.by Anura Guruge
By any standard, subjective or objective, the first Latin American pope’s first 100 days has been quite a success, possibly even falling into the ‘unqualified success’ realm.
Bravo. It was exactly what the doctor ordered to get the Church over the trauma of the unexpected papal resignation.
To be fair, it was highly unlikely that the current cadre of cardinals, a savvy, politic bunch at the worst of times, were going to elect a pope who was not destined for success at this juncture. That said, as I have maintained from the start, I have a nagging feeling that this might have been a ‘caretaker’ appointment to put some distance between ‘the resignation’ and the next ‘real’ pope!
Anybody that is even vaguely familiar with my work will know that I have railed, incessantly, against materialistic excesses by popes. In that respect this is a pope of my dreams. But, his reluctance to move into the Apostolic Palace bothers me. While I fully appreciate and applaud the sentiment, his insistence in staying at the ‘Domus’ gives his papacy an air of impermanence. Lets face it. The Domus is a Guest House for visitors. While all of us are but visitors on Earth, a duly elected Pope insisting on staying in a Guest House has an air of incongruence.
I like this pope. There is nothing really to dislike. I even had him in my published Top 10 papabili. To me, this pope is such a refreshing change after the glitzy vestment obsessed prior incumbent who by his last act confirmed that in the end he was all pomp and of little circumstance.
This pope at multiple levels reminds me of what I have learned of Very Good Pope Bl. John XXIII (#262). They are both, indubitably, people oriented, though in my opinion this pope does not have the ingrained, deep-seated warmth and empathy that John appeared to possess. But, I think many would agree that John is and was incomparable. This pope sometimes comes across as someone that wants, desperately, to be like John. Nothing wrong with that. I have also noticed another parallel. John, despite his momentous, far reaching decision to invoke Vatican II, basically worked outside of the Roman curia. He knew he didn’t have the time to deal with the machinations of that arcane bureaucracy. So instead, with a close inner-circle he did what he could do from the Apostolic Palace essentially not bothering to channel anything through the curia. He left that for Paul VI to work out. While it is still early days I see a similar pattern here. The pope, at least as yet, has not got his hands on the levers of Vatican government.
Fr. Anthony from whom I always learn so much tells us that the pope’s ‘caution’ in dealing with the curia is a Jesuit thing. He, as ever, is probably right. But I continue to have the nagging feeling that he still hasn’t worked out how to be the CEO – that he was elected to be.
We now come to the main theme that I really wanted to talk about. It goes without saying that I am beyond delighted by this pope’s total commitment towards helping the poor. Hip, hip, hooray for this pope. But, this pope does not seem to be making the distinction between a “Pope For The Poor” and a “Poor Man’s Pope”! Yes, there is a difference, a big difference.
Let me start with an easy one. The pope’s decision NOT to give the customary papal transition bonus to the Vatican staff, including the curia. Of course that sounds good. But, he got it wrong. Many of the Vatican staff that would have got this bonus, i.e., gardeners, elevator operators, janitors, drivers etc., are poor! This aspect is well known. The Vatican is noted for being cheap when it comes to wages. The pope should have said that the bonus would ONLY be given to those below a certain grade! That would have been Presidential. What he did makes him look petty and cheap. It also demonstrates that he is somewhat naive.
While he could have acted poor while an Archbishop in Argentina, the Bishop of Rome, by no measure on Earth or heaven, is poor. This what I mean by saying that he is trying to come across as a “Poor Man’s Pope” as opposed to what he really is, i.e., Pope. Enough of the rhetoric! This is not a Jesuit missionary school. If the Pope wants to help the poor lets gets on with it. Lets liquidate some assets. Have a YARD SALE in St. Peter’s Square, all proceeds going to help the poor. If he is not going to use the Apostolic Apartment, clear it out. Sell all the stuff. I am sure he could easily raise a few million dollars doing just that. Walk down any of the corridors. Just pick a few paintings and tapestries of the wall. Depending on what he picked we could now be even looking at BILLIONS. So, to me, talk is CHEAP. Lets have some action.
Yes, John Paul I (#265) also talked much about re-distributing the wealth. I think he even mentioned that he might consider selling Michelangelo’s Pieta. He ran out of time. I would hate to see that happen to this pope. So, I would prefer to less talk, more action – even if it is just on the helping the poor front. Tackling the ‘Gay Lobby’ might be harder. As for the atheist, I am not sure whether they really worry whether the pope thinks that they can find salvation or not. Isn’t that why they are atheists in the first place – they are no longer concerned about an afterlife along the lines that the pope thinks of.
All of this said, it has been a good, refreshing 100 days. Never mind the U.S. nuns. They are screwed and they know it. This pope, like nearly all the cardinals created by John Paul II and Benedict, was going to be a ‘traditionalist’.
So, here is to the next 100 days.
Pope Francis’ 100th day as pope will be on Friday, June 21, 2013
— the Summer Solstice.
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