FROM day one of his assumption to the Petrine ministry, the world would see an emerging ecclesiology in Pope Francis—or at least how the Catholic Church was going to face the world that had been so critical of a battery of problems ranging wide from clergy abuses to the fiscal management in the Vatican. The new pope’s lifestyle of simplicity and real-life witness in poverty immediately and spontaneously enamored the world, even among non-Christians.
Stories of him paying his own bills, staying at the dorm instead of the apostolic palace, using a second hand car instead of the pope’s limousine, carrying his own bag as he goes up the plane, making and answering his own phone calls, reaching out to the marginalized, the sinful and the disfigured are some of Francis’ routines that captivated people including netizens in social media, even as they followed his twits and daily homilies at the small chapel of Domus Santae Marthae.
Obviously, the mind of Pope Francis is loud and clear in his two formal documents: his encyclical Luman Fidei of June 2013 and his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of November 2013. But, curiously enough, his thoughts were louder and clearer for most people in homilies that were uploaded on real time, his messages, weekly audiences and in his frequent media interviews. His interview with the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, SJ, had become viral more than his formal pastoral statements, which was principally because of his candid, crisp and sharp answers to various issues—even personal ones.
When he was asked in this interview who Jorge Mario Bergoglio was, his curt and honest answers was: “I do not know what might be the most fitting description… I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
When asked about what the church needs today, he answers: “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal the wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after a battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…And you have to start from the ground up.”
He continues: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issue all the time…The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
It is not farfetched to explore that the “new springtime of Christian life” that Pope Pope John Paul II prophetically said in his apostolic letter “Tertio Millennio Adveniente” may not be too far around after the first year of Pope Francis.