There are some things our new Pope has said and done in his first few days that I really like (thanks to a reader for the piccie links).
Personally, I like the fact that he took the bus back and forwards with the other Cardinals even after his election. He'll need all the fraternal support he can get over the coming days, so every conversation counts!
He clearly is going to have to get used to the security and other issues that come with being a head of state (see the piccie below, doing the rounds on the social media). Yet he seems intent on emphasizing that he is a bishop first and foremost, seeking to imitate Christ above all. I don't see the problem with that.
And if, as it seems, he is disdaining the symbols of monarchy and imitates instead that more casual, modern European style of monarch who can be found out on bicycling and actually engaging with people rather than simply appearing in set piece appearances, that's no bad thing either in my view. This Pope is, after all, a religious, and one who evidently takes his vow of poverty seriously.
He also went for a low profile visit to a Roman Church to pray to Our Lady, and made a point of visiting the altar of Pope St Pius V on his first day. Those seem like very nice symbols of what is to come indeed.
The setbacks of recent years
I also particularly liked Pope Francis' acknowledgement, in his first homily, that not all has been rosy in recent years:
"Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward".
Not an NGO, but a mission to convert!
Also very welcome is Pope Francis' early stress on the importance of focusing on Christ, not simply doing good works disconnected from our profession of faith, as so many of our religious orders and so-called Catholic charity agencies seem intent on these days.
In his first homily, to the Cardinal electors, Pope Francis said:
"Thirdly, professing. We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness."
He followed this up in his address to the Cardinals:
"As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us so many times in his teachings and, finally, with that courageous and humble gesture, it is Christ who guides the Church through His Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church, with His life-giving and unifying strength. Of many He makes a single body – the mystical Body of Christ. Let us never give in to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil tempts us with every day. Let us not give into pessimism and let us not be discouraged. We have the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives His Church, with His powerful breath, the courage to persevere, the courage to persevere and to search for new ways to evangelise, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Christian truth is attractive and convincing because it responds to the deep need of human existence, announcing in a convincing way that Christ is the one Saviour of the whole of man and of all men. This announcement is as valid today as it was at the beginning of Christianity when the Church worked for the great missionary expansion of the Gospel."
A bishops primary responsibility is to his own flock!
Another key message is the emphasis he is putting on bishops staying at home to actually do their job of building up their own local Church rather than hanging about Rome unnecessarily (or gallivanting around the world on assorted excuses)!
In his first homily as Pope, given to the Cardinal electors, Pope Francis took up the theme of that earlier Francis' mission, of building up the Church.
And he reminded the Cardinals that the building process rests on the spiritual stones of the Church, continued for us today in the successors to the Apostles:
"Building. Building the Church. We speak of stones: stones are solid; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself. This is another kind of movement in our lives: building."
Nice then, to know that our new Pope is suggesting his fellow Argentine bishops could decide not to head for Rome for his inauguration, but to donate the money to the poor instead.
He is also urging the Cardinals, in his address to the College, to get back home to the job, imbued afresh with the sense of the beauty of the Church:
“Now return to your Sees to continue your ministry enriched by the experience of these days that have been so full of faith and ecclesial communion. This unique and incomparable experience has allowed us to understand in depth the beauty of ecclesial reality, which is a reflection of the splendour of the Risen Christ. One day we'll look upon that beautiful face of the Risen Christ.”