With the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the world obviously knew that, there would be a conclave to elect another pope. This unexpected news generated a lot of questions and concerns. Where will the next pope come from? Asia, Africa, Latin America, Italy, Nigeria? What are his views? Is he a conservative or liberalist? All these were questions which left our heads unsettled and thinking.
Our doubts were partially laid to rest when after the fifth ballot; we saw white smoke billowing from the chimney rising out of the Sistine Chapel, followed by the loud chiming bells of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, signalling that we have a pope. Our doubts was not completely cleared, since we did not know who the pope was, that prolonged break, when the pope was in the room of tears, testing his vestment, choosing a name etc., was a troubling moment for us which created an atmosphere of expectation. This scenario could be compared to a man who follows his wife to the hospital for an ultrasound, while waiting in the lounge, he is thinking is it going to be a girl or a boy?, twins or triplet?, what is the name to be given?. This situation was not different from ours on Wednesday.
As we screamed, Habemus Papam, Habemus Papam (we have a pope). The pope –who in being the shepherd of the catholic Church, is going to guide and lead the catholic faithful in the remaining period of year of faith, attend world youth day in Brazil, canonise saints on May 12 – chosen by the 115 cardinals happened to be Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis. With his election he seems to be an event maker because he is the first Jesuit, Latin American and the first Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi, after which the Pope took his name, is revered among Catholics for his work with the poor. St. Francis is viewed as a reformer of the Church, answering God’s call to “repair My Church in ruins.” This name symbolizes “poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church.
His election and choice of Francis in the 21st century, when the Church and the world are faced with a lot of issues, ranging from religious indifference, apathy to religion, consumerism, relativism, civilisation of death, is a pointer that like Saint Francis he has come to heal the Church. This, he is going to achieve through his holiness, simplicity and humility. In fact The European Union (EU) in its congratulatory message by its president Herman Van Rompuy, encouraged the Pope, with the determination and strength of his predecessors to defend and promote the fundamental values of peace, solidarity and human dignity.
There is no doubt that to confront the current happenings, one has to be a sign of contradiction. This pope is very brave and bold, and as such he is likely to face a world which is revolting against God, this is evidenced in the fact that he clashed with the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner with his opposition to gay marriage and free distribution of contraceptives.
The poor are not left out from the excitement because, in this milieu of exploitation occasioned by capitalism, the poor have become poorer to the extent that they have lost the voice to cry for help. The poor now have a voice in Pope Francis, who has lived the virtue of poverty, and has realised that true happiness and realisation is not in material accumulation but in giving and sharing.
There is no doubt – following the line of his predecessors- that he believes that the Church is modern, alive and mobile. He has come to be a true reformer and fighter by being a non-conformer to the dictates of relativism, so that the streets of the world would be open freely and widely to Christ.