The spiritual teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola calls for all of humanity to use individual gifts and talents “for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity.” Each person has his or her own intrinsic style of living, leading and loving. In this same vein, each pope has a unique style of leading the Catholic faithful.
Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus Christ to guide His Church on Earth, as stated in the Gospel of John. Thus, when the cardinals are sealed in the Sistine Chapel, it is the Holy Spirit who guides them to elect the next Vicar of Christ. The influence of the Spirit allows each conclave to elect the man whose talents and style will best lead the Church.
Jorge Bergoglio is the man the Church needs today to lead, just as in 2005, Joseph Ratzinger was the man the Church needed and in 1978, Karol Wojtyla. In terms of doctrine and teaching, John Paul II lived and Benedict XVI championed what then-Cardinal Ratzinger called the “hermeneutic of continuity,” which means that the Church’s interpretation of the Revelation of Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. This continuity is essential to understanding the Church’s teaching on any given issue that respects the truth of Magisterial teachings. There is no evidence that Pope Francis I will not continue this hermeneutic during his papacy.
The differences between Benedict and Francis will be stylistic, not substantive, just as the differences between John Paul II and Benedict were of personality, not of doctrinal interpretation. There is no doubt that John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis are different leaders of the Church, but their leadership qualities are equally beautiful examples of how to live the Gospel and bear witness to Christ.
Francis’ simplicity and humility will allow the Church to return to its fundamentals. In his inaugural homily, Francis asked the world not to be afraid of “goodness” and “tenderness” and to allow the unconditional love of Christ to fill their hearts. Pope Francis calls all Catholics and the world to leave all behind and to follow Christ.
Christianity is about the joy that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis show us this joy in their own light. What may seem to be grand changes to tradition with the shedding of minor vestments and customs are not fundamental alterations to the faith. Francis wants to evangelize a culture that is distracted from this joy and his actions have captured the attention of people who otherwise may have continued being distracted. He is turning each of us back to Christ. Christ alone infuses this joy in us and if Francis’ actions show us this, we pray that he continues.
However, we must not overlook the other aspects of his character and teaching style that Francis is showing us in these early days of his pontificate. For those who may think that Francis is ushering in a new era of change, recall what he said in a homily on April 6.
“The faith isn’t negotiable.”
“There has been, throughout [the] history of the people, this temptation: to chop a piece off [of] the faith,” the temptation to be a bit “like everyone else,” the temptation “not to be so very rigid.”
“But when we start to cut down the faith, to negotiate faith, a little like selling it to the highest bidder, we take the path of apostasy, of disloyalty to the Lord.”
Francis also made several comments on the reality of the devil or the “Evil One” as he recently tweeted. These comments reveal a man who has a deep awareness and respect of Church teaching and the spiritual life.
So what do we take from all of this? Francis is a humble servant chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead the Church of Christ in a time of great need and evangelization. He is facing many challenges from both within and outside of the Church. He will bring a simplicity and humility to the Vatican, which will inspire reform, clean house and bring people back to the message and joy of knowing Christ. Most importantly, he will continue the hermeneutic of continuity — a continuity that has been present over the last 2,000 years. Together let us pray for Pope Francis, that he may lead us all to Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life.
CHRISTOPHER CANNATARO and LOUIS CONA are sophomores in the McDonough School of Business and the College, respectively.