Pope Francis I chose his name to honor St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was a friar and street preacher that was given sainthood after being the first person documented with stigmata. He formed the Franciscan order and was supported by the reigning Pope Innocent III in 1210.
Pope Francis I was a member of the Jesuits, which is officially the Society of Jesus. They are known for their service, austerity and missionary work throughout the world. As Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio displayed the austerity typical of being a Jesuit by living in an apartment instead of a mansion and taking public transportation to his work. Even as Pope, he may still be considered a Jesuit.
Pope Francis I is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope, and he is assuming the duty at a very difficult time. Father Thomas Reese described the Jesuits on a CNN interview with the statement
“The word "Jesuit" had become synonymous through the centuries with scheming, and that their very reputation as the most free-thinking of Catholics had made them suspect in the eyes of the church hierarchy.”
The Jesuits are also known for their spirit of ecumenical cooperation through their work around the world. They are also known for their missionary work throughout history and they are committed to converting members of indigenous religions to Catholicism today.
Spiritualists deem missionary work to often be in conflict with honoring the concept of many paths for spiritual development. Our concept of the Creator is that all are part of the creation, and all paths are valid. We take the position that everyone is responsible for their own actions. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for trying to challenge the single path to God being through the Church.
Somewhere between working together with the other religions and converting the non-believers, the new leadership under Pope Francis I will be challenged to forge a new path. Based upon Pope Francis I’s previous example, there is hope that changes can be made to make the Catholic Church more human while not destroying its foundation as the oldest Christian religion.
Catholic dogma is entrenched to the point that it may still take decades to make changes in the fundamental Church positions that will allow the priests and nuns to marry and to enable nuns to lead Masses. Competitive pressures to grow the Church will remain in conflict with promoting the reduction of poverty through birth control supported by all major religions.
Time will tell how Pope Francis I puts his stamp on his reign as Pope. There are encouraging examples of his ministry that indicate that he will be strong and set his own direction. He will do well if he is led by the prayer of his patron saint.
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy 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;
And 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.”
― St. Francis of Assisi
We sincerely pray for Pope Francis I's divine guidance and long tenure.