18 March 2013

Statement from the Patriarch of St. Stephen on the Election of Pope Francis

Sub Tuum.

Pope Francis has captivated the world with his humble and endearing ways. Not yet a week ago a great joy was announced to the world that Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio was elected as successor to Saint Peter, becoming the first Pope in history to take the name of Francis. He chose his Papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis certainly has demonstrated in his own ministry as much caring for the poor as his holy namesake. 

As the earthly ministry of our own glorious Patron Saint Stephen was largely devoted to the care of the Roman poor, this is a point very dear to us. Indeed the Church stands as a representative of the poor, the infirmed, the oppressed, and the marginalized people of the world. As St. Stephen's brother Roman deacon St. Lawrence stated to his captors, the poor are the true treasure of the Church. 

Both Stephen and Lawrence were martyred for their faith. Pope Francis said, even before becoming Pope, that we must defend the unborn even if we are taken to court or killed. Here stands before us on the throne of Saint Peter a man who understands the duty to live the Christian faith no matter the cost. 

Now let us return to the Holy Father's namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi. He was a nobleman who gave up his wealth to take up his own cross and follow the Lord. He, like our own modern Francis, lived a life of austerity. St. Francis gave up worldly treasure and laid up instead a treasure for himself in heaven. St. Francis abandoned worldly ambition and instead focused all his efforts towards the Church. Thus he was a great supporter and guardian of the Sacred Traditions of the Church. To St. Francis, nothing was too good to be given to our Lord. He ensured a strict and great reverence for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and gave unwavering and ungrudging obedience to the hierarchy of the Church. What a wonderful blessing it is to see these same traits in the Holy Father, Pope Francis. 

What can we as Christians learn from the Holy Father even in this first week of his Pontificate? First, His Holiness stood greeting the people surrounded by the beauty of the Vatican as a man who has given up everything for Christ. There is an example for us all! Our own merit is nothing! Let us all give up our worldly ambition, which is a process that must be one of continual renewal. Let all glory be for Christ and let all beauty be only that which reflects the power, majesty, and radiant splendor of almighty God! 

Next, let us learn and remember that humility is not a shunning of tradition, but an embracing of it. As we embrace the two thousand year traditions of Christ's Holy Church, we necessarily diminish ourselves and submit in humility to Christ. That is true humility. 

Above all, let us learn from the Holy Father's example of service to the poor. I saw before me a man who, like Christ and Saint Francis, suffers for the poor; a man who, like St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would lay down his own life for others. There is the ultimate love!

I have long said that the world needs more love, and that true love in Christ is the only true solution to the problems facing the world today. Here with Francis we have a Pope who not only promotes that love, he lives it.