Reading Robert Moynihan's Pray For Me, one can grasp that humility, genuineness and magnetism are the hallmarks of Pope Francis' character. You feel you're looking into the soul of the individual who has recently been elected the spiritual head of the Catholic Church, although you sense he personally had no such desire or ambition.
Pray For Me— The Life And Spiritual Vision Of Pope Francis By Robert Moynihan 233pp Random House paperback Available at Asia Books and leading bookstores 395 baht
After his rock-star reception in Brazil, his accommodating comments on gays, and his general open-mindedness that has even charmed reporters, the pontiff has proven to be a trendsetter who has shown on several occasions he will not be put in a slot. He has some strong opinions on what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Choosing to be called Pope Francis, after one of Italy's two patron saints, gives us another insight into his simple lifestyle and a deep love for Christ and concern for the poor. In this book, Moynihan has painted a vivid picture for us to get acquainted with the papal figure _ with a focus on his life and his spiritual vision.
Pope Francis embarked on this spiritual journey back in 1958, when he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus. He was ordained as a priest in the Jesuit order in 1969.
Since then he has held several offices, including professor of the Faculty of Theology of San Miguel, consulter of the Province of the Society of Jesus, rector of the Colegio Maximo's faculty of Philosophy and Theology. The list goes on.
In May 1992, Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Auca and Auxiliary of Buenos Aires. Three years later Pope John Paul II bestowed him with the honour of cardinal.
Pope Francis discouraged the faithful from going to Rome to celebrate his ordination as Cardinal and even in March, he did the same when he was hailed as Pope. The reason being that the money spent on travelling could go towards the betterment of the poor who are so close to his heart. As honour upon honour was bestowed upon Cardinal Bergoglio he remained simple and humble and was considered by many to be "ascetic".
In October 2001 he was appointed general rector of the Synod of Bishops. His emphasis was on the prophetic mission of the bishop: his being a "prophet of justice", his duty to preach the gospel ceaselessly and stress matters of faith and morals. Some of the highlights of his ministry are his warm relationship with the Jewish community; on the second day of his papacy, he greeted and sent a letter to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the oldest Jewish community of the diaspora, Dr Riccardo Di Segni.
His rise brings about numerous firsts _ never before has the Catholic Church had a Latin American Pope, a Jesuit Pope or a Spanish-speaking Pope.
He is known to ride in buses instead of chauffeur-driven cars and his heart is with the poor, the oppressed, and those who are victims of human trafficking. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he took time to support causes too, such as Fundacion Almeda, and actively sought justice for exploited migrants working in Argentina, and he went to the aid of Olga Cruz, the foundation's head. She recalled him coming to the rescue of women who had been victims of the sex trade. They were sheltered in the parishes, and the then-cardinal gave them moral and spiritual support. His good deeds towards the poor have been remembered for years and many such stories of his kindness abound in Buenos Aires _ now they have to share him with the world.
Even though he was born in Argentina, his parents were Italian immigrants and he was one of five siblings.
Though close to his family, he would rather be in the Buenos Aries slums than at barbecues with his family. He has a shepherd's heart and the choices he makes are geared towards helping the helpless. His humility surfaces when he asked the faithful, other clergy to pray for him. Instead of praying for them, he asked for their prayers!
The task before him, be it on a spiritual or political front, is gigantic but with his total dependence on his faith in the Almighty he will do it. Another challenge will be that of a peacemaker, in the treacherous times we live in, where "peace" appears to be the farthest thing from the minds of world leaders. In this pursuit Pope Francis is eager to meet with Islamic spiritual leader and others and his honest cry Pray For Me needs to be heard and implemented. The Catholic faithful are hopeful that positive changes will be made.
He has put "tradition" on the back burner and has stepped out to make necessary changes, putting equality among humans as the foundation stone of relationships. Many in the Vatican are still reeling from the ways of this simple yet profound soul in areas of protocol. A glimmer of hope arises as we see Pope Francis has chosen the name of a saint who was known for his burning love for Jesus, for the poor and even loved and communicated with animals. This precious soul had penned a prayer which reveals his and the present Pope's goal and desire.
About the author
- Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert