Rome (AsiaNews) - One year on
from the election of Pope Francis as successor to the Apostle Peter, we are
becoming increasingly aware that he is guiding the Church towards a revolution,
fought not by the sword but by personal witness, without throwing away the past,
but by helping authentic tradition to flourish once again.
This has been evident right
from the outset, that first evening of 13 March, when presenting himself to the world from the loggia of St.
Peter's Basilica he asked us to pray together, and silence immediately
descended on the packed square, which previously had been full of restless
murmurs. Instead of proclaiming programs, he called for silence to listen to
God's program (the one that "always precedes us").
The Bishop of Rome asked for the
prayers of the faithful. Some naive television commentators saw this gesture as
a sign that he would dispose of hierarchical clericalism. Indeed, with his
silent bow, the Pope lowered himself: to show that he is not a monarch, but a
person with a mandate, someone who takes very seriously what one billion
Catholics do every day with the rosary: "We pray an Our Father, Hail Mary,
Glory Be for the intentions of the supreme Pontiff". The most traditional element
was expressed in unison with the single most revolutionary, most ....progressive
The uniting of these two elements, the traditional and the
progressive, appears to be characteristic of Francis. When he speaks of the
poor, the Church of the poor, some see this as a sign of a redemption of the
old liberation theology, the Church that "finally" take sides in
society and fights ... As long as the poor - as we see in Evangelii Gaudium
(EG) - are not deluded or manipulated by messianic politicians, or led astray
by deaf and abstract intellectuals, but first of all nourished with the Word of
God and the Eucharist!
From this point of view, Francis
is the ripest fruit of the Second Vatican Council, and especially of a
"sound" reading of the Council. In these intervening decades - as was
masterfully explained by Benedict XVI - the Church has been divided between a
hermeneutic of rupture and a hermeneutic of continuity. The former read the
Council as a watershed between the past and present-future: the latter read the
development of the life of faith in unity with the past, albeit a past that is
re-read and re-applied to the needs of modern man. In a strange
short-sightedness, the "rupture" was attributed exclusively to
progressive Catholicism, which was finally able to rid itself of the golden
vestments, the tabernacles and Gregorian chant to become the master of its own
liturgies. It willingly forgot the
sacraments in its desire to implement the class struggle; it preferred
orthopraxis to orthodoxy and judged anyone who objected to this as the enemy. However,
what went unnoticed was that a "rupture" is also present in the repetition of stale
tradition, in the affirmation of orthodoxy without any concern for orthopraxis,
in a rigid liturgy that fails to communicate the faith, in pounding on about
laws and precepts from the pulpit, while despising the world and the man that
Christ came to save.
50 years after the Council, Pope
Francis goes beyond these two ruptures, the right wing and the left wing, and
reaffirms the Council and the reading thereof as an exegesis of continuity.
This is why his every action is both traditional and modern; he spends time in
silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and in a moving and loving silence
draws close to the long lines of the ill and sick who each Wednesday fill the
front rows at the general audience, worshipping both the "body" and
the "flesh of Christ."
This overcoming of rupture is
seen in his ability to reconcile his own priesthood and that of all of the
faithful (instead of leaning towards one or the other) in his continuous enhancement
of the role of the laity without diminishing that of priests; living as the
bishop of Rome, enhancing that of the bishops conferences; his evoking universal
charity: towards Syria, Ukraine, Central Africa ... the other Churches and Christian
communities around the world, members of other religions.
All those who place Pope Benedict XVI and Francis in
opposition to one another (another rupture, once again aligned to the right and
the left) should take note how EG liberally and with great precision quotes
from the Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who - in Pope
Francis' own words - is his adviser and friend.
Church and the world
Perhaps the most critical point of the hermeneutic of rupture was the
Church-world relationship. Some saw the Church as a leaven that penetrates the
mass, or the salt that flavors it, but they ended up forgetting what it actually
brought to the world by becoming hangers-on of often anti- Church and
increasingly anti-human policies and ideologies.
Others saw the Church as a citadel unsoiled by the
dust of the villagers and that condemned and launched its arrows from on high,
strengthening the ramparts to protect itself, while the world and the men were
in danger of perishing far below.
From the outset of his pontificate Francis has spoken of the "delightful
and comforting joy of evangelizing" (taking the words of Paul VI ), and
the Church "called out of itself and to move out to the outskirts, not
just the geographical, but also existential outskirts".
In this journey towards the world
- the same as the Son of God - the Church brings the joy of encountering Jesus
Christ. Therefore, the Church does not drown in the world, but gifts itself and
its faith, and must not close itself up in its citadel, or among the remainders
of its flock, condemning the world as irrecoverable. Instead it brings the fertile and healing
presence of Jesus Christ among a wounded humanity. John Paul II had already
said (in Redemptor Hominis, 13 and 14) that "man is the principal path of
the Church" and that "Christ is the path of the Church" showing
that these two paths in the end are one.
However, the world and
those on the fringes of the Church are precisely those unlikely to understand this
Pope's witness, in their tug of war pulling him from the right and from the
left, from above and below, without ever really allowing themselves to be
touched by his vital message .
Alongside those who ask him
to clarify his teaching, speak out in defense of those "values "
that contemporary society wants to rid the world of, there are those who see
him merely as a representative of Latin America, an emblem of how the Church
from the developing world has defeated the wealthy Church of the North
Americans and Europeans; those who studying his commitment or his lack thereof
against the Argentine generals, in an attempted resurrect the past.
There are those who pull him even
further, applauding his "openness" (real or supposed) towards
homosexuals, gay marriage, communion for the divorced, women cardinals, in a
rush toward the future.
But none of these interpretations stop to consider the present: a transparent
man in his faith and the joy of his relationship with Christ, which is why he
does not offer the world a doctrine or an ideology, but an encounter with
The pope, who - in keeping with the tradition of the social doctrine of the
Church - said that an economy can not exist without ethics, is accused of being
a Marxist. At the same time, those who
seem to applaud him as a revolutionary at every unusual gesture, are turning
him into a "cult" icon of mass consumption, without being touched in
the slightest by his invitation.
These lame interpretations of Francis'
pontificate fall under the ax of his judgment, when he warns the Church (and
the world) against becoming "self-referential"; from the narcissism that
is self congratulatory and forgets all else, and against "spiritual
worldliness", the use of sacred things for personal gain. Often these
judgments are applied to the priests who launder money, but never to oneself,
or the defenders of conservative or liberal ideologies, who use the Pope to
justify themselves and to keep the status quo.
If there is a simple way to
define the Francis' revolution, it is in the word "movement": his is
a Church that moves, comes out, willing to travel a beaten path and even to
strip itself bare to render the truth and the sweetness of the Savior available
After all, this is the mission of the Church and of every Christian: this is
why we missionaries feel this Pope to be so close to our style and our concerns.
But even in the world, in Italy and in other continents, especially in Asia -
where Francis will travel soon - this Pope's witness is perceived as that of a
friend capable of drawing close to one's own situation much like "a field
Immersed in the decay of
ideologies (fundamentalist, economic, nationalist, all conjugated with great
egos), only a friend who is the bearer of a new, long-awaited light, can offer