We now have a Pope. Habemus Papam, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. White Smoke signaled that the solution of Sede vacante (an unoccupied Chair of Peter) has now, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, been realized.
We have a Pope, Pope Francis, and evidently an exemplary, quite remarkable, one. And we enthusiastically offer him our reverence and our obedience in faith. He obviously has to face herculean challenges outside and within the Church. Outside, and most alarming, of course, is the hideous spectre of secularism, which is aggressively hostile to authentic religion – to God himself. Its primary goal right now, it seems, is to obliterate even the memory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God Incarnate and everything that belongs to Christ and our Church. Radical elements of Islam are hard at work, too, and Christians in various parts of the world are even now suffering horribly for their faith.
Secularism has also given rise to relativism in doctrine and ethics; even here, in America, we are ridiculed or attacked for our Biblical and rational views on moral issues such as abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, homosexual behavior, sterilization and the adoption of children by couples in homosexual unions. Unfortunately, these immoral practices have also penetrated within the body of Christianity, and some have affected those who claim to serve the Church.
Indeed, Pope Francis is already being assaulted for his adamant defense of Biblical morality on issues such as these – and more, including the entire bioethical sphere. Reporters for the secular media, instead of being required to try to understand why the Scriptures as read within the Church must constitute the norm for Christian living, deliberately seek out dissenters from the Bible who demand (they say) change on every issue.
Change? Christ did not instruct his disciples to go out and conform to the world’s standards; it was the other way around, completely. Christians are tasked with changing the world according to Biblical standards. And Biblical standards are sacred, universal, absolute and perennial.
Besides, the Church can only preach what the Church reads in Holy Scripture and in reason illumined by the Bible. The Holy Father, whoever he may be, has no alternative but to embrace these standards. Indeed, the Holy Father was given to the Church by Christ to be the visible sign of union with Christ; an ancient axiom reads, Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia. Where Peter is, there is the Church.
One key aspect of the Church that will never change or fall to compromise, is that it is redemptive. It was instituted as a means to salvation, not condemnation. Jesus came to save us; not to condemn us.
The Petrine Ministry, for which "Father Jorge" (as he was known in Argentina) has now been chosen through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, lends vision, courage and perseverance to Christians almost overcome by the darkness of the times. From Peter’s Chair we are constantly reminded of Jesus’ words to Peter and the Eleven at the Last Supper: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." (Lk 22:32)
Yet there is another dimension of the Petrine Ministry which our new Holy Father exemplifies so well, in the line of Roman Pontiffs; it is a dimension described by St. Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Church of Rome (c. 110 A.D.), the Letter that stresses "the primacy of love." Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who immediately preceded our new Pope as Successor of Peter, explained once in a homily that primacy in faith, such as Peter’s, must also be primacy in love. "A faith without love," he said, "would no longer be the faith of Jesus Christ." As Peter and the Church are the guarantors of loyalty to Sacred Scripture, so Peter and the Church must remain as guarantors of the faith, which, in its authentic form, necessarily leads to love.
This love was dramatically evident in the countenance of Good Pope John, Blessed John XXIII, so much so that unprecedented crowds were drawn to his Papal embrace. The world immediately saw the same in the eyes and smile of Pope John Paul II – millions at a time, several times. And we are all seeing the same again in the magnificent simplicity and self-effacing humility of Pope Francis.
Ad multos annos
! May Pope Francis shepherd the world ahead toward the living Lord, Jesus.
Bienvenido al Papa de los Pobres!
Y que sea nuestro Padre Santo por mucho años!