Monday, March 18, 2013

Pope Francis' address to media: March 16, 2013

Anyone who's paid a minute's attention to the news following the election of Pope Francis knows that he is very much a different kind of pope.  At first glance, he seems to be a simple, reserved man who prefers the "low church" rather than the pomp and circumstance for which the Church is known.  Time will tell how accurate an analysis that is, and how far he goes to implement that vision.

Although we are seeing him behave very differently than a Papa Burke would have been, don't hold your breath expecting him to support gay marriage, abortion, or other pet issues of the left.  It's not going to happen.

Below is a transcript of his address to the media on March 16, 2013.  Francis is mindful that he is addressing many who are unchurched or unbelievers.  His words are carefully crafted to that audience.

I have bolded comments I wish to emphasize, and my comments are in red.

Address of the Holy Father
To Representatives of the Communications Media
Saturday, 16 March 2013
By Pope Francis
Dear Friends,
At the beginning of my ministry in the See of Peter, I am pleased to meet all of you who have worked here in Rome throughout this intense period which began with the unexpected announcement made by my venerable Predecessor Benedict XVI on 11 February last. To each of you I offer a cordial greeting.
The role of the mass media has expanded immensely in these years, so much so that they are an essential means of informing the world about the events of contemporary history.
I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days – you really worked, didn’t you? – when the eyes of the whole world, and not just those of Catholics, were turned to the Eternal City and particularly to this place which has as its heart the tomb of Saint Peter. [What an elaborate way to refer to Rome.  He is reminding the reporters of the sacredness of the city.] Over the past few weeks, you have had to provide information about the Holy See and about the Church, her rituals and traditions, her faith and above all the role of the Pope and his ministry. [The reporters, unwittingly, have been engaged in some form of evangelism.]
I am particularly grateful to those who viewed and presented these events of the Church’s history in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith. [compared to those who have an agenda against the Church] Historical events almost always demand a nuanced interpretation which at times can also take into account the dimension of faith. Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events!
But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the “worldly” categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public. [And everyone wants to pigeon-hole the Church into their categories.]
The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails,[I can hear the traditionalists screaming and rending their garments.  Don't mistake what he is saying here.  The Church is human, but it is not merely human.] yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ [the Church is divine, as well]. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church’s life and activity.
Christ is the Church’s Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. 
Yet Christ remains the centre, not the Successor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre. [This is important considering the audience.  In a sceptical world, the Church is wrongly accused of putting the focus on herself rather than Christ.  I fear that this statement might be misinterpreted by liberals and traditionalists that he's signalling he would like to abolish the papacy.  That neither will nor can happen.  Rather, he is reminding us (as he explains below) that the Church means nothing without Christ.  Recall the words of St. John the Baptist (Jn. 3:30), "He must increase, but I must decrease."]
Christ is the fundamental point of reference, the heart of the Church. Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist. 
As Benedict XVI frequently reminded us, Christ is present in Church and guides her. In everything that has occurred, the principal agent has been, in the final analysis, the Holy Spirit. [Despite changes, he's indicating continuity with Benedict.]
He prompted the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church; he guided the Cardinals in prayer and in the election.
It is important, dear friends, to take into due account this way of looking at things, this hermeneutic, in order to bring into proper focus what really happened in these days.
All of this leads me to thank you once more for your work in these particularly demanding days, but also to ask you to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her. Be assured that the Church, for her part, highly esteems your important work. At your disposal you have the means to hear and to give voice to people’s expectations and demands, and to provide for an analysis and interpretation of current events. Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful. 
This is something which we have in common, since the Church exists to communicate precisely this: Truth, Goodness and Beauty “in person.” It should be apparent that all of us are called not to communicate ourselves, but this existential triad made up of truth, beauty and goodness.
Some people wanted to know why the Bishop of Rome wished to be called Francis. Some thought of Francis Xavier, Francis De Sales, and also Francis of Assisi. I will tell you the story.
During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend!  When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me.  
And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected.  
And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don't forget the poor!” 
And those words came to me: the poor, the poor.  
Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.  
Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi.  
For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?  He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!
Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement.” “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes.  
I love all of you very much, I thank you for everything you have done. I pray that your work will always be serene and fruitful, and that you will come to know ever better the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rich reality of the Church’s life. I commend you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, [I think every action he's taking is for the cause of evangelization to the world. St. Francis is (wrongly) quoted as saying, "Preach always; use words when necessary."  The maxim that we should preach with our action as well as our words is a good one, even if St. Francis never said it.  Pope Francis, it is clear, is doing both.] and with cordial good wishes for you and your families, each of your families. I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you.
(In Spanish)
I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing.  Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!

Robert Moynihan reflects on the "silent blessing."

And then Francis did something which surprised everyone, pleased many, and shocked a few.
The moment had come for him to impart to all of us his Apostolic Blessing, but he did not do this in the usual way.
In fact, he made no exterior gesture at all. He did not lift his hand, he did not move it in the form of a blessing, and he did not speak "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" out loud.
He said, in Italian: "I cordially impart to all of you my blessing. Thank you." And then, in Spanish, he explained as follows: "I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!"
And with that, he turned and left.
One of my colleagues turned to me and said, "Where was the papal blessing?"
"He gave it silently," I said. "He blessed us silently, without presupposing anything. He was trying to be respectful of individual consciences. This is not a purely religious gathering."
"But it still seems like something is missing," my friend said. "No blessing!"
"But there was a blessing," I said. "We just could not see it. It is like what Ratzinger used to say, that in heaven, in the presence of God, there will no longer be any external rites or rituals to signify our worship, all those things will pass away, because the perfect will have come..."
"But are we already in heaven?" my friend replied.
"No," I said. "But can't we believe we are on the way?"
But my friend still was not satisfied. "I would have liked to have received a blessing from him," he said.
"You did," I said.
There will be more time in the future to reflect more deeply on these questions, which of course also have a relation to the liturgy. For the moment, it is enough to say that Pope Francis, also in this matter of giving a silent, not a public blessing to the journalists, did something without recent precedent, which is providing all of us with cause for meditation and inward conversion.
And that is what should be our thought at this time, just as Cardinal Hummes told Pope Francis as the vote total rose: "never forget the poor." We should never forget our own need for conversion. We should be converted to Christ. We are ever in need of deeper conversion.
This is what Pope Francis is calling us to, if we can but hear him...

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