us who think the new liturgy lost the theological profundity and ritual beauty of the Tridentine Mass. Benedicts liberation of the traditional Latin Mass and revisions to the new vernacular Mass have not been implemented at all in Cardinal Bergoglios own diocese. Already some of the small breaks with liturgical tradition at the announcement of his election are being interpreted as a move toward the grand, unruly, and improvisational style of John Paul II; an implicit rebuke of Benedict.

Argentinas Muslims, meanwhile, are welcoming the election of Bergoglio, according to the Buenos Aires Herald:

Sumer Noufouri, secretary general of the Islamic Center of the Republic of Argentina (CIRA), described ties between the CIRA and now Pope Francis excellent, explaining that their one-decade relationship has helped to build Christian-Muslim dialogue, something really significant in the history of monotheistic relations in Argentina. Mario Jorge Bergoglio is a respectful, pro-dialogue person who knows Islam.

Vice President Joseph Biden is traveling to Rome for the installation of Francis; House Speaker John Boehner, though invited, is not.Even while world leaders extend congratulations, the message from Chinawhere there are twelve million Catholics divided between a state-supervised church that has appointed bishops without papal approval and an "underground" wing that resists government tiescomes with a warning.

Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said that Beijing hoped the pope would work with Chinese officials on improving relations. But, she said, the Vatican must stop interfering in Chinas internal affairs, including in the name of religion.She also said the Vatican must sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan before ties with Beijing improve. China considers Taiwan a renegade province that is part of its territory.

On reform of the Vatican, The Tablet examines whether or not Francis can put the house in order, while Ross Douthat opines:

Even if [Bergoglio] was a compromise choice of some sort, his fellow electors were clearly quite happy to make it. If the new pope makes bold moves, and especially moves that ruffle feathers in the Roman court, it will reflect his confidence in that support. On the other hand, if he does prove more of a caretaker figure, it will be a sign that a supermajority of his fellow cardinals had much less interest in institutional change than the pre-conclave press accounts suggested.

Charles Pierce definitely sees a caretaker. More entertainingly:

OK, so he's the first pope from Latin America, and the first Francis, which ties him with Hilarius and a few dozen others for last place in the papal names rankings. He's also a member of The Society A Jesuit pope, the first one, which means Dan Brown gets five more novels. (Strangely enough, the Jesuits, in their Fourth Vow, take a special vow of obedience to...wait for it...the pope. This is going to make for an interesting internal monologue for the new fella, I'm thinking.)

If youre still wondering why Pope Francis has just the one lung, here are some possible explanations.Finally, the choice of Bergoglio must come as a relief to Eleonore Schoenborn, the ninety-two-year-old mother of one-time candidate Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn: In the run-up to the conclave shepublicly worried that her son "would not be up to the bitchiness in the Vatican.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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There are many things I like about him already. Most of all:According to a book called "The Jesuit," as a young man, Bergoglio loved dancing the Tango with his girlfriend. I hope the election of Pope Francis will cause a new tango craze!One of my top three or four favorite movies of all time is TANGO BAR. If you haven't seen it, it is fabulous. (Set against the dirty war, but about the history of the tango. Fabulous examples of every style from every period.) The Spanish language version with English subtitles, VHS, with Raul Julia is hard/impossible to buy, but available at many libraries:

Massimo Faggioli sent me to a very valuable resource where you can find oodles of essays from the Italian press on the election of the new pope: of the day: the press release from the Italian Bishops' Conference giving their letter of congratulations to the new pope, Cardinal Scola! How do you say "Oops!" in Italian?

(Forgot to give the link to the news story that included that quotation about Francis dancing the tango: )

What's it been? About 24 hours? And already there is the following from a Catholic: "One more in the pile of recent Catholic novelties and mediocrities." Nice sand sculpture, though.

A pope who likes to tango!?! A pope who acknowledges that he once had a "real woman" girlfriend!?! Clinical experience tells me that a 76 y.o. man with one lung is already living on borrowed time. First impression tells us that Francesco has an abundance of Spirit and humility. I pray that if Francesco I sticks around long enough he will be able to diminish the influence of the "red satin" crowd in the hierarchy. [I couldn't believe that Thomas Reese, SJ actually made that quip on MSNBC about Bergoglio, that he could never be considered in the "red satin" crowd - does Reese want to be permanently silenced? Talk about loose lips for a Jesuit!] Somewhere the original "troubadour de Dieu" from Assisi is intoning his famous canticle: "Lord, make [Francis] an instrument of your peace ... "

There is no evidence that Francis of Assisi ever penned such a canticle. Although it is thematically similar to the few extant pieces of Francis' own hand, the "Prayer of St. Francis" did not emerge until the 1920s.

Think of this. We talk more about Gay rights, same sex marriage, women priests, divorced Catholics, women's rights than we do the poor. Certainly, many of the above groups are poor. But many of them are not. So if we focus more on the poor and downtrodden as Francis is summoning us to, then we might be able to take care of everyone else. Which according to the anointing of Jesus is central to our communion.

Actually gays, as an income group, are considerably more affluent than heterosexuals. We can't "take care of" women priests because there aren't any. And Christ's Church will never sanction same sex marriage. But the poor we have always with us, and we can all take care of them.

Over at online, I have published my article titled "Pope Francis Is an Astutely Trained Jesuit." I borrowed my characterization of his Jesuit training from the title of a book about Jesuits as astutely trained men. Then I added my two-cents worth to this apt characterization of Jesuit training. The Jesuits have received a windfall of free publicity from the election of the first Jesuit pope.

I hope that with a Latin American pope we'll finally see the canonization of Bishop Romero and those four women missionaries in El Salvador.

I hope the popewill sayNO WAY!Don't make a saintof him who ain't.(Put on hold ALL pending canonizations. Let the money being spent on causes go to the poor. Relieve Catholics of the obligation of venerating the many questionable saints canonized in the last twenty years.)

I wonder if Francis's approach to some of the problems and injustices of rampant capitalism will affect the alliance, apparent in the last US election, of some of the GOP and some of the more vocal members of the American hierarchy. He may not be a liberation theologian, but it sounds doubtful that the unfettered market place, at least as pushed by some of the more vocal members of the GOP, will get a lot of play in the Vatican.

While certainly not the burning issue of the day, I've been wondering: if this new Pope continues to dress more simply than is the norm, will that compel some of our more flamboyant Cardinals to dress down? Is there some kind of unwritten rule that it is gauche for other Churchmen to out-dress the Pope? (Kind of like not looking better than the bride at a wedding?)Even less a burning issue, I wonder what papal name the first woman Pope will someday take? Certainly not Joan; I think the 1st one would probably have to go with Mary.

Thekla, Irene. Surely, Thekla.

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