Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
March 13 marks the 10th year anniversary of the election of Pope Francis.
The Lord has been truly prodigal with his Church in the 20th century and so far in the 21st. The popes of these times have been extraordinary men, every one of them. Of course, each one had received different gifts from the Lord and placed them at the service of the people of God.
In the face of many challenges created by the industrial revolution and labor strife, Leo XIII inaugurated the modern papal social magisterium. St. Pius X with his emphasis on the communion of children and the need to ground all of reality and our lives in Christ set the course for the modern Church while avoiding modernism. Benedict XV, whose pontificate was marked by the First World War, is widely recognized because of his strenuous efforts to avoid the war and stop it once it broke out. Pius XI’s social magisterium introduced the notion of subsidiarity. Pius XII whose luminous pontificate has been the object of slander, but in his times was widely recognized even by Israeli politicians and Hebrew organizations for his efforts to protect persecuted Jews. He also reformed the liturgy, promoted Biblical studies and worked quietly and tirelessly to prepare what would become the Second Vatican Council. St. John XXIII who convened the Council that is bearing so much fruit for the good of the Church. St. Paul VI who truly shaped the modern papacy, for example, inaugurating that apostolic visits that have become so common. John Paul I, whose short pontificate is remembered because of the joy of faith that he transmitted. St. John Paul II whose extraordinary pontificate we remember so vividly. His clear and courageous magisterium. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is perhaps his greatest contribution to the Church of the 21st century. Benedict XVI who already as a collaborator of John Paul II had the courage to deal with the painful issue of abuse by clergy with the Gospel and truth and, as a successor of Peter, commissioned a reform of ecclesiastical penal law to fight that scourge. Also, in continuity with his immediate predecessor, he made the proclamation of the love of God the core of his pontificate, even explicitly placing charity at the center of the conversation about social issues. Not to mention his resignation when in prayer he concluded that it was the best course of action for the Church.
Pope Francis in continuity with his immediate predecessors has made the proclamation of the mercy of God the central theme of his pontificate. He also reminds us constantly that the Church is synodal. As he never grows tire of explaining, that does not mean that the Church is a deliberative body where we vote to determine what we believe, or we change the teachings according to majority rule, but rather that the Church is a people that walks together towards a goal, the consummation of history in Jesus Christ.
The word “synod” etymologically means a common path. That is exactly what the pilgrim Church is, the people of God, redeemed by Christ, animated by the Holy Spirit walking towards the consummation of our personal and collective history in Him who is the Lord of history.
Pope Francis has also deepened our awareness of the ecological dimension of our faith. Firstly, by further developing the concept of human ecology, for as he tells us in his encyclical Laudato Si, the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. There is an “ecology of man”, based on the fact that “man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will”. As he further explains: “Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself.”
It has been 10 years of growing together in faith. Let us pray especially for the Pope, giving thanks to God for his pontificate, asking the Lord of history to keep him and to continue to assist him with His grace so that he, in turn, may continue to confirm us in the faith of the Church with the same enthusiasm, gentleness and serene joy, with which he did in the darkest hour of the pandemic when he encouraged us “to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us.”
Fr. Roberto M. Cid