Pope Francis five years on

This Tuesday 13 March marked five years since Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and stepped out onto the balcony at the Vatican as Pope Francis I.  I am sure we all remember that breath of fresh air that seemed to sweep into the Church that day as this humble man, taking the name of Francis of Assisi, the poverello, the man of humility and love for all of God’s creation, asked the world to bless him.  Many of us looked appreciatively and admiringly at this new pope as he shunned the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, preferring to live where he can be with people and welcome them freely.  He opted for simple garb, letting go of some of the lavish items of attire so favoured by the previous pope.  He declared that he wanted ‘a poor church for the poor’ and we heard stories of his simple lifestyle as Bishop of Buenos Aires.

Within a few weeks of becoming Pope, we saw him, on Holy Thursday, kneel to wash the feet of the inmates of a prison, breaking tradition, not least by including a young Muslim woman. One of his first official visits was to Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island which is the arrival point for many migrants undertaking that particular perilous journey from the African coast in rickety boats, desperately seeking refuge in Europe.  From the very start of his papacy we saw him visiting the sick, those who are disabled and the poor, including the favelas of Rio de Janeiro during World Youth Day.  The whole world, Catholic and beyond, was surprised and exhilarated at this unexpected change of style and language and so many of us felt a deep joy within as we saw a man who seemed to not only know about the Lord but appeared to be a man who walked with Him and in his footsteps.  In those heady days we were flooded with many such stories and we wondered what lay ahead for this struggling church as we watched this bright and cheerful man, radiating joy and warmth, as he undertook the responsibility of his office.

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Ms Kerry McCullough
Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator