|Pope Pius XI|
And those opening words; 'Buona sera', the equivalent of 'Hello'. Bathos indeed, after all the fuss. And then he just stood there, with barely a wave, looking a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. Time will show whether this was simply sheer fright or part of his calm, unhistrionic, style.
I was rather impressed with his words, if only because they were so artless. This was not a man who had memorised his acceptance speech, like a luvvie at the Oscars. The words came from the heart, and this made up for what he lacked in eloquence. Asking that people pray with and for him was a genuine good idea —meaning both genuine and good. And a good beginning, especially as there was no extempore ramblings, but simply the traditional Our Father and Hail Mary. I would have been happier had these been in Latin, but he was, I think, stressing that he is first and foremost the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, he used no other title.
Back home in Argentina he would appear to be a controversial figure. Many love him for his unfeigned charity, some (especially both the Kirchners) detest him for his firm stand on Catholic teaching. I gather that many of his Jesuit brothers are not keen on him, firstly for the firm way he administered their province when he was in charge, secondly for his refusal to support Liberation Theology, which some of them interpreted as support for an oppressive military dictatorship.
Somebody in the UK is bound to spot soon that he has spoken in favour of Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands—but then he is Argentinian, and perhaps this is to be expected. And perhaps if asked he might say that indeed the Malvinas should be 'returned' to Argentina, but when Patagonia is given back its independence, and the lands taken from Chile and Uruguay returned. For now, I noticed that the BBC last night interpreted his taking of the name Francis as meaning that he was 'an animal lover.' Which tells you all you need to know about the BBC, anyway, but nothing about Pope Francis.
Some on the net have been horrid (really horrid—so horrid and uncharitable that I'm not posting links) about his lack of liturgical style. Yup, I don't imagine we will be seeing the return of the tiara any time soon. He's not a fan of the Extraordinary Form, but he does appear to be a genuine fan of Pope Benedict, so I don't think he'll be reversing any of his liturgical decrees. Just don't expect red shoes or white Paschal mozzettas. Still less a deal with the Society of St Pius X.
As for what everyone seems to think necessary, will he reform the Curia? Reform of the Curia is something that has been a kind of a mantra since the 1960s. The 'Vatileaks' scandal has suggested very powerfully that now something badly needs to be done; it may well have been the event that precipitated the resignation of Pope Benedict. Pope Francis is not a curial insider, but he has served on several Curial commissions as Cardinal and showed himself an able leader of one of the Synods in, I think, 2001. His time as Jesuit Provincial has showed that he is no push-over and, while unquestionably kindly, he is capable of firm, though unshowy, action. If I had to guess, I would say that there will be no heads rolling, but we should expect a gradual clear-out over the next five years or so. Even if what has come to be known as the Sodano party is right in thinking that little needs to be changed, the worldwide perception is that change is essential, and this is important for the credibility of the Holy See and the Church more widely. At the very least there needs to be a proper and transparent mechanism for dealing with the abuse cases around the world. As Tim Stanley wrote, the trouble is that the Curia function much like the Italian Government, and the Italian Government doesn't even work in Italy!
A friend on Facebook alerted me to this article from the Catholic Herald at the time of the last conclave; it is about the then second-placed Cardinal Bergoglio, and tells us more than most other sources.
Quiet thunder in Argentina
This profile of Cardinal Bergoglio first appeared in The Catholic Herald on October 7 2005