Francis I

All men are fallible, not excepting the Pope — Fowler

Wednesday, 17 June, 2015 0 Comments

Tomorrow, at noon, the Vatican will issue Laudato Si, a major statement by Pope Francis on climate change. On Monday, the Italian magazine L’Espresso broke the publication embargo and leaked the 192-page encyclical in a “heinous act,” according to a Vatican official quoted by Bloomberg News. “We are not God,” Laudato Si proclaims. “The earth precedes us and was given to us,” notes Think Progress in its translation of the leaked document.

Hailed by many as the “Pope of the poor,” Francis is now linking environmental and economic issues in his encyclical in ways that are certain to ignite heated debate. Right on cue, the New York Times is using the leak as part of its campaign against Republican candidates for the presidency: “A Florida archbishop will highlight the pope’s climate change message in the hope that it will resonate in particular with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush,” is the sub-head on “Pope’s Views on Climate Change Add Pressure to U.S. Candidates”. Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholicism, responded immediately, saying: “I hope I’m not like, going to get castigated for saying this in front of my priest back home but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

The “green” Francis has a new supporter in the form of the notorious British atheist George Monbiot and we can expect other unbelievers to follow his lead. Some of them may even cite the atheist H. W. Fowler, author of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (published 1926): “excepting as a preposition has one normal use. When a possible exception is to be mentioned as not made, the form used is, instead of not except, either not excepting before the noun or not excepted after it: All men are fallible except the Pope; all men are fallible, not excepting the Pope, or the Pope not excepted.”

Pope Francis will be infallible tomorrow for the climate change movement, but its adherents might not like some of his other pronouncements.


Francesco in fiction and in fact

Tuesday, 5 May, 2015 0 Comments

The Vicar of Christ A novel called The Vicar of Christ spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list In 1979. It was written by Walter F. Murphy, a Princeton legal scholar, and its protagonist was an unusual man named Declan Walsh — an American war hero, a United States Supreme Court justice, and then, following an affair and the untimely death of his wife, a monk — who is elected Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church by a deadlocked papal conclave in Rome.

The new broom sweeps famously clean and the new pope loses no time in dusting down the the Vatican. He launches a global campaign against hunger, paid for by the sale of Church treasures. He intervenes in global conflicts, flying to Tel Aviv at one point during an Arab terror campaign. He proclaims a plan to reverse Church teachings on celibacy and contraception, and banishes conservative cardinals to monastic exile when they plot against him. He toys with the Arian heresy, which casts doubt on the divinity of Jesus, and he embraces a Quaker-like religious pacifism, arguing that the just-war theory is out of date in an age of nuclear weapons. It is this last move that gets him assassinated.

In Walter F. Murphy’s novel, Declan Walsh takes the name Francesco, which is the name Jorge Mario Bergoglio took on 13 March 2013, when he was elected pope. The non-fiction Francesco is quite the reformer, too.


The plight of the Assyrians and the Yezidi

Monday, 1 December, 2014 0 Comments

“We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for two thousand years. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have been forced violently from their homes. It even seems that the value of human life has been lost, that the human person no longer matters and may be sacrificed to other interests. And, tragically, all this is met by the indifference of many.”

So spoke Pope Francis I and Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul yesterday.

Born in Syria and living in Los Angeles, Sargon Saadi made The Last Plight to combat the world’s indifference to the suffering of the Assyrian and Yezidi people living under the barbaric rule of ISIS. We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.


“Pope Francis stopped at our house”

Tuesday, 29 July, 2014 0 Comments

To mark the first 500 days of his pontificate, Pope Francis did an interview with the Argentine magazine Viva, a supplement of the national daily, El Clarín. What has made the interview so popular is that the Pope gave a 10-point recipe for happiness:. “The Romans have a saying, which can be taken as a point of reference,” he noted. “They say: ‘Campa e lascia campà‘ (live and let live). That’s the first step to peace and happiness.” Next on the list was “giving oneself to others,” which is what he does here during a visit to Cassano all’Ionio:


Francis redefines the Popemobile

Wednesday, 18 June, 2014 0 Comments

When he greets crowds at the Vatican, his custom Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen is completely open. So writes Alex Nunez in a Road & Track piece titled “Pope Francis on why he eschews a bulletproof Popemobile“. The Pontiff in trading security for intimacy and is quoted as telling Barcelona’s La Vanguardia: “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.”

There might be more to that fatalistic quip than meets the eye because on Monday the Vatican’s news service announced that that Francis is drastically curtailing his schedule by suspending his popular Wednesday audiences in July and skipping his daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives.

He’s had a busy year so maybe it’s just a well-earned break.


The community Pope

Friday, 20 September, 2013 1 Comment

In a lengthy and fascinating interview for 16 Jesuit publications around the world, Pope Francis says Catholic leaders must find a “new balance” between their spiritual mission and their involvement in political questions, warning that if they don’t, the church’s foundation will “fall like a house of cards.” And as befits our socially mediated times, Francis goes large on “community”. Despite the many subjects covered in the interview, the liberal media reduces everything he has said to sexuality. Typical is the Irish Times: “Pope seeks ‘new balance’ on abortion, women and gays“. We need a new journalism.

“Community. I was always looking for a community. I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community. And you can tell this by the fact that I am here in Santa Marta. At the time of the conclave I lived in Room 207. (The rooms were assigned by drawing lots.) This room where we are now was a guest room. I chose to live here, in Room 201, because when I took possession of the papal apartment, inside myself I distinctly heard a ‘no.’ The papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace is not luxurious. It is old, tastefully decorated and large, but not luxurious. But in the end it is like an inverted funnel. It is big and spacious, but the entrance is really tight. People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.”


Leaning in

Friday, 15 March, 2013 0 Comments

For media producers and consumers around the world, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week were marked by long stretches of inactivity (no smoke) followed by brief moments of minimalist action (smoke). What sounds deadly boring was, in fact, ideal material for the Twitter/Facebook masses. The lengthy waiting for the cardinals in Rome to reach a decision allowed amateur and professional Vaticanologists to speculate on things they know little or nothing about, and the hour between the white smoke and the drawing of the curtains could not have been bettered for dramatic impact. This was more thrilling than most action films. Indeed, one of the many surprises of the past week has been the astonishing ability of those ancient rites to reveal themselves as ideal material for sharing, as this Instagram page from NBC News shows.

NBC Instagram


Pope Francis I

Wednesday, 13 March, 2013 1 Comment

The Time of Pope Francis