Category: Vatican

On the popular Italian news portal Ilsussidiario.net, Rev. Robert A. Sirico is interviewed about the social and political views of Pope Francis. To a question about Francis’ rejection of liberation theology, even as many of his fellow Jesuits embraced it, the Acton Institute president and co-founder replied that “it was a very brave thing that Pope Francis did at that time in Argentina, and all the more difficult because he had to confront his brother Jesuits who were attempting to politicize the Gospel and service to the poor.”

Read the complete interview “The option for the poor is not necessarily an option for the state” translated into English on Ilsussidiario.net

Metropolitan Siluan (Muci) of Buenos Aires, an Orthodox Christian hierarch, was the representative of the Patriarchate of Antioch at the inaugural mass for Pope Francis this week. Notes on Arab Orthodoxy has a personal reflection on the new pope from Met. Siluan (and links to the Spanish-language originals). The Orthodox bishop offers insights about the qualities of this “very easygoing” new pope from informal meetings and dinners he took part in. Met. Siluan:

At the table where the cardinals from Cuba, Ecuador, Santo Domingo, etc. were gathered, I wanted to know the opinions that they had of the pope. So each one of them agreed to answer the question: What are the qualities of Pope Francis?

I will share below some of the answers that I received. Some of it I already shared with [Argentine news station] C5N, who asked me to share some of what I experienced here.

One emphasized the fact that the pope is an organizer, who knows where and how to get something done, a man of great simplicity and mercy.

Another emphasized that the pope is a man who understands his surroundings well, who is generous, a man of words who knows how to speak without offending.

A third said that he is a humble man, who is transparent, honest, who knows things in Latin America who will know how to tell those who correspond from each of those countries what he will have to do. (more…)

Michael Severance, operations manager of the Istituto Acton in Rome, recently wrote an article for the World Catholic Report explaining why Pope Francis was a historic choice and examining  what we can expect from his papacy.

He points out that “this past week proved a historic week of firsts:”

We now have the first Jesuit pope. And the first pope named Francis. He is the first non-European pope since Gregory III, an eighth-century Syrian. And we now have the very first pope from the Americas.

We have also witnessed a pope who is shunning what some critics perceive as Vatican tinsel and niceties during these economic hard times.

Francis has refused to ride in the pope’s private car (preferring the shuttle bus) or to wear red shoes and a fur-lined cape, or mozzetta, opting for ordinary black shoes and a white cassock.

This is the first time in a very long while that we have listened to a pope who readily quips in public and frequently includes off-script interjections to prepared remarks—at his first Mass with his brother cardinals, then a second time during his first press conference with journalists on Saturday, then a third time during his Sunday sermon at the Vatican parish of St. Anne, and again only a few hours later at his noontime Angelus, when he preached from his apartment above St. Peter’s Square. Not even John Paul II was at such ease with humor and his own words so early on in his pontificate.

Since Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was somewhat unknown before he was elected Pope, Severance has compiled a brief profile of Pope Francis, focusing the pope as a pastor, thinker, and advocate for the poor. (more…)

Rev. Robert A. Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, spoke from Rome with WJR’s Warren Pierce on Sunday morning about the new pontificate of Pope Francis. Sirico takes some time to discuss the character and style of Francis, and notes the following:

This pontificate offers a real deep potential corrective to the misunderstanding of social justice… He has emphasized the poor but he has also been a fierce opponent of liberation theology. So what he’s introducing is a different way of thinking about service to the poor.

Listen to the full interview here:

Billy Graham meets John Paul II in 1981.

Billy Graham meets John Paul II in 1981.

Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary makes some salient points about why Protestants should pay any attention at all to the doings in Vatican City (HT: Justin Taylor):

Some may wonder what the point of reflecting on Rome is for a Protestant. At least threefold, I would respond. First, Protestants benefit from a conservative papacy: on public square issues such as abortion, marriage and religious freedom, the RCC has a higher profile and more power – financial, legal, institutional – than any Protestant group. We all benefit from the cultural and legal power of the RCC in these areas. Second, your neighbours probably do not distinguish between Christian groups. A sleazy, morally corrupt RCC is like a sleazy, morally corrupt televangelist ministry: we are all marked with the same brush in the public eye and our task of evangelism becomes that much harder. Third, RC authors often offer more penetrating insights into secular culture than their evangelical equivalents. Comparing George Weigel to Rob Bell in such circumstances is akin to comparing Michelangelo to Thomas Kinkade.

Therefore, while I have very serious theological disagreements with Catholic authors, I would suggest that they by and large offer well-argued, well-written and insightful commentaries on the state of the world in a way that is rare in evangelical circles. One can learn a lot from watching a great mind wrestle with a problem, even when one deems the conclusion erroneous; there seems little to be gained from watching a mediocre mind playing ping-pong with the same.

Trueman goes on to discuss the example of George Weigel in more detail. Read the whole thing.

For more on Protestantism and contemporary politics, I reviewed Trueman’s Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative in the Summer/Fall 2010 issue of Religion & Liberty, “On the Place of Profits and Politics.”

Will Pope Francis promote a leftist view of economics? Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey asked that question of Kishore Jayalaban, Director of Acton’s Rome office. Jayalaban says the impression that Francis will push economic arguments to the left is a misunderstanding of both Catholic economic thought and the economic situation in Argentina—where capitalism is much more rife with cronyism and corporatism than in the US.

Read more about this story HotAir.com.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Surprise was the reaction in Rome on hearing of the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, to the Papacy. My colleagues in Rome told me that the Plaza was unusually quiet as the people tried to figure out what was going on.  I guess the Cardinals showed that they elect the pope on their own terms, and now everyone is wondering who Pope Francis is, how he will lead, and what will characterize his pontificate.

Intra and Extra: Challenges for the Pope in the Church and the World

The Pope’s main role is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his first homily as Holy Father he asserted just this. “We can walk as much as we want,” he said  “we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a compassionate NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.”  He also has a Church to govern—and he’ll face serious challenges on both fronts.  On the inside, the Church continues to reel from scandals and abuse. The curia needs to be reformed and the bureaucracy cleaned up. On the outside, Pope Francis faces a growing and hostile secularism, religious persecution from a number of fronts, dwindling number of believers in traditionally Catholic lands, including Latin America, and increasing ignorance of the basic tenets of Christianity. But there are also some real positives. The Church continues to grow in the Global South—especially in Africa and Asia. Belief is still high in Latin America, though many Catholics are leaving for the Pentecostals or evangelicals. Among U.S. Catholics, Hispanics are now the majority.  And while the Church in the West may be getting smaller, it is also more vibrant and serious. Younger Catholics are orthodox and evangelical, and dissenters like Hans Kung are aging and less influential each day. Pope Francis also has the advantage of following Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI, whose interpretation of Vatican II and whose intellectual and spiritual guidance set out a framework for the New Evangelization.

Francis brings several important things to his papacy. The most obvious are that he is a Latin American, and not a member of the Roman Curia. The Curia needs reform, and being an outsider with experience of diocesan dysfunction will serve him well. Further, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he not only dealt with extreme poverty, corruption, lack of rule of law, and social and economic volatility that is common in the developing world, he also has had to contend with virulent and aggressive secularism that is common in the West.  He has been a fearless defender of human life and family, has called abortion the “death penalty for the unborn,” and has been unafraid to clash with political leaders over corruption, reminding them that social corruption is rooted in personal sin.

He also brings a long record of engagement with the poorest of the poor. (more…)

In this week’s Acton Commentary, “A Passion for Government Leads to Neglect of Our Neighbor,” I examine how the disconnect between desires and deeds with reference to helping the needy among us perpetuates unbalanced budgets and spending on debt to the detriment of future generations. I highlight how St. John the Baptist came to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children” (Luke 1:17) by exhorting people to look to their neighbors and the small but practical ways they can serve them in love:

During his ministry, John’s message to everyday people, according to Luke, was remarkably simple: “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” To the tax collector, he warns not to take more than is due, and to the soldier his counsel is “be content with your wages” (cf. Luke 3:10-14). This was “the way of the Lord”?

I conclude by recommending the same for us today. The problem is not that people do not care, it is that we have forgotten with whom responsibility for the work of caring for the needy among us lies first of all. (more…)

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

At National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg talks about the “profound illustration of the limits of applying secular political categories to something like the Catholic Church.” He goes on to discuss the “particular concerns” that Pope Francis has regarding economic issues, including materialism and consumerism, and the poor, all reflected through his life of asceticism. Gregg then places these reflections in the context of modern day Argentina. More:

Over the centuries … Catholics have actually disagreed among themselves about how best to help the needy. Indeed, the Church teaches that (1) these issues fall largely into the area of what it calls prudential judgment and (2) it is primarily the responsibility of lay Catholics. No Catholic can be a Communist. Nor can they be an anarcho-capitalist. But there is a lot of room between these extremes.

And how Catholics cash out that “in-between” is heavily influenced by the circumstances in which they find themselves. And in Pope Francis’s case, it’s the conditions of the economic basket-case otherwise known as modern Argentina.

Argentina is a once-prosperous nation that experienced a rapid spiral into seemingly perpetual economic dysfunction throughout the 20th century. Over and over again, Argentina has been brought to its knees by the populist politics of Peronism, which dominates Argentina’s Right and Left. “Kirchnerism,” as peddled by Argentina’s present and immediate past president, is simply the latest version of that.

In concrete terms, this pathology translates into big government, high taxes, hostility to business and foreign investment, heavy debt, and a level of corruption that defies imagination. That adds up to a strange mixture of unsophisticated Keynesianism and naked crony capitalism. And it doesn’t benefit the poor. It benefits the powerful and well-connected. In Argentina, you don’t get ahead through being economically entrepreneurial; you get ahead through political power and as many privileges from the state as you can.

This is the disaster that Pope Francis’s limited commentary on economic matters has sought to address since he became Argentina’s leading churchman in 1998.

Read “Pope Francis: A Man of the Left?” by Samuel Gregg on NRO.

Yesterday, Cardinals choose Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina to be the new pope.  A The Detroit News editorial points out that  “[t]hirty-nine percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America, making this pope a fitting choice for many Catholics.”

Countries with the largest number of Catholics include Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines and U.S. One hundred years ago, that landscape was shifted toward Europe, with France and Italy housing the greatest number.

The Detroit News asked Acton Research Fellow Michael Miller to comment on Bergoglio’s selection:

the choice of Bergoglio came as a surprise to many. But [Miller is] confident the new pope will offer continuity by preserving the strong intellectual tradition carried by Benedict XVI and John Paul II while upholding personal holiness.

Plus, Miller believes Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis is symbolic of the kind of leader he’ll be. The name could refer to several Catholic saints, including Francis Xavier and Francis of Assisi. Between these saints, they advocated church reform, deep concern for the poor and evangelization. Bergoglio’s own background revolves around social justice and working with the marginalized.

The church needs a leader who can wear many hats, from bringing people to the faith to cleaning up problems both inside and outside the Vatican. Bergoglio has accepted the role with humility and seems ready to begin.