Let me begin to say that no, I’m not a Catholic and as such do not believe in the Pope as God’s representative on Earth. One cannot deny, however, the major influence of the Pope in the religious world. Look only at the number of people on St Peter’s square, waiting for the white smoke to appear. And look at the joy on the faces of all those Catholics after the new Pope has been announced.
Habemus Papam, the traditional Latin phrase indicating a new Pope has been elected. Habemus Papam Franciscum, as cardinal Bergoglio has chosen the name of the holy Francis of Assisi. He once assisted the poor and needing, was very tolerant of the Islam and even lived with the Saracens during the times of the crusades. Francis of Assisi was a very loving man, believing that service to God meant sharing the lives and work of others. Even though he was definitely Catholic, there are some more Pagan or even worldly aspects to his beliefs and practice. He believed personal development was very important and placed great value in nature as God’s creation. He even wrote the Canticle of the Sun:
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.
Pope Francis the first seems likely to follow a similar path. He is the first Pope since the 8th century from outside Europe, coming from South America, where approximately 30% of all Catholics live. In his hometown, he was known to travel by bus, mingling with the people, sharing their lives. He washed the feet of AIDS patients, caring for them. Most important perhaps: even as newly elected Pope, he remains a simple man. Many people have commented on his humble “Buona sera” used to greet the collected people on St Peter’s square, which, in my opinion, shows his connection to ‘ordinary people’. The traditional “Urbi et orbi” (for the city [of Rome] and the world), where the second part often meant only the Catholic world, has been restored by this Pope to include everyone. So Catholic or pagan, black or white, homo- or heterosexual…