News on the advance of God's Kingdom today
# 852 | 03/15/2013

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"The name of Jesus is the center of our lives, the backbone. Let us not privatize the name of Jesus for ourselves." (Pope Francis)

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Vatican City: Why Francis is a surprising pope

It came as a surprise to most people, even to the seasoned Vatican watchers: Jorge Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. In unadorned white robes, the first pope from the Americas set a tone of simplicity and pastoral humility in a church desperate to move past the tarnished era of abuse scandals and internal Vatican upheavals. His appointment is also a reminder of how the center of Christianity has shifted from the global North and West to the South and East.

The 76-year-old Bergoglio seems determined to offer a message of renewal to the church. In taking the name Francis, he drew connections to the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi, who abandoned wealth and prestige and saw his calling as trying to rebuild the church. It also evokes images of Francis Xavier, one of the 16th century founders of the Jesuit order that is known for its scholarship and outreach.
The new pope is known as a humble man who denied himself the luxurious residence that previous Buenos Aires cardinals enjoyed. He lived in a small flat, often rode the bus to work, cooked his own meals and regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina's capital. On more than one occasion he washed and kissed the feet of Aids patients and drug addicts. He told Argentinians not to travel to Rome to celebrate if he was appointed, but to give their money to the poor instead. He considers social outreach, rather than doctrinal battles, to be the essential business of the church. 

"Jesus teaches us another way: Go out and share. Become the Word in body as well as spirit."

He confronted fellow church leaders for forgetting that Jesus Christ touched lepers and ate with prostitutes. "Jesus teaches us another way: Go out and share your testimony. Interact with your brothers. Become the Word in body as well as spirit," Bergoglio told Argentina's priests last year. "In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!"
Another anecdote about the new pope comes from Matteo Calisi, president of the Community of Jesus and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. This renewal movement in the Roman Catholic Church connects 150 million believers worldwide. In 2005 he attended a combined Protestant-Catholic leaders conference in Buenos Aires. In the previous 20 years millions of Catholics had joined the blooming Evangelical-Charismatic movement in Argentina, which obviously caused some tensions. But here the leaders were reconciling and washing each other's feet. One of the highlights for Calisi was the invitation to pray for cardinal Bergoglio, together with Baptist leaders, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Cardinal Bergoglio, who was also a featured speaker at the conference, called on the gathered Christians to not 'privatize' the Gospel and by doing that likely compromise the name of Jesus, but to share His name freely. "The name of Jesus is the center of our lives, the backbone. Let us not privatize the name of Jesus for ourselves. If I do not share it, it is because I have not understood it. We received it without paying, we must give without pay."

"Don't call me Eminence or Excellency. Simply Brother is better."

Tony Palmer, an Anglican priest who currently leads a retreat centre in Italy, was also in this meeting in Buenos Aires. He reported: "Here I am in Argentina in a meeting with Cardinal Giorgio Bergoglio, who made it very clear to us during the meeting that we were not to refer to him by 'Eminence' or 'Excellency' as these titles are not found in the Bible and that simply 'Brother' would be better. He was very excited to see that we were looking to reconcile and minister together. The day after this meeting we all celebrated in his cathedral together."
Many hope that the new pope will call for a Third Vatican Council and start a much needed reform in the Roman Catholic Church. It’s too early days to speculate about this, but likely ‘brother Jorge’ could use the prayer support from non-Catholics as well.
How about the Franciscan Prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Source: Joel News International

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