June 12, 2013
My friends can tell you that I have a bad habit. Actually, more than one, but only this one is relevant at the moment. When going through my email inbox, I tend to scan everything, then work from the least important first ‘saving the best for last’, so to speak. Especially after a busy week, I might spend an hour just sorting through quasi-spam and quick reply messages, clearing the space so I can respond to the really important ones. The problem is that I too often run out of time, and messages from my closest friends or strongest ecumenical contacts languish a little too long awaiting attention. The same logic has log-jammed my blog lately.
Since about two weeks after Pope Francis was elected as bishop of Rome, I have sat down several times to start a reflection on his fledgling papacy. The problem is, every time I do this, I get distracted reading about whatever exciting new thing he has done. Often they are little changes, gestures and actions, but they paint a picture of humility and commitment to reform, openness to dialogue and noble simplicity of faith and its expression.
By now the litany of these little things is well known: He appears on the balcony dressed in the simple white simar, like John Paul I, rather than the mozetta and stole of JPII and BXVI. He asks for our blessing before offering his own. He makes personal phone calls. He demonstrates astute ecclesiological acumen by referring to himself as the bishop of Rome, and his predecessor as bishop emeritus of Rome, exclusively. He stops by to pay his hotel bill in person. He moves an entire liturgy out of St. Peter’s and into a juvenile prison. He washes the feet of women and Muslims. He calls the Patriarch of Constantinople ‘my brother Andrew’. He’s formed a representative committee of cardinals to reform the governance of the Catholic Church – or at least the Roman curia. He has unblocked the path to sainthood of one of the 20th century’s great martyrs, Oscar Romero. And so on…
A couple weeks after he was elected, one veteran vaticanist noted that “suddenly, everyone around here is laughing and smiling.” A senior colleague said “I had forgotten what it was like to be so encouraged and inspired.” A fellow student commented that it “felt as if a burden has been removed that I did not know I had been carrying my whole life [c.35 years]”
Although great joy truly has the reaction of the vast majority of people to Francis, not all have been positive. It took the traditionalist fringe all the way until Holy Thursday (15 days after election) to retreat into the old safeholds of disrespect and antagonism. First, they blame the press for creating a false Francis vs. Benedict comparison, and leap on every fan’s expression of praise for Francis as though it were an insult to Benedict. Some immediately decried his humility as false, a kind of stage prop, and held up as a paragon of true humility the faithful master of ceremonies of Benedict XVI, novus Marini, for ‘suffering’ the loss of his lace. They have accused him of being a slob, of undermining the office of the papacy. Basically, they are afraid of change, hurt that the first pope since Pius XII to actually like all the neo-baroque nonsense resigned, and afraid of a return to the days when people were excited about the changes that Vatican II promised. [e.g.]
Everyone else had just long since forgotten what it was like to feel excited about the prospect of change in the church.
Earlier this month a Jesuit friend told me how his confreres have noted that the ‘young people’ do not seem to like Francis very much. The problem, though, here in Rome, is that ‘young people’ are judged as is everything else: clerically. The seminarians under 40, the same ones who were drawn to the priesthood as a power structure, certainly are nervous. But everyone else is giddy. The young, the old, the long-suffering and the fair-weather, everyone is happy but for those who invested in birettas and lace surplices (cf. John Allen, Jr.). But even for them, there remains a place in the Church. How could there not? No one is threatening their particular peculiarities and liturgical peccadilloes. But they simply are no longer being championed as the next big thing.
Yesterday, Pope Francis’ comments to the Conference of Latin American Religious were leaked, in which he seems to suggest not taking the CDF investigation of Religious too seriously, bemoans his own lack of administrative organization, acknowledges the problem of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, and identifies as two of the most significant concerns today the Pelagianism of restorationist/traditionalist movements, and the Gnosticism of certain spiritualist movements.
One is the Pelagian current that there is in the Church at this moment. There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council… One feels in 1940…” The Pope is then said to have illustrated this with a joke: “when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, ‘we pray for you, we ask…’, but this thing of counting…
(Though, it strikes me now, what will this mean for all the plenary indulgences I have been able to accrue while living in Rome? I have been saving them up for a rainy day, and now the numbers do not matter? Sheesh…)
Yet, lest you fear (or cheer) His Holiness’ critique of the extreme fringe as a radical departure from his predecessor, Andrea Tornielli reminded us of this commentary on the same topic from then-Cardinal Ratzinger:
…the other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…
Joseph Ratzinger, “Guardare Cristo: esempi di fede, speranza e carità” [Looking at Christ: Examples of faith, hope and charity]. 1986.
The sense now, for most, is that people are hopeful, but hesitate to be too hopeful. More and more, people are reminded of John Paul I, Papa Luciani, who had the same simple, honest way with the Petrine ministry and the hope that he had instilled that the reforms of the Council would continue, only to have those hopes dashed after only 33 days. Three months after Francis’ election, I think some people are still afraid that their hopes will not have the chance to come to fruition. But hope it is.
March 19, 2013
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter’s Square
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
Solemnity of Saint Joseph
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.
I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.
In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.
March 14, 2013
Who is this Cardinal Bergoglio? Who will he become, this Pope Francis? My prayer is for a shepherd whose agenda is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Here are some past words from Cardinal Bergoglio and now Pope Francesco. *
“The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers .”
March 13, 2013
The only problem with being in Piazza San Pietro for the announcement and presentation of the new bishop of Rome is that the cell networks and internet access all jam. Maybe I can reconstruct the impressions and my perspective from Rome tonight, as they came as pithily as possible:
[c.18:30] – just finished giving a conversational English lesson. Pretty sure there will be black smoke in half an hour. Maybe I should run over there anyway? Nah… I’ll just miss the smoke, it’s wet, and I’ve got work to do.
[c.18:50] – hm. I think Philippa Hitchen is on Vatican Radio, they should have the chimney on livecam. At least I can say I saw the black smoke ‘from a distance’ tonight if anyone asks. Heh heh.
[18:52] – a seagull on the chimney, says Msgr. Mark Langham on Facebook. Kinda reminds me of that ND game where the squirrel took to the field sophomore year…
[19:06] – working on editing a friend’s article. Smoke! Hm… looks pretty dark grey. Really dark… e’ nero? E’ bianco? E’ nero. Maybe go back to editing… ok, one last look. Still grey… hey, is that bell moving? [commentator: “looks pretty grey, but wait, the bells!”]. Elected on the fifth ballot?? I thought it would be tomorrow at the earliest! This is only one more than Ratzinger.
[19:07] – knocking on doors. “Habemus papam!” start ringing our bell.
[19:08] – I’m going down there, now. Anyone wants to join me, I’m taking a taxi.
[c.19:20] – five of us went, after waiting forever (five minutes) for some people to change. Halfway to the cab stand, three jumped on the 81. Alex and I got in a cab. At about 19.40, near Chiesa Nuova, we see a group from the Russicum walking by, and we decided to ditch the traffic and join them.
[c.19:50] – arrive in Piazza San Pietro, someone in the group knows one of the security guys and we get into the square, all the way up to the obelisk. I’m wedged between U.S. college students from New York, an Italian sister with a robust singing voice, three Eastern Catholics and a prolific contributor to the New Liturgical Movement.
[time ceases to have meaning]
Cardinal Protodeacon Tauran: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus Papam!
People of God: wild cheering and applause
Cardinal Tauran: Eminentissimum ac reverendissimum dominum, dominum Georgium
Me: Giorgio? George… maybe George Alencherry, the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop?
Cardinal Tauran: Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Cardinalem Bergoglio qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum.
People of God: Huh? Who? – polite applause, much checking of smart phones -
Me: Bergoglio? Which one was he? Italian? Pope Francis? Assisi or Xavier? or both? Can I be cautiously optimistic?
Overheard nearby: Francis? *shudder* That’s not good: All innovation is BAD.
Pope Francis appears a short time later, my impressions:
Hm. Almost nobody seems to recognize him. I remember being told the second election of 1978 was like this, the piazza was almost silent. Nobody knew Wojtyla, and they do not know Bergoglio, apparently. From Argentina, according to someone with web-access…
He reminds me of Papa Luciani, John Paul I, for some reason. Someone nearby says he looks like Pius XI. Simple, severe maybe, but simple. Am I smiling?
“Buona Serra”? Simple, good start…
“bishop emeritus of Rome Benedict…” how much better that sounds than Pontifex emeritus! Could we have an ecclesiologist pope?
His inclusive language seems to offend the more traditional minded among us…
That’s “bishop of Rome” at least three times now. Not pope, not pontificate, but bishop, bishop of Rome. Be still, my ecclesiologist’s beating heart! I think I really am smiling!
He seems so… humble. Almost awkward, these pregnant pauses, but I get the feeling he really did not expect to be there. Not an actor, not a professor… a pastor? A reformer? An introvert? Not sure what it means.
You know… Marini has not looked up from his shoes this entire time. In fact, he looks a little, um, how do I put this…
“He looks like he’s updating his CV, A.J., that’s what he looks like…”
I think he just said, “before a bishop blesses the people, the people should bless – that is, pray for – the bishop. so, I invite you to pray for me, as we start this journey together.”
“Buona notte!” – I cannot get over how refreshing his simplicity is, his somewhat akward honesty, and I do keep being reminded of Luciani. Francis, indeed.
As we began to leave the Piazza, I ran into a Jesuit friend who supplied some details and reflections of his own: He’s Jesuit! He’s from Buones Aires. He said some very promising things tonight – his choice of name, the ecclesiological awareness of focus on the “bishop of Rome” rather than “universal pastor” or “supreme pontiff”, etc. But, a hesitation: “he brought some division to the Jesuits in Argentina; some see him as too conservative. Personally austere, yes, simple, yes, but we shall see”…
So, in summary: First Francis. First Jesuit. First from the Western Hemisphere. First non-European bishop of Rome in almost 1300 years (Gregory III from Syria). Chose a casual, informal greeting. Asked for the blessing of the assembly before he offered his own, and bowed to receive it from us. Clearly knows the pope is first and fundamentally the “bishop of Rome” (and the pope emeritus is really the bishop emeritus of Rome). He chose the simplest of the vestment options in which to appear (no lace, wooden pectoral cross) He will spend his first day visiting a shrine of Our Lady. He took his name in honor of Francis of Assisi, perhaps the most universally accessible saint we have, known for humility, care of creation and the poor, dialogue with Islam, and “rebuilding” a corrupt and failing Church. I think as we left the Piazza, most people still had no idea who had been elected – or perhaps they were just in a sort of joyful shock, the kind you get when something you have wanted for so long seems to be coming true, but you are not sure whether to believe it or not.
And, well, one of the guys I was with posted this when he got home tonight:
“Re, Sandri, Hummes and Kasper [sic] were on the balcony with him as he winged his way through the appearance. Traddies, get ready to bury your cassocks and black covered liturgical books in the yard.”
March 10, 2013
In the fall of 1997, I remember standing at the door to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame, as I was congratulated several times on my appointment as auxiliary bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Of course, it was not me, but Daniel Jenky, CSC, rector of the basilica who had been so nominated. I was merely serving as vimpa for Bishop John D’Arcy, who was on hand to make the announcement. I was also jokingly referred to among the other servers and basilica staff as Fr. Jenky’s body double, so alike we looked with beard and glasses. Vested in alb and vimp veil, it is no surprise I was mistaken for the bishop-elect on more than one occasion that day.
We decided to dub his excellency as poster-bishop for our newly founded “Beards for Bishops” campaign. We – seminarians, servers, and theology students – felt it was high time for the lingering prejudice against hirsute hierarchs in the Latin church to come to an end.
When differences become polarized divisions, extreme positions are taken in reaction to “the other” that would not be considered in an objective, balanced mindset. Thus Reformed churches become iconoclastic and whitewashed, while Catholic churches spew baroque excess, each extreme fueling an even more extreme reaction. Similarly, as Eastern and Oriental churches maintained and promoted a manful and manly beardliness for its clergy. in the wake of division, the Latin west insisted on the clean shaven route. Perhaps in the wake of that move, clean-shavenness was purported to be too effeminate for the orders of the East, and so on.
In law, starting in the twelfth century, Latin clergy were discouraged and sometimes forbidden from growing their beards. The Council of Toulouse, in 1119, apparently threatened excommunication for those whos facial hair grew (or merely grew unruly, it is not clear), and Pope Alexander III (1159-81) ordered his archdeacon (think vicar general/chief of staff) to ensure that all Roman deacons and presbyters were clean shaven, by force if necessary. Gregory IX incorporated Alexander’s decree into canon law, and there it remained into the twentieth century. In 1866, the second plenary council of Baltimore explicitly outlawed beards for clergy in the U.S. The 1917 Code of Canon Law said merely to keep a simple hair style (CIC 136 §1), so the local law and cultural taboo remained. No legislation regarding facial hair remains in the 1983 code, Deo gratias.
It was not a consistent ban, despite the attitude and cultural assumptions during the Pian papacies of the 19th and 20th century. The popes from Clement VII (1523) to Inocent XII (d.1700) certainly had beards (as did, if the mosaics at San Paolo fuori le Mura are to be believed, most bishops of Rome from Peter through the first millennium In fact, it was 800 years before we had the first beardless pontiff, in the person of Pope Valentine).
Nevertheless, the late pre-conciliar climate had ossified the ban on barbarous appearance, and even after the apparent change with Vatican II, a bearded bishops was still barely to be found in the western Catholic church. From those humble beginnings in 1997, the Beards for Bishops campaign is now even more humble, and ready to tackle the next challenge: a bearded bishop of Rome.
Quod non fecerunt Barberini fecerunt barbari, anyone?
A sadly small number of cardinal electors willingly wear wisdom-witnessing whiskers:
- George Allencherry, 69,
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
- Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, 53,
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
- Reinhard Marx, 59,
Archbishop of Munich
- Antonius I Nagueb, 77,
Patriarch emeritus of the Coptic Catholic Church
- Sean O’Malley, 68,
Archbishop of Boston
One could add to that the hairier heads of the other Catholic Churches sui iuris, whether patriarch or major archbishop, given their office as heads of churches, and whether created cardinal or not, equivalent (at least) to the cardinal-bishops in dignity:
- Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak, 57,
Patriarch of Alexandria for the Coptic Catholic Church
- Gregory III Laham, 79,
Patriarch of Antioch for the Greek-Melkite Catholic Church
- Mar Ignatius Joseph III Younan, 68,
Patriarch of Antioch for the Syrian Catholic Church
- Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, 73,
Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenian Catholic Church
- Sviatoslav Shevchuk, 42,
Major Archbishop of Kyiv–Halyč of the Ukranian Catholic Church
(Their Beatitudes, Patriarchs Bechara Boutrous al-Rahi of the Maronites and Raphael I Louis Sako of the Chaldeans are clean-shaven; rumors of Latinization have neither been confirmed, nor denied.)
Of these ten, then, who is papabile? The retired Coptic patriarch is already a patriarch emeritus and unlikely to succeed another. The Antiochene may be seen as too old. The Ukranian major archbishop, de facto patriarch of the second largest of the Catholic Churches (after the Roman), is seen as the most likely of the non-cardinals, but as more than a decade younger than the youngest cardinal, it is still a long shot. And, the idea of electing an eastern patriarch as bishop of Rome may still be too great a change for too great a number of cardinal-electors, though there is a sort of precedent (thirteen Greeks, four Syrians, and two from modern day Israel/Palestine, if you count Peter himself).
Though I might personally welcome such a move, let us assume it is unlikely. That leaves only two villous vescovi among the princes of the Roman Church.
Archbishop Reinhard Marx of München serves on the pontifical council for peace and justice and the congregation for catholic education, and is president of the German bishops’ conference Committee for Social Issues. He was elected a year ago as President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences in the European Union. He has published books on Catholic Social Teaching, and has been a bishop since 1996. When he was appointed, German news agency Deutsche-Press Agentur, described him as “left of center” in general, but “moderately conservative” on doctrinal issues. There have been seven or eight German popes, depending on whether you count Stephen IX, born in Lorraine (now France).
Archbishop Seán Patrick O’Malley of Boston is an Irish American Capuchin, with a record of cleaning up dioceses damaged by the sex abuse scandal (and the bigger scandal of their cover-ups by bishops). He was born in Lakewood, OH (where I lived for all of three months in the wake of the abuse scandal-induced hiring freeze on the diocese there in 2002). His doctorate is in Spanish and Portuguese literature and he was the first cardinal to start a personal blog and podcast, in 2006. He serves on the Congregations for Clergy and Consecrated Life, and on the Council for Family. There has never been a capuchin pope, an American pope, or indeed, a genuinely Western pope (that is, a pope from the western hemisphere!)
Could one of these two men be elected bishop of Rome later this week? If so, the Beards for Bishops Campaign will rejoice in the return of the razorless pontificate after centuries of suppression. Join us in prayer, invoking the patron saints of facial hair, St. Brendan the Navigator and St. Wilgefortis the bearded virgin and martyr.
February 14, 2013
I was about to start my own blog on the three african popes, because of all the attention being given to Cardinals Turkson, of Ghana, and Arinze, of Nigeria.
But then, i found this blog, and decided it was even better, because it came with a cool map showing the known or presumed birthplace for all known bishops of Rome outside of Europe. He even includes St. Peter.
I am still going to work on a quick post about the geographic distribution of the college of cardinals, and how it might better represent global Catholicism.
Map of Non-European Popes
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign has taken both the Catholic and non-Catholic worlds by immense shock. Some have begun to play the game of “who will be the next Pope?” This game usually ends in a surprise no one saw coming but this does not stop people from trying over and over again. Some have speculated , as they did in 2005 right after the death of Pope John Paul II’s death, that there will be an African or Latin American Pope. Some even go as far to say there could be the “first black Pope in 1,500 years.”
I decided to study and map out popes born outside of Europe. There were some surprises among the results.
Of the 265 officially recognized Popes, 217 have been Italian while 17 were French and 13 were Greek (though this includes ethnic and cultural Greeks who were from Greek Italy and Greek Asia). So to solve problems like this I declared a non-European pope to be one who was born outside the modern understanding of what is Europe, regardless of ethnicity or culture.
Three Popes were born in Roman Africa, which today is part of Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. These African popes were Pope Victor I (189-199), Pope Miltiades (311 to 314), and Pope Gelasius I (492 to 496). These Popes are sometimes described as Black in today’s press because of their African origin. However, the elite in these provinces were descendants of Italian Romans while the population in rural areas were Berbers, who are an olive hue. There is no comparably or historic evidence that the African popes were Black.
Two popes, both ethnically Greek, were born in modern day Turkey. Pope John V (685-686) was from Antioch and Pope John VI was from Ephesus (701-705). John V is sometimes considered “Syrian” due to Antioch’s location in Byzantine Syria.
Four popes were born in “Syria”, modern-day Syria and maybe Lebanon. These are Popes Anicetus (150 to 167), Sisinnius (708), Constantine (708-715), and Gregory III (731-741). Anicetus was born in modern day Homs, site of heavy fighting in the on-going civil war, while the other three were born in newly Muslim conquered Syria. This shows that Christian intellectual thought and leadership were not crushed right away by the new Muslim rulers.
Two popes were born in modern day Israel, depending on who one asks. Saint Peter, the first Pope, was born in the village of Bethsaida along the Sea of Galilee while Pope Theodore I (642-649) was an ethnic Greek from Jerusalem. However, Bethsaida is east of the Jordan River in the Golan Heights region. This is Israel or Syria on depending one’s perspective. Meanwhile, the historic part of Jerusalem where Pope Theodore I was from is mostly likely in the part of the city east of the 1949 cease fire line and therefore either Israel or the West Bank.
So of the eleven popes born outside Europe, at least two were of ethnically non-European origin: Peter (Jewish) and Constantine (Assyrian). Up to three more, the Africans, may have been Berber. So between 0.75% to 1.88% of all Popes were of non-European ethnicity.
Some of these Popes played major roles while pontiff. Pope Theodore I worked hard and proved Roman supremacy over the Emperor and Patriarch in Constantinople. Meanwhile Pope Victor I was the pope who changed the language of the Roman Church from Greek to Latin. Without his change traditionalist Catholics would be lamenting the loss of Greek in today’s liturgies.
Soon the Vatican will announce there is a new Pope. No one yet knows who that person will be and where they will be from. However, now you have a better understanding of the history of non-European popes.
Original post from Geographic Travels.
February 12, 2013
Today’s press conference focused on Pope Benedict’s schedule for the rest of the month, and some of the same questions i addressed earlier today.
An unofficial translation via live tweeting is provided by Father Roderick Vonhogen:
The Pope’s Last Work Week
Right now, the Pope is working on the things he has to do in the next weeks, like his general audience tomorrow. Until Feb 28, the Pope continues all his work.
Ash Wednesday celebration will be at Saint Peter’s Basilica instead of on the Aventine. The reason for this is because of the large crowd expected to show up.
The last general audience of Pope Benedict XVI will be at February 27 on Saint Peter’s Square because of the large crowd expected to show up. There will probably not be a specific ‘event’ to say goodbye to pope Benedict XVI, he will use the planned events instead.
The pontificate of the Pope ends Feb 28 at 8 pm, because that is normally the hour on which the Pope concludes his working days.
The decision of the Pope has a message for us all: one of humility, courage, wisdom to acknowledge his limitations. The Pope is someone of great realism. Knows the problems of the situation of the Church in today’s world. Has a broad view.
The Pope’s health and reasons to step down
There are no specific illnesses that lead to the Pope’s resignation. Fr. Lombardi says the Pope has had a pacemaker for 10 years. Routine maintenance 3 months ago as reported by newspapers. The trip to Mexico and Cuba was part of the process that led to the Pope’s decision to step back.
World Youth Day
World Youth Day is in its essence a meeting of the youth with the Pope. So it is very, very likely the new pope will be there. Of course, the new pope can decide what he wants, but it is normal to assume that Benedict XVI’s successor will go to Rio.
The Pope’s writings and living quarters after retirement
After his retirement, pope Benedict XVI will have no tasks or responsibilities in the Vatican, it’s possible that in the future, he will choose another place to stay, but for the time being, he will live in the Vatican at the monastery of Mater Ecclesiae.
The Pope’s planned encyclical letter on Faith won’t be released before Feb. 28, instead it will be released later as reflections. Pope Benedict XVI has often expressed his desire to pray and to write. We hope he might write something for us too.
The monastery of Mater Ecclesiae is currently being renovated; the sisters will move out, no new sisters to replace them. The Pope himself made the decision to continue to live at the Vatican. The Pope always walks around in the Vatican to pray the rosary, so he knows the monastery well, and knows what is possible.
Fr. Lombardi says he doesn’t know yet how we will have to call pope Benedict XVI after he steps down. A Journalist uses “Papa Emeritus”, “Pope Emeritus” to indicate the Pope after he steps down. Fr. Lombardi says that the Pope will enter history as pope Benedict XVI, but we await instructions about his title after his resignation. Pope Benedict XVI will certainly remain bishop emeritus of Rome, but we’ll have to see if that is the title he prefers to use.
The decision to announce the resignation was the Pope’s own, but of course there has been consultation about the calendar.
Conclave and Installation Mass
The conclave must begin at least 15 and no later than 20 days after the resignation of pope Benedict XVI and Sede Vacante. On March 1, we have the situation of Sede Vacante.
Preparations of the Conclave then begin. Several meetings
before the Conclave. Date of the Conclave depends on the Apostolic Constitution. Cardinal Marini is studying this.
This is a new situation, so we will have to see what to do with rituals like the destruction of the Pope’s fisherman’s ring. Pope Benedict XVI will not intervene in the process of the election of the new pope. The cardinals will be autonomous. The Pope is not a cardinal. He will not participate in the Conclave.
The new pope
It’s up to pope Benedict and the new pope to decide if he will participate during installation Mass of new pope. The fact that Benedict XVI will continue to live in the Vatican will be no obstacle whatsoever for his successor, on the contrary. It will be a great support for the new Pope to have someone around who understands like no other what it means to be Pope. His successor will probably feel supported by the prayer of pope Benedict XVI after he resigns.
The Pope doesn’t gather the cardinals for the new conclave; they are smart enough to know that they should be here in March. It’s not a problem if some cardinals arrive early in the Vatican to visit the pope.
That’s the end of today’s press conference in the Vatican. Hope you enjoyed my live tweets. I apologize for possible translation errors.
[Updates since the writing of this Q & A, usually confirmation of my speculations, are included below in blue.]
The Italians have squelched the discussion of papal resignation in the past by brushing the idea aside with comments like “you cannot have a pope emeritus,” or, “what would you even do with a retired pope?”
Several question, some serious and some mere curiosities have arisen in recent discussions, both virtually and in person here in Rome: Does the pope abdicate, resign, or retire? How does this compare to Pope John Paul II? When will the conclave be? Which cardinals can participate? What will Benedict’s new title be? What is the protocol and prerogatives for a retired pope? What role does he have in the Vatican, the college of Cardinals, or the Church? Does he retain his infallibility? Does he still wear white?
Official plans of the conclave will be publicized shortly, perhaps even today. It should not be difficult, even in the slow-moving Vatican, when many of the cardinals are already gathered for consistory. Though, at the same time, they may need a couple days to deal with the shock of the announcement. It seems only the dean of the college and a very small handful of others had notice even a day or two in advance of Monday’s announcement.
The following includes official answers where available, and speculation or suggestions where indicated.
Abdication, Resignation, or Retirement?
CIC 332§2 Si contingat ut Romanus Pontifex muneri suo renuntiet, ad validitatem requiritur ut renuntiatio libere fiat et rite manifestetur, non vero ut a quopiam acceptetur.
CIC 332§2 If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.
Though “abdication” is the term used when a monarch leaves, the term has not been used officially since the loss of the papal state, for the resignation of the popes. Though technically still an absolute monarch, as sovereign of the Vatican City-State, the pope is the bishop of Rome above all else, and therefore he “resigns.” Though, in this case, “retires” certainly seems a valid description.
[On 18 February, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, bishop of Springfield and serves on the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, with both a JD and an STD, confirmed the correct translation is 'resignation' rather than 'abdication.']
How does this compare to Pope John Paul II?
We really should not compare the two. John Paul II showed us suffering and ageing in dignity, Benedict XVI teaches us genuine kenosis and leadership with integrity and humility. It is hard to continue a ministry that it seems the Holy Spirit has called you to when your body fails you, it is harder to let go of power so absolute.
Voices that have criticized the Holy Father for resigning, saying things like “a father does not abandon his family,” or, “Wojtyla stayed until the end because one does not come down from the cross” seem to have missed the point.
Being pope is not about suffering, but about serving. A bishop emeritus can give witness to dignified suffering and the value of the elderly, but an impeded pope cannot serve. Benedict has reminded us to separate the office from the person, putting the emphasis on the Petrine ministry, where it belongs.
When will the conclave be held?
The apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, published by Bl. John Paul II and adapted slightly by Pope Benedict XVI, governs the Conclave, the process for the election of a new pope. According to the constitution, §37,
…from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent; the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.
This would seem to put the earliest starting date for the conclave on 15 March, and the latest starting date on 20 March. [This was confirmed by the Vatican Press office on 13 February].
However, since the purpose of this is to allow the cardinals not in Rome to get here, and because they have been given 17 days notice from the announcement to the time the retirement takes effect, perhaps it will be decided that this interregnum could be dispensed with. [A motu proprio to this effect is being considered, as of 22 February.]
Certainly, all hope that there will be a new bishop of Rome by Holy Week, which starts 24 March.
Which cardinals will participate?
The right to elect the Roman Pontiff belongs exclusively to the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, with the exception of those who have reached their eightieth birthday before the day of the Roman Pontiff’s death or the day when the Apostolic See becomes vacant. (UDG §33)
One cardinal turns 80 on 26 February, and that is Lubomyr Husar, the retired Major Archbishop (de facto patriarch) of the Ukranian Catholic Church. According to the text, he would be excluded from the election, for being too old by less than 48 hours. Two others turn 80 in early March, Walter Kasper (March 5) and Severino Poletto (March 18), but even if the Conclave begins after their birthdays, they would still be admitted.
What is the protocol and prerogatives for a retired pope?
There is nothing in canon law or the apostolic constitution relating this. There are some ancient canons, and the precedent of retired bishops, that will be helpful. We know just a few things at this point, and the rest is speculation. We do know that Benedict XVI will not be involved in the election of his successor, and that he will retire first to Castel Gandolfo, and then to the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican for a time.
What will Benedict’s new title be?
The pope is the bishop of Rome. That is his title, his office, and the font of all other titles and offices, from Vicar of Christ to Servant of the Servants of God. Therefore the obvious choice would seem to be “bishop emeritus of Rome” just as any other retired bishop. But that is simply this ecclesiologist’s suggestion.
[On 22 February, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the pontifical council for legislative texts, confirmed that after his retirement, he will be known as "His Holiness, Benedict XVI, bishop emeritus of Rome".]
What role will he have in the Vatican, the college of Cardinals, or the Church?
Effectively none. In terms of protocol and precedence, one can imagine that he will be “ranked” below only the serving pope. Traditionally, popes have been forbidden from participating in the selection of their successors, and we already know he will be excluded from the coming conclave.
When a powerful leader resigns, it always seems the best practice that he or she basically disappear from the public eye for about a year, at least, to allow his or her successor to settle into the role. When the last Jesuit general retired – another office that was until recently ‘for life’ – he became a librarian in the Holy Land, and kept out of even provincial politics. When Fr. Ted Hesburgh retired as president of Notre Dame after 35 years, he took a year-long road trip and tour, staying away from campus. Mary McAleese, after 14 years as president of Ireland came to Rome and moved into the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas to return to her studies of canon law.
Does he retain his infallibility?
The pope is not infallible. Not personally, anyway: Infallibility is not a possession or power of the pope, but a divine gift attributed to the Church as a whole, and derivatively to the college of bishops as a whole. The bishop of Rome, in communion with and head of the college of bishops, may exercise that authority in some very limited, very precise conditions, but it goes with the office, not the individual.
Will he still wear white?
I have no idea; I would expect not, but it will be curious to see what is deemed appropriate. Perhaps a black cassock or simar with white trim?
[John Allen, Jr., adds his own Q & A after today's lengthy press briefing here.]
February 11, 2013
Popes have resigned in the past, and more than once, despite popular mythology to the contrary, at least including:
- Pope St. Pontian in 235
- Pope Silverius in 537
- Pope John XVIII in 1009
- Pope Benedict IX in 1045
- Pope Gregory VI in 1046
- Pope Celestine V in 1294
- Pope Gregory XII in 1415
Several others are not entirely clear whether it was resignation or deposition, including at least Pope Marcellinus in 308 and Pope Liberius in 366.
Plus there were others who are now considered antipopes who resigned, but at the time may not have been so clear who was the legitimate bishop of Rome. Some popes were deposed, others excommunicated. What I remember from history courses was that about 10% did not serve until death (and not all who did died of natural causes).
Modern popes have considered resignation as an option, most famously:
- Pius VII in 1804 prepared a letter of resignation, to be put into effect if he was captured and imprisoned
- Pius XII in 1943, for the same reason
- Paul VI considered retiring at the age of 75, in 1972, to conform to the law that asked the same of all other bishops
- John Paul II said in 1979 that he was open to the same idea, and it is said that he had a conditional document prepared as early as 1989, and again in 2000.
- Benedict XVI told the cardinals in the days after he was elected that he would resign if necessary, and addressed it again in 2010 in his interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the World
Back in 2000, ecclesiologist Fr. Richard McBrien penned an article for the Tablet, asking the question of resignation with respect to the pontificate of John Paul II. His book, Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI, is one of a handful of good, contemporary resources on the topic.
We need to think more broadly than the bishop of Rome. We have seen other patriarchs and heads of churches resign, both within the Catholic Church, and in broader Christendom. All of them in positions that, in virtually all cases, were also considered normally held until death.
Consider just recently:
- The Catholic Coptic Patriarch Antonios I Naguib resigned in January 2013, at age 77.
- The Catholic Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly resigned in December 2012, at age 85.
- The Catholic Maronite Patrairch Nasrallah P. Sfeir resigned in March 2011, at age 90.
- Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury resigned, effective December 2012, at age 62.
- Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America resigned in July 2012, at age 53.
So, while it has been almost 600 years since the last bishop of Rome willingly retired, we can and will get used to the idea. It takes remarkable integrity to lead by such strong example.
Some helpful reminders from the Vatican Press Office:
- Pope Benedict XVI has given his resignation freely, in accordance with Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law.
- Pope Benedict XVI will not take part in the Conclave for the election of his successor.
- Pope Benedict XVI will move to the Papal residence in Castel Gandolfo when his resignation shall become effective.
- When renovation work on the monastery of cloistered nuns inside the Vatican is complete, the Holy Father will move there for a period of prayer and reflection.