The Pontifical University joined the rest of the Catholic world in welcoming Pope Francis, who became the 265th successor to St. Peter last March 13.

Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina emerged at the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after five rounds of balloting by the College of Cardinals in conclave at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

Top Dominicans of the Catholic University of the Philippines extended prayers for the first Jesuit pope and the first pope from Latin America.

“His reign as pope will bring a tide of fresh air into the Church, tackle head-on those issues that trouble the Church right now but above all, bring in always Christ at the center of the Church,” Secretary General Fr. Winston Cabading, O.P. said in a chance interview.

Central Seminary Rector Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, Jr., O.P., who had served in Rome as assistant to the Dominican master general, cited Pope Francis for his example of humility and concern for the poor.

“I am thankful and happy for his election for two reasons: for his example of humility and simplicity, and for his having a big heart for the poor,” Pedregosa said.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and an alumnus, told the Varsitarian Pope Francis would be invited to preside over the International Eucharistic Congress to be hosted by Cebu in 2016.

“I can see in him the answer to the challenge of evangelization in our time. [I call on the Thomasian community] to pray for him, be together in his journey, united with love,” Palma said.

Bergoglio, 76, is the first non-European pope since Syrian-born Gregory III in the 8th century, and the third successive non-Italian pontiff. Before the conclave, the Argentine cardinal was barely mentioned in the media as among the papabili or top contenders to the papacy.

Habemus Papam

The fumata bianca (white smoke) billowing out of the Sistine Chapel and the ringing of St. Peter’s bells at 7:06 p.m. Rome time signaled the election of a new pope. The decision of 115 cardinals came on the fifth voting of the conclave’s second day. Under conclave rules, a cardinal must obtain 77 votes or a two-thirds majority to become the Bishop of Rome.

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At 8:12 p.m., the cardinal proto-deacon, Jean-Louis Tauran, proclaimed: “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum; habemus Papam; Eminentissium ac Reverendissium Dominum, Dominum Georgium Marium, Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Bergoglio, Qui sibi nomen imposuit Franciscum [I announce to you with great joy; We have a Pope; The most eminent and most reverend Lord, Lord Jorge Mario Cardinal of Holy Roman Church Bergoglio, Who has taken the name Francis].”

Last March 14, a day after the election of Pope Francis, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle issued a statement relating his experiences in the Vatican and his encounter with the new pope.

“I thank you for your fervent prayers for the Cardinal Electors. We never felt alone even for a moment. Your love sustained us,” said Tagle.

Tagle said that when he approached the new pontiff to extend greetings on behalf of Filipinos, Pope Francis answered: “I have high hopes for the Philippines. May your faith prosper, as well as your devotion to Our Lady and mission to the poor.”

First words

The new pope called on the thousands Catholic faithful gathered at the St. Peter’s Square and those watching around the world to pray for him before he delivered the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing.

“And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity.”

Cabading said that when Pope Francis asked the people for prayers, he was recognizing the fact that even as pope, he is also a member of the Church.

“He is not above the Church but he is a part of the people of God, that even he, as pope, needs to be saved by God. That moment [before] he gave his first blessing to the people, he asked first the people to pray for him, and bowed humbly to the people. Some people might say it’s just a show but that was a spontaneous thing. He is not an actor. He was sincere in what he did,” Cabading said.

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“It shows us that the office of the Bishop of Rome is first and foremost an office of service that comes from God. And because it comes from God, you can only but bow your head before God in total humility,” Cabading added.

Pope Francis also led the Church in prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who announced his surprise retirement last February.

In his meeting last March 15 with the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis thanked his predecessor, saying Benedict had “reinvigorated the Church with his goodness, faith, knowledge, and humility.”

The first Pope Francis

Bergoglio is the first pope to take the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, revered by Christians for his love for the poor.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of Vatican Press Office, explained that Bergoglio’s papal name is just Francis, not Francis I. It will only become Francis I when another pope takes the same name.

Archbishop Palma told the Varsitarian: “The fact that he chose the name Francis is an indication that he has a life of simplicity.”

Cabading likewise said this highlights the Holy Father’s simplicity and humility, seen right at the beginning of his papacy. “This new Holy Father, who took the name Francis—a friar of the middle ages who revolutionized the Church—is showing us that it is also possible to follow Christ by being a humble person, a person that is simple,” Cabading said.

While he was still cardinal, Pope Francis chose to live in an apartment rather than in the archbishop's palace. He did away with the limousine, took a bus to work, and cooked his own meals, according to a profile by John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter.

He’s the first pope from the New World, but Pope Francis was born on Dec. 17, 1936 to Italian immigrants in Buenos Aires. He came from a middle-class family of seven.

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According to the official biography released by the Vatican Information Service, the Holy Father holds a chemical technician degree. He joined the novitiate of the Society of Jesus on March 11, 1958.

He was ordained priest on Dec. 13, 1969. On May 20, 1992, Pope John Paul II appointed him titular bishop of Auca and auxiliary of Buenos Aires. On June 3, 1997 he was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Buenos Aires and succeeded Cardinal Antonio Quarracino on Feb. 28, 1998. Bergoglio was created a cardinal on Feb. 21, 2001 by John Paul II.

Challenges

Palma said Pope Francis would have to confront challenges facing the Church head on.

“I think the present challenges he has to face are family issues, life issues. He also needs to implement an evangelization program as initiated by Benedict, on faith that must be lived and shared in different continents of the world,” said Palma.

As Cardinal Bergoglio, Pope Francis campaigned vigorously against Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s same-sex marriage bill and the free distribution of contraceptives.

“Since he came from a Jesuit order, which is one of the largest congregations, he might be a good influence all over the world. And because he came from Latin America, he shows great love for the poor and has this experience for social issues. So I think [that] he is really God-sent,” Palma said.

In his first Eucharistic celebration as the new Pontiff, Pope Francis spoke extemporaneously on his hopes for the Catholic Church and the need to profess Christ in the world.

“I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.” Denise Pauline P. Purugganan and Gracelyn A. Simon

1 COMMENT

  1. Like Christ we should learn to weep as counselled by our Holy Father. But like Him we should learn also to get angry at the prevailing injustice in our society, no thanks to the Philippine clergy which hardly has been a Church of the Poor.

    UST said the Pope’s meeting with the Youth is open to the public. It however also forewarned that the area reserved for them is limited and not everyone could be accommodated. Being instructed that the designated gates for the public will open at 4AM, I and my family woke up as early as 2AM during that morning of January 18, 2015 and had to walk distances considering that the roads were closed.

    I like millions of Filipinos have been following the Holy Father wherever he goes on TV and on the streets for that chance even for a fleeting moment to see him as he passes by on his way to his different engagements. But we hoped that we would have a better look of him that morning. I was specially interested to hear him as I and my wife have five young people with us, our children whose ages range from 14 to 21. Surely I said to myself, my alma mater, after years of being away, will welcome me back and allow me to set foot on its hallowed grounds and give me and my family the opportunity to see and hear the Pope longer and closer.

    When we arrived at the designated Dapitan gate at UST at about 4:15AM, we saw the faithful already lined up in the hundreds of thousands. Nobody and absolutely nobody from UST was there to give instructions. There was great confusion where to line up and many ended up finding out that they where in the wrong line, reserved only to participants with IDs. I was greatly perplexed why if the gates opened at 4AM, the line reserved for the public was not moving for hours.

    Shortly before the Bishops arrived, the lines began to move a little, which gave us much hope that we will be able to pass through UST’s gates. But it suddenly stopped. I thus decided to inquire. After walking and passing so many of us still patiently waiting in our designated line, I reached the gate and asked who was in charge. Yet no one and absolutely no one was there at the gate who could give me a response. At that point, I began shouting in anger, “Who is in charge? Who is in charge? If you will not let us in, at least have the courtesy and Christian Charity to tell us so that we can just wait for the Holy Father along the streets on his way to UST.

    But no one and absolutely no one inside UST had the compassion and mercy to attend to us and just abandoned us outside. Responsible people of my beloved alma mater knew many of us in the hundreds of thousands were waiting outside of the gates. Yet no one and absolutely no one among them had the compassion of a Good Samaritan to attend to us. When my wife saw the Bishops being allowed in, she asked, “Were they not able to meet the Pope already and even shook his hand twice? Had they not had their meeting with the Pope already at the Manila Cathedral? Yet there they are again, surely to be given choiced seats inside UST.

    I saw a priest among them and said to myself that I could at least request him to ask who is in charge so that we may be given the courtesy of knowing if we can no longer go in. Yet the priest who was most undeserving of his sutana, concentrating on the anger I felt, did not even bother to give me any assistance and told even the police around to arrest me. That very moment I came to the realization what most of the Filipino clergy are to us. Like the Levite in the parable, most of the Filipino clergy and even our Bishops, have seen us millions of us poor, exploited and oppressed Filipino Christians and just passed on the other side of the road and even have been in complicity with our oppressors and exploiters, by blessing their alms, the scraps that fall from the table of the rich who treat us like Lazarus, promising them heaven, when what the poor need as the Holy Father has well said is to reform the unjust social structures which perpetuate our people’s poverty. For how does one explain after hundreds of years of being a Christian nation, no significant change has taken place in our country.

    Most sadly, the Philipine Church or at the very least, the dominant Philippine Church was never a Church of the poor. Cardinal Tagle has issued the call to go to the peripheries as our Holy Father has counselled us to do. But should not that have been done long time ago? Did not our Lord Jesus proclaim himself that it was his mission to preach the gospel to the poor, that he was sent to heal the brokenhearted, preach deliverance to the captives, recovering sight to the blind and setting at liberty them that are bruised?

    Greatly frustrated, I and my family went to a friend’s house, nearby to wait again patiently in the street, so that we could at least see the Holy Father, even for a fleeting moment again as he goes back to the Apostolic Nunciature. It was at our friend’s house that I heard the Holy Father on TV speaking before our young people telling them that they have to learn to cry. Too bad, he has spoken too late. Had the people at UST heard him earlier, they would not have left us and abandoned us in the cold as it was beginning to drizzle already that early morning. Indeed, it is only with a compassionate heart that we shall see the sufferings of our brothers and be a Good Samaritan to them, taking care of them.

    Indeed we should be like Christ who wept and was moved to compassion so many times. But as I exhibited that morning, we like Christ should learn also to get angry, like the righteous anger He exhibited when he overthrew the tables and drove the people out of the temple who transformed his Father’s house into a den of thieves. The Holy Father’s visit in Manila and Tacloban has shown the great faith of the Filipino Christian, that not even rain or storm could prevent them from hearing the Holy Father’s message of hope. Indeed Filipino Christians have great faith that the Lord Jesus will not abandon them and He is one with them in their sufferings. Sadly, this great faith, aggravated by the erroneous teaching of many of our priests for salvation only in the afterlife, has been exploited.

    I however hope and pray that the Holy Father’s message will indeed sink deep and move us Filipino Christians not only to compassion but to righteous anger and collective action at the prevailing injustice in our society, which has kept the majority of our people poor. We have the numbers and we can surely effect change. I hope and pray that Cardinal Tagle will lead us and put to realization the age old message of our Lord Jesus Christ which the Holy Father has challenged us to act on when he spoke at the Palace, to hear the voice of the poor, to “break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities” and to reform “the social structures which perpetuate poverty and the exclusion of the poor”.

    SEVERO L. BRILLANTES

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