Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, aged 76, was elected in a surprise choice to be the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Wednesday 13 March, 2013. He will take the name Francis I. He was proclaimed as the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years, but clearly has a strong European ancestry.
Thus, a Jesuit Argentinian is to lead the ancient Catholic Church into its future. That’s a positive outcome because the Jesuit’s are pretty much free-thinkers and have had some fine minds and hearts among their ranks. And, there is a new spirit coming out of Latin America. An independent spirit that is marking that region out from among the ‘camp followers’ everywhere else. That is a worthy blend.
Interesting that he has taken the name of the friar and saint, Francis of Assisi – the patron saint of animals and the environment who founded the men’s Franciscan Order, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and another order for women and men unable to live the lives of itinerants. He was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
Locals might like to try and overlook the sins of this priest who supported the dictatorship in Argentina, was an accomplice in the theft of babies at that time, and was against those priests who ‘betrayed’ Third World and Liberation Theology and who were tortured and disappeared, who is recorded as saying supporters of equal marriage may “burn in hell”, along with those who support abortion, who should be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck … However, we move on…
“Those implications with the military Junta were disseminated by a leftist newspaper in Buenos Aires,” remarks humanist Jorge Pavon, “there are many testimonies that came in his defense saying that it was not true, and that he did help people, although silently, who were being persecuted at the time. For one Peace Nobel Prize winner Esquivel*, a victim himself of the Junta, came out this morning [March 14] to clarify this by saying that “he did not collaborate with the dictatorship”.
Francis I as a South American is removed from that moribund mentality of ‘just following on’ as is readily seen in Europe where ‘old Europe’ is so conditioned by its hoary elitism, behaving as the ever-predominant ‘white people’ calling the shots for everyone, everywhere else, from Asia to Africa. That entire process is slowing down under incrustations of age. A change is needed, away from imperialism and neo-colonialism, to instead use that wealth and educated talent for the liberation of the other, less fortunately environed peoples of the world.
Another positive facet to this Argentinian is his proximity to influences of the recently emerged from the shadows strongly-emotive native South Americans that have displayed a largesse of heart that is translating into practical and straightforward ways of thinking that denotes a clarity of mind. That mind is closer to Nature and appreciative of the need for sensitivity in how we, as humans, live with Nature and cease ravaging the planet.
The way of action springing from that earthed mentality, grounded in a deep sense of being here, is exactly what’s needed in this time of volatility and to redress the forces contributing to create the minute-by-minute ever more destabilised world of Man.
People have to reassert themselves just as nations must, and all governments and institutions. If the Church is to survive the inroads of secularism it needs to take another look at the confusion between religiosity and spirituality, of blind faith as against intentionality.
The old is fast disappearing and the kids, the new generations that are laughed at by the old brigade because of their apparent preoccupation with video games, are just waiting in the wings, learning intuitively what is needed for a future among the stars.
They will get the call because what is deposited at their door is a plethora of problems ranging through potential nuclear wars to assured environmental destruction owing to mindless consumerism and compensatory lifestyles. This cannot go on for much longer. Sadly, it is as likely that calamity will force those youthful hands as much as a universal awakening to the predicament.
There is also the influence of Liberation Theology, stemming from Latin America, which can be revived through this new Pope after its vilification – if that is not too strong a word – by the previous Pope. This is a political movement in Catholic theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to a liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions – with a social activism centred around the poor and marginalised.
On a grander scale this relates to entire countries and regions. Each national has to sort out her or his home problems and to extricate the country from dominating influences of trans-nationalism and those influences that deny sovereignty, or a particular culture, and that kill essential individualities, and results in a confusion of patriotism with nationalism.
It was the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin that highlighted a point of view of Man as the most tender and sensitive finger of God, of the universe as a “living host”, as the handmaid and operative on Earth; that is, we are the means and our civilisation the end, of all endeavours. With that intention and practice life is personally invigorated with meaning because we can engage in the task and there is so much to do, everywhere, in every corner and home.
As heir to Saint Peter, the rock upon which the Church was built, Francis I can use his modern mind and its associated understanding and the abundant technology to fructify his chosen religious way. This can align the Catholic Church with all that is flowing upwards into evolutionary ascent and the multitudes that have chosen to depend on his will and way will gladly co-operate – also the Atheist, Hindu, Buddhist and Moslem practitioners, among the other faiths that have positive roles to play in bringing about a tolerance based on true respect for other’s beliefs, and the all-important non-harming way of action as a fundament of how we all behave.
*Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (born November 26, 1931) is an Argentinian pacifist, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1980.