not words, convince people. Ideas can illuminate, but it is examples
that attract and move us. Examples are understood by everyone. Most
explanations tend to confuse more than clarify. Actions speak for
What has marked the new Pope Francis, the one «who
comes from the end of the world», namely, from outside the European
frame of reference, so charged with traditions, palaces, royal
spectacles and internal power struggles, are the simple, popular
gestures, obvious to those who appreciate a good common sense of life.
Pope Francis is breaking protocols and showing that power is always a
mask and theater, as sociologist Peter Berger pointed out so well, even
when the power purports to be of divine origin.
simply obeys the command of Jesus of Nazareth who explicitly said that
the great of this world give orders and dominate, “but it shall not be
so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your
minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of
all. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister" (Mark,10,43-45). Very well, if Jesus said that, how can the
Pope, guarantor of His message, act otherwise?
the establishment of the absolutist monarchy of the popes, especially
beginning with the second millennium, the ecclesiastic institution
inherited the symbols of Roman imperial power and of the feudal
nobility: colorful clothing (such as the Cardinals'), tinsel, crucifixes
and rings of silver and gold and palatial habits. In the great
religious convents of the Middle Ages, life occurred in regal spaces.
the room where I stayed, as a student, in the Franciscan Convent of
Munich, that dates back to the times of William of Ockham (XIV century),
one Renaissance painting on the wall was itself worth several thousand
Euros. How can one reconcile the poverty of the Nazarene, who did not
have a corner where to rest his head, with the miters, golden bishop's
staffs and the stoles and prince-like vestments of present day prelates?
That is honestly not possible. And people who are not ignorant, but
fine observers, notice the contradiction. All this ostentation has
nothing to do with the Tradition of Jesus of Nazareth and His Apostles.
to some newspaper accounts, when the Secretary of the Conclave tried to
place on the shoulders of Pope Francis the «muceta», the little richly
adorned cape, the symbol of papal power, Francis only said: “The
carnival is over, put those clothes away". And he appeared dressed in
white, as did Dom Helder Camara, who left the colonial palace of Olinda
and went to live under a humble roof in the Church of Las Candelas, in
the periphery; as Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns had done, not to
mention Dom Pedro Casaldaliga, who lives in a poor little house, sharing
the room with a guest.
To me, the most simple, honest and
common gesture of Pope Francis was when he went to the hotel where he
had stayed (he never stayed in the big central house of the Jesuits in
Rome) to pay his bill of 90 Euros per day. Pope Francis walked in, and
he personally gathered his clothes, packed his suitcase, greeted the
staff of the hotel, and left. What civil potentate, opulent millionaire,
what famous artist would do such thing? It would be a betrayal of the
intent of the Bishop of Rome not to see in this gesture, so normal for
all mortals, a populist intent.
Did he not do the same when he
was the Cardinal of Buenos Aires and went to get the newspaper, went
shopping, used the metro or the bus and preferred to introduce himself
as, «father Bergoglio»?
Frei Betto coined an expression that is a
great truth: «the head thinks from where the feet step». In effect,
someone who always walks in palaces and sumptuous cathedrals, ends up
thinking according to the logic of the palaces and cathedrals. For this
reason, Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass in the Chapel of Saint Anne,
inside the Vatican, considered the Roman parish of the Pope. And after
Mass he went outside to greet the faithful.
It is worthy of
note, and charged of theological content, that he did not present
himself as the Pope, but as «the bishop of Rome». He asked for prayers
not for the Emeritus Pope, Benedict XVI, but for the Emeritus Bishop of
Rome, Joseph Ratzinger. With this Francis retook the most primordial
tradition of the Church, that of considering the Bishop of Rome «first
among equals». Because Peter and Paul were buried there, Rome acquired
special preeminence. But that symbolic and spiritual power was exercised
in the style of charity, and not as juridical power over the other
Churches, as occurred in the second millennium. I will not be at all
surprised if, as John Paul I had wanted, Francis decided to leave the
Vatican and go live in a simpler place, with a great exterior space to
receive the visits of the faithful. The time is ripe for this type of
revolution in papal customs. And what a challenge is presented for the
other prelates of the Church to live in voluntary simplicity and shared
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, firstname.lastname@example.org,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.