"God has scored a goal": this is how many Argentinians are describing the election of Pope Francis I, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires. The reference is to another great Argentine Diego Maradona, who in 1986, at the World Cup, scored a goal with a handball not seen by the referee, a goal that went on to be called "the hand of God."
In a church attacked by the media - often wrongly, sometimes rightly - over sex scandals, financial scandals, marked by divisions and lobbies, a man who is known for his attention to priests, the common people, for travelling the city by bus or metro, cooking dinner for himself and a retired bishop housemate, has emerged as Pope. The first miracle is the speed at which he was elected. Public wisdom, inflated and dramatized by the media, likened the Cardinals to courtiers armed with hidden daggers ready to take out their opponents. But in very few votes they found themselves united, offering to the world a man recognized by all as a witness to the faith.
The choice of the name of Francis reveals a great deal. Never before had any Pope dared to take the name of this great reformer of the Church, often seen in opposition to the pomp and the so-called wealth of the Vatican. Pope Bergoglio chose the name Francis, he is known as a defender of the poor. It is known that the former archbishop of Buenos Aires rejected the Marxist liberation theology. But he never stopped working for the poor and their dignity based on the Christian message. And while the ideologically inspired political theology is breathing its last breath and his charm no longer entrances people, in Latin America and the world the desire for spirituality and dignity, even in the most globalized places, is growing.
Pope Francis will be a reformer of the Curia: not only based on the concepts of technical efficiency or "clean politics", but by simply affirming the Church's mission, which is to proclaim to the world the presence of Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind. Anything that is not needed, or that gets in the way of this mission can be dropped, cast aside like a useless armor. Pope Bergoglio is a witness to a Church that is not in the offices or in the sacristy, waiting for people to distribute sacraments, but is out on the streets of the world, which is close to all people, in what he has termed "ordinary life.
Some have said that the choice of the name derives from Francis Xavier, a Jesuit, and a great patron of the missions of evangelization in Asia. The fact remains that Bergoglio's is a Church in mission, a Church on the move. You can already imagine the excitement and celebrations with which he will be welcomed in July in Rio de Janeiro for the World Youth Day, perhaps the first of his intercontinental journeys. But Pope Bergoglio is not only a Pope to Latin America, although this continent represents 40% of Catholics in the world. In Rio he will meet young people from all over the world. And Buenos Aires, the city where he comes from is -like all megalopolis - a mixture of races, peoples and religions. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he has forged fraternal relations with the Eastern Christian communities, with Muslims, Jews, and Asians.
This ecumenical and interreligious dialogue has the salvation of man at heart, the salvation of his dignity offended by a culture that is rapidly spreading, a culture of materialism and relativism, which rejects the religious dimension and the plan of the Creator for the cosmos. Thus, on the one hand, this pseudo culture enhances the "new rights" like abortion euthanasia, gay marriage, the choice of gender, on the other it is throwing the planet into an environmental crisis, increasing the gap between rich and poor, demanding the dominion of financial and political power without any human controls.
All of these are the global challenges that the Pope, the bishop of Rome, will have to face, in continuity with the testimony of Benedict XVI against the dictatorship of relativism and the lame reason of positivism. They are also challenges that Bergoglio has already addressed in Argentina. But this time the theater is the world and together with Pope Francis there are over one billion Catholics of whom he asked yesterday - to everyone's amazement - a special blessing for his ministry. And there are all the people disappointed by consumerism and materialism, who desire nothing else than to base the beauty of their lives and that of creation, in God.