03/13/2018, 09.38
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Benedict XVI underscores continuity of Pope Francis’ pontificate

A Letter of the Pope Emeritus on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Francis’ pontificate. The first South American Pope, first Jesuit Pope and first to have wanted the name of the Saint of Assisi. The Pope of the "discarded" and of a God who always tends His hand, a God whose fundamental characteristic is Mercy.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - It is a "foolish prejudice" to say that "Pope Francis is merely a practical man devoid of particular theological or philosophical formation" states Benedict XVI in a letter sent to Italian Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, on the occasion of the presentation of the series 'The Theology of Pope Francis', published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

"The small volumes - adds Benedict XVI - rightly illustrate that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation and therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament".

Benedict XVI’s letter was made public on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the pontificate of Francis, elected Pope on March 13, 2013.

The 265th successor of Peter, the first South American pope, first Jesuit Pope and the first to have chosen the name of the Saint of Assisi, brought a definitely new style: the choice of Lampedusa as the destination of his first trip is emblematic of that attention for the "discarded" that is one of the central points of his message together with the presentation of a God who always tends His hand, a God whose fundamental characteristic is Mercy.

These would seem the tracks of Pope Francis’ papacy to date along with his openness to new paths. His affirmation that the Holy Spirit comes to "upset [our plans]", is significant because "he moves us, makes us walk, pushes the Church to move forward” even though it is much easier and safer "to remain in static and unchanged positions". Another key element of these five years have been the Poe’s  firm opposition to the dictatorship of individualism and ideological colonization.

On an "internal" level, his will to make the Church a "field hospital" and "outgoing" are the most obvious. The catchphrase, "Ah, how I would like a poor Church, for the poor", uttered in the faraway 2013 remain true, when he also constituted a commission on the economic issues of the Holy See.

In these years he published two encyclicals (Lumen fidei, on faith, and Laudato si ', on the care of the common home), two apostolic exhortations (Evangelii gaudium, a programmatic text of the Pontificate for an outgoing Church, strongly missionary, and Amoris laetitia on 'love in the family', 23 Motu proprios (reform of the Roman Curia, economic management and transparency, reform of the marriage nullity process, translation of liturgical texts, with indications for greater decentralization and more powers for episcopal conferences).

He has over 46 million followers on Twitter and over 5 million on Instagram.

He wanted a jubilee, dedicated to Mercy and two synods on the family. He has made 22 international trips and 17 visits to Italy. In this regard, the choice to go to Bangladesh, a poor country, with a small Catholic community, is exemplary. There were the Rohingya, driven from neighboring Myanmar, victims of ethnic and religious persecution. They are part of those refugees for whom Francis asks not only for welcome but for integration, in the name of that humanity to which we all belong and of that Gospel which he has the duty to proclaim.

The desire to reconcile the "distant" explains on one hand his attention towards the Protestant world - culminating with the trip to Sweden for the fifth centenary of Martin Luther - and the Orthodox - managing to also meet the Russian Patriarch Kirill - but also towards people like the divorced and remarried, which has created a heated intra-ecclesial discussion. He encourages a helping hand to those who have fallen and trust in the grace and freedom of people, so that they can - if you help - understand their mistaked and return, finding an open road and not a wall.

Again on an "internal" level, Francis is a promoter of collegiality - just think of the Council of Cardinals instituted "to advise him in the governance of the universal Church" and to study the reform of the Roman Curia - even if he created some organisms - as the secretariats for the economy or information - which have centralized previously divided competences between different structures.

Internationally, he enjoys prestige, although logically not everyone loves him for his opposition to the liberal economic system that "is unjust at its root", "kills", allows the "law of the strongest" to prevail at the expense of the weak. His role in the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba is important, as is the peace process in Colombia and Central Africa. And it probably stopped the war widening in Syria, when the United States wanted to punish Assad for his use of chemical weapons. A Syria for which he affirmed: "There is a judgment of God and of history on our actions that we cannot escape". (FP)

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