Saturday 30 March 2013

All ready

Monday 25 March 2013

Chilean Priorities

The First Lady of Chile, Señora Piñera, meets our new Holy Father. And while you're here, Holy Father, would you mind………

I've got a parishioner just like this. She brings me bucketloads literally bucketloads of miraculous medals and rosaries for blessing every couple of weeks.

It's wonderful to see a faith-full First Lady.

A reassuring Palm Sunday

Yesterday, being a fourth Sunday of the month, we had our Extraordinary Form Mass in Steyning. Afterwards, outside, there was a little (it was very cold!) discussion about our new Holy Father: we all agreed that we felt very positive about him.

This seems to be the general opinion. On all the important things, we think he will be solid. He does not appear to be a theological tinkerer, or to want to turn the liturgical clock back to 1970, but he does seem to be addressing some other issues that are really important for the faith, not least charity.

I have seen around on the net opinions suggesting that he might sell off some of the Church's worldly treasures. I'm not so sure that disposing of patrimony is a completely good idea, but I wouldn't shed any tears. St Ambrose was very clear that when people are starving even the chalices should be melted down. And it would do a great deal of good for the credibility of our message.

One person yesterday commented that Pope John Paul had taught us to hope, Pope Benedict taught us to think, and perhaps Pope Francis will teach us to love.

Here are a couple of photographs of yesterday's celebration in St Peter's Square. I call them very reassuring.

These pictures are copyright, belonging to Fotografia Felici, so I hope the good Signori won't mind me giving their excellent service a little advertisement by putting screenshots of the pics here. Needless to say, I will remove them if required.

Monday 18 March 2013

Stop the snarking!

Yes, yes, yes, I get it, and I feel it too. He isn't Pope Benedict, and I badly miss the Pope Emeritus. But everyone has strong points and weak points, and surely Pope Francis must be given a chance to contribute his many gifts? I am quite upset at the snarky comments circulating around, especially from those who should know better. Do people think that by undermining the Holy Father, by stirring up bad feeling, they are somehow helping the situation, or are they hoping for a recount of the votes in the conclave? Whatever happens, he will be our principle of unity for the next several years; so let's be unified, and back the man until (highly unlikely) he does something that we cannot back. I hate this backstabbing just in case, finding fault and almost hoping for the man to put a foot wrong just to prove us right.

Remember, grace builds on nature; the Holy Father is a man of his generation; that does not make him a heretic, though it might colour his expressions of the faith. Had I been a Jesuit ordained in 1969, no doubt I would have looked at the Church and the world differently. Things will look very different again to a Holy Father ordained in, say, 2000.

And secondly, I personally would not like to be judged on every ill-considered remark I have made in the course of my life. No doubt I have made lots. Pope Francis needs to be judged on what he does as Pope Francis, not on the things he might or might not have said to his mates in Argentina over a couple of beers, when such comments did not matter so much. That they retell them now says more about them than about the Holy Father.

He seems to be making the New Evangelization his priority. And, looking around me, I can't see a stronger need.

Sunday 17 March 2013

A couple of thoughtful posts on our new Holy Father

H/T Pittsburgh Post
Here on the blog B***foot and (ahem, excuse celibate blushes) P******t.

and, in his inimitable way, Eccles.

and Fr Zee, here.

We really need to get over the idea that all you need to to solve the Church's problems is to swing a thurible or sing an antiphon in Gregorian chant. Or, on the other hand, that if we do good works we have no need or use for orthodoxy or decent liturgy. Good liturgy, solid doctrine and lively, real, charity are all things that go to make up our faith. It is lamentable that some who hold one must needs despise others.

Have a look at the menu for the Holy Father's coming plumbing-in on Tuesday. To my mind it is one of the finest Papal liturgies that has been planned in recent decades. Thanks to Mgr Marini and Pope Benedict, of course, but I have no doubt that Pope Francis would have tinkered with it if he had wanted to. In fact, I think that he has; there are no chant responses for the Preface. If the Holy Father does not sing, it is probably because he cannot, and is someone who knows he cannot. Too many people who can't sing think they can and thus penance the rest of us. And if he struggles with the Latin, that's probably because he has almost never used it. But it doesn't mean that he won't do his best now that he is the supreme pastor of the Universal Church.  I'm sure he will already have a least a reading knowledge of it.

Yes, I'd be happier if he felt as easy as Pope Benedict did in a fanon. But I already like the fact that he talks a lot about Jesus, without whom fanons would be pretty redundant.

In summa: oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco.

Thursday 14 March 2013

And what now?

Pope Pius XI
Well, it's one of those situations when we don't know what the future will hold. When his name was announced last night, there was none of the excitement that was attendant on the naming of Ratzinger, just puzzlement. Who?

Pope Francis
At first glance he reminded me of Pope Pius XI in appearance; shortish, stoutish and with glasses. But we can't judge a book by its cover. What was apparent was that none of the bling laid out in the Room of Tears came out. Not even a rochet, let alone a mozzetta. His pectoral cross was the one he wore as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

And those opening words; 'Buona sera', the equivalent of 'Hello'. Bathos indeed, after all the fuss. And then he just stood there, with barely a wave, looking a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. Time will show whether this was simply sheer fright or part of his calm, unhistrionic, style.

I was rather impressed with his words, if only because they were so artless. This was not a man who had memorised his acceptance speech, like a luvvie at the Oscars. The words came from the heart, and this made up for what he lacked in eloquence. Asking that people pray with and for him was a genuine good idea —meaning both genuine and good. And a good beginning, especially as there was no extempore ramblings, but simply the traditional Our Father and Hail Mary. I would have been happier had these been in Latin, but he was, I think, stressing that he is first and foremost the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, he used no other title.

Back home in Argentina he would appear to be a controversial figure. Many love him for his unfeigned charity, some (especially both the Kirchners) detest him for his firm stand on Catholic teaching. I gather that many of his Jesuit brothers are not keen on him, firstly for the firm way he administered their province when he was in charge, secondly for his refusal to support Liberation Theology, which some of them interpreted as support for an oppressive military dictatorship.

Somebody in the UK is bound to spot soon that he has spoken in favour of Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands—but then he is Argentinian, and perhaps this is to be expected. And perhaps if asked he might say that indeed the Malvinas should be 'returned' to Argentina, but when Patagonia is given back its independence, and the lands taken from Chile and Uruguay returned. For now, I noticed that the BBC last night interpreted his taking of the name Francis as meaning that he was 'an animal lover.' Which tells you all you need to know about the BBC, anyway, but nothing about Pope Francis.

Some on the net have been horrid (really horrid—so horrid and uncharitable that I'm not posting links) about his lack of liturgical style. Yup, I don't imagine we will be seeing the return of the tiara any time soon. He's not a fan of the Extraordinary Form, but he does appear to be a genuine fan of Pope Benedict, so I don't think he'll be reversing any of his liturgical decrees. Just don't expect red shoes or white Paschal mozzettas. Still less a deal with the Society of St Pius X.

As for what everyone seems to think necessary, will he reform the Curia? Reform of the Curia is something that has been a kind of a mantra since the 1960s. The 'Vatileaks' scandal has suggested very powerfully that now something badly needs to be done; it may well have been the event that precipitated the resignation of Pope Benedict. Pope Francis is not a curial insider, but he has served on several Curial commissions as Cardinal and showed himself an able leader of one of the Synods in, I think, 2001. His time as Jesuit Provincial has showed that he is no push-over and, while unquestionably kindly, he is capable of firm, though unshowy, action. If I had to guess, I would say that there will be no heads rolling, but we should expect a gradual clear-out over the next five years or so. Even if what has come to be known as the Sodano party is right in thinking that little needs to be changed, the worldwide perception is that change is essential, and this is important for the credibility of the Holy See and the Church more widely. At the very least there needs to be a proper and transparent mechanism for dealing with the abuse cases around the world. As Tim Stanley wrote, the trouble is that the Curia function much like the Italian Government, and the Italian Government doesn't even work in Italy!

A friend on Facebook alerted me to this article from the Catholic Herald at the time of the last conclave; it is about the then second-placed Cardinal Bergoglio, and tells us more than most other sources.

Quiet thunder in Argentina

This profile of Cardinal Bergoglio first appeared in The Catholic Herald on October 7 2005
By  on Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires (Photo: CNS)
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires (Photo: CNS)
José Mariá Poirier explains why the self-effacing Archbishop of Buenos Aires may well be the next pope
What a surprise: it turns out that the main opponent to the unstoppable Joseph Ratzinger in the April conclave was none other than the severe, shy figure of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The revelation comes in the “secret diary” of one of their colleagues in the Casa Santa Marta – a cardinal’s account of the election published recently in an Italian magazine.
The spotlight the news has placed on Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio – whether or not it is true – will be agony for this notoriously media-shy Jesuit, whose face will have gone even redder with the speculation by vaticanisti that Bergoglio should now be seen as the leading contender to replace Benedict XVI when his time comes: the first Jesuit, and the first Latin American, in Church history to occupy the See of St Peter.
For Bergoglio’s enemies, the revelation will come as no surprise. It only proves, they will say, what we thought all along: that behind all that humility what Bergoglio really cares about is ambition.
But for almost everyone else it does seem remarkable that a relatively obscure South American cardinal should have been an obstacle in the path of the great German theologian and former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The “secret diary” suggests that Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan and the standard-bearer for the progressive cardinals, asked not to be taken into consideration for reasons of age and health. His votes (around 40, according to the diary) went instead to Bergoglio, who was seen as the best hope for those who wanted, for whatever reason, to stop Ratzinger. Although the Bergoglio vote was not enough to stop Ratzinger, it prevented the German sweeping the board in the first two rounds.
Bergoglio as Pope? Perhaps it is not so surprising. There was much talk, in John Paul II’s final years, that his successor should be a Latin American; the feeling was widespread that the continent’s hour was near. Bergoglio would be a safe bet: at 69 he is relatively young, and comes with many virtues: he is austere, doctrinally solid, and with a proven track record in Church governance, as Jesuit provincial, then auxiliary bishop and Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Bergoglio’s star shone in Rome when he replaced Cardinal Edward Egan as relator for the September 2001 synod after the Archbishop of New York had to dash back to his traumatised city. The Argentinian moved easily and with great confidence into the role, leaving a favourable impression as a man open to communion and dialogue.
But there is little else in public view, the modest glimpses of Bergoglio only serving to heighten his enigmatic profile. The newspapers have rightly stressed that he is modest, dressing mostly as a simple priest; that he always travels on the bus or metro rather than by taxi or with a chauffeur; and that he regularly travels to the furthest ends of his three million-strong diocese, preferably to visit the poor.
And then, of course, there is that Trappist silence. His press secretary, a young priest, spends his time interpreting what the Cardinal does not say. The other part of his job is to turn down, on Bergoglio’s behalf, interviews or invitations to write articles. The Archbishop of Buenos Aires has almost no published work, and seems to become less visible with each passing year.
When he does speak, however – in the annual Te Deums preached from the cathedral – it is dramatic. Bergoglio thunders like an Old Testament prophet; the government quakes in its boots.
What is certain is that he is not loved by most of his Jesuit companions. They remember him as their provincial during the violence of the 1970s, when the army came to power amid a breakdown in the political system after the death of General Peron. Apart of the Church in Argentina was involved in the theology of liberation and opposed the military government. Bergoglio was not. “After a war,” he was heard to say, “you have to act firmly.”
He exercised his authority as provincial with an iron fist, calmly demanding strict obedience and clamping down on critical voices. Many Jesuits complained that he considered himself the sole interpreter of St Ignatius of Loyola, and to this day speak of him warily.
The secular clergy of his diocese, however, love their archbishop. As auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires in the 1990s, he managed always to be with his priests, keeping them company through crises and difficulties and showing his great capacity for listening sympathetically (I have heard many stories of Bergoglio spending hours with elderly sick priests.) He also continued to show his option for the poor by encouraging priests to step out into the deep in intellectual and artistic areas: Bergoglio has never hidden a passion for literature.
Ironically, it is the same Bergoglio who, as Jesuit provincial, demanded absolute obedience and political neutrality, as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires wants his priests to be “out on the frontiers”, as he puts 

Cardinal Bergoglio regularly travels to the furthest ends of his three million-strong diocese to visit the poor 

it. He wants them in the neediest barrios, in the hospitals accompanying Aids sufferers, in the popular kitchens for children.
To take one example: when, last year, a number of young people died in a fire in a rock club tragedy, Bergoglio went to their aid in the middle of the night, arriving before the police and fire service, and long before the city authorities. Since the tragedy, one of his auxiliaries has a ministry to the family and friends of the victims, and has not been backward in criticising the government for its response to the tragedy.
Bergoglio is admired as being far from the powers of this world, indifferent to his media image, preoccupied by 

the future of society, and a man looking always for new forms of social solidarity and justice in a country where 15 per cent are unemployed and thousands rummage through the bins at night looking for something to eat.
The media do not punish him for his silence, but speak of him with awe and respect. Many, including agnostic critics of the Church, regard him as the most credible social leader in a country in which, it ought to be said, politicians, union leaders and businessmen are regarded with considerable scepticism.
Where do his political sympathies lie? Certainly not on the Left. Those who know him best would consider him on the moderate Right, close to that strand of popular
Peronism which is hostile to liberal capitalism. In the economic crisis of 2001-2002, when Argentina defaulted on its debt, people came out on to the streets and supermarkets were looted, Bergoglio was quick to denounce the neo-liberal banking system which had left Argentina with an unpayable debt.
The same people who would say he was apolitical would be quick to add that he can move pieces along with the best chess-player. Soon after his appointment to lead his diocese he appointed six new auxiliary bishops, all people well-known to him and loyal. His style of government is discreet, but decisive.
A chemist by training, born to a working family of
Italian origin in a traditional middle-class quarter of Buenos Aires, he was for many years in charge of the formation of young Jesuits.
He is without doubt the strong man of the Argentinian Church, almost certain to be elected president of the bishops’conference at its next meeting.
With his suave manners and gentle voice, Bergoglio is not a theologian or an outstanding intellectual nor a polyglot (although he can cope with foreign languages), but he moves in all milieux securely and ably, especially in Rome.
Whenever I have met him, I have been struck by his astonishing paucity of words – even more remarkable in an Argentinian – and his hieratic gestures, but also by his intelligent gaze, his obvious spirituality, and his constant preoccupation with the poor.
If he were Pope? Everything suggests that his approach would be above all pastoral, which is what a number of the cardinals were looking for in the conclave. He would govern the Curia with a sure hand, as he does his diocese. He would likely take a firm stand with the powerful of this world. But the modern-day media demands on the papacy would be a torture for this most retiring of Church leaders. 

José Mariá Poirier is editor of the Argentinian Catholic magazine Criterio

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Francis—rebuild my Church!

And as we await the name…

The Vatican Website has already updated!
If you watch it via the Vatican website, you won't get all those straplines that the other sites have.


This seagull has a taste for publicity, I think. Of all the chimneys in the world to choose……

Or perhaps he is carrying a secret listening device.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

And so it begins.

Mgr Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, closes the door of the conclave. And now we pray.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

A Question

For my priest brothers...

I have in the last couple of days assisted some souls preparing for eternity, and have given the Apostolic Pardon as usual, besides Viaticum (this being a rarer privilege in these days of sedated death) and Extreme Unction (in these particular cases the term being indisputably appropriate).

Was I correct in giving the Pardon despite the Church being without a Pope?

Friday 1 March 2013

And now we pray

Well, the Church of God moves on, and if yesterday was a sad one, today we pick ourselves up and look to the future. We all know that the new Holy Father will need to be a man of special gifts, and so we must all pray. I commend to you the project of Adopt a Cardinal, which I learnt about via Mulier Fortis. You go to the site, give your name and an email address, and in return you are given the name of one of the eligible cardinals, for whom you undertake to pray until the election. It's not a sweepstake, of course, a question of 'picking the winner', but praying that this man will be inspired now and in the conclave to elect a truly wonderful successor to St Peter and Pope Benedict.

I was allotted Cardinal Lluís Martinez Sistach, the Archbishop of Barcelona (see photo). Until today I have known nothing about him, but I will pray daily for him from now on. And I'm very taken with his funky biretta (which may have more to his doctorate in law than his ecclesiastical eminence).

So do go on over to Adopt a Cardinal and get one for yourself. There are already 143395 adopters, and rising!