Ten years into the pontificate of Pope Francis, anecdotes and experiences that different people had with him, and analyses about his theology, his pastoral style, and his magisterium are emerging.
We transcribe here the thoughts then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio shared with the Schoenstatt Fathers in Buenos Aires two days before his departure to Rome. The meeting was recounted in a video by Fr. Angel Strada, postulator of the cause of canonization of Fr. Joseph Kentenich from 1997 to 2017, and author of several books and countless expositions on the founder of the movement.
“Travel healthy to Rome, and you will be elected pope”
When the Schoenstatt Fathers of Argentina and Paraguay were meeting with Cardinal Bergoglio, one of them told him: “Monsignor, travel to Rome healthy, and you are elected pope.” Strada affirms that:
Bergoglio reacted with laughter and told the father, “you don’t know what you are saying, they are going to elect a pope, a younger cardinal. Besides, I have planned a tactic so that they don’t elect me. I am going to enter the Conclave hall hunched over with a cane. The other cardinals are going to say, we won’t give this old man a vote. I have already offered my resignation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, I have a room reserved for me in a nursing home. I am going to dedicate the last years of my life to confess priests, to preach retreats to the nuns, those are going to be my last years, but I am coming back.
The profile of the next pope
Fr. Strada adds that they asked him what the profile of the next pope should be. Bergoglio replied:
First, he has to be a man of prayer, a man united to God.
Second, he has to be totally convinced that the owner of the Church is not the pope, but Jesus Christ, and he has to repeat it day and night, ‘the owner of the Church is Jesus Christ, not the pope.’
Thirdly, he has to be a bishop who seeks unity, a simple bishop, close to the people, tender. Someone who is very willing to serve.
And fourthly, he has to have the courage to get rid of the filth that has gathered in the Vatican.
Strada affirms that, “it is necessary to support him [Pope Francis], many people or certain conservative sectors of the Church criticize him in a very bad way, with which they do not do any valid service to the Church. Service is a posture of filial following and of believing that Jesus Christ remains always present and active in his Church.”
In the video about the meeting, Fr. Strada refers to the manuscript that the Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega y Alamino, requested from Cardinal Bergoglio, in which Bergoglio, before his election in 2013, exposed four points that, in his opinion, should be essential for the next pope. Ortega asked Bergoglio for authorization to use the document, and Strada says that he replied: “do whatever you want with the paper.”
Although the four points that Cardinal Bergoglio shared with the Schoenstatt Fathers are not exactly the same as those contained in the aforementioned manuscript, the spirit is the same. It refers to coming out of self-referentiality as a Church, reaching out to the peripheries with an attitude of service, and putting Jesus and the encounter with him at the center.
Elected by a significant majority
Pope Francis is the only one authorized to reveal what happened in the conclave, and in a recent interview granted to Latin American news outlet Infobae, he relates in a relaxed way that when the minimum votes to be named pope had been reached, more and more votes with his name kept “arriving.”
Election of Francis: All the signs of the action of the Holy Spirit
Three points should be noted:
First, those who voted for Cardinal Bergoglio to be the next pope were all appointed cardinals by his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Secondly, it is important to mention that Bergoglio had expressed to them with total clarity what he expected from the pontiff to be elected, and furthermore, that the Cardinal of Havana had published the manuscript where he explained this. The voting cardinals knew what Bergoglio’s program would be if elected pope.
And finally, he was elected by a majority that far exceeded the required two-thirds. If we add to this the essential and key point, that the cardinals are especially assisted by the Holy Spirit in such a decisive moment for the Church as is the election of a pope, we can safely conclude that his pontificate is and will be deeply blessed, on the one hand, because of the direct divine assistance at this moment, and secondly, because the human conditions were given so that his election would be the fruit of a profound consensus in a transparent and synodal process.
Resistance and return to the essence of Christianity
What valid argument can those who confront Pope Francis, resisting his prophetic spirit, sustain? As it happened with all popes, anchored in the past, they are unable to understand that the wheel of history moves forward, and that the Christian is morally obliged to respond to the challenges of the present time, with all its intrigues, contradictions, geniuses and current problems, not those of past centuries. But above all, they are unable to understand that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, where magnanimity and humility must reign.
But ironically, Francis’s charism (“program”) is 100% aimed at rescuing the values of Jesus of Nazareth, of two millennia ago: the most humble man in the world, the simplest, the most loving, the most welcoming, the most generous. Pope Francis wants to bring the Church into a profound relationship with Jesus, which translates into a family of brothers and sisters and a radical commitment to love people. Valuing and protecting the tradition and doctrine of the Church, as God wants: not with the blind compliance of norms, laws and forms, but filled with a spirit that renews the hearts, for their constant conversion in the Lord.
For some it is too much. They resist leaving their mental comfort zone. They do not want to give up achievements of empty conquests. They are not capable of discovering the prophet, because they cannot detach themselves from the text of the law, which has trapped them, and they condemn the one who brings them a Messiah, devoid of luxuries and obsessions. The only Messiah.
Today, more than ever, Jesus invites us to follow in his footsteps, which are none other than those of his faithful servant Francis.
Image Credit: Enrique Soros
Enrique Soros, originally from Argentina, has lived for 25 years in Washington, DC, USA, with his wife Erica, with whom he has a son, Martín. He is a social communicator, writer, and public translator. He is a pastoral and communications specialist in the United States, where he is vice-president of the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), whose mission is the promotion and integration of the Hispanic pastoral forces in the country. He participates in pastoral and communication projects in Latin America and since 2012 collaborates with CELAM (the Latin American Episcopal Council) in pastoral integration efforts between that institution and the Church in the United States.