A Jesuit pope!

A Jesuit pope!

Habemus papam! A Jesuit pope, no less! Despite the Society of Jesus being the largest order of priests for many centuries, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be elected pope.

The Jesuits have bequeathed the Church many great saints. Heroic priests who were giants of their generation. Three of my favourites Jesuits — apart from St Ignatius Loyola I mean — are St Francis Xavier, Fr William Doyle, and Bl Miguel Pro. Perhaps Pope Francis will one day number among these great Jesuit saints. In the meantime, they will be praying for him!

By all accounts, our new pope is a holy and prayerful man, steeped in the Ignatian tradition. At the heart of Ignatian spirituality is a tried and tested discernment of spirits, good and evil. That puts our Holy Father in good stead, I think, to navigate the treacherous waters ahead.

Perhaps his first task will be to act on the “secret report” on the Curia which Benedict commissioned and received, and which reportedly exposes a treacherous web within the Vatican. Perhaps.

The pope is not like a president or prime minister, who win office on a specific mandate to which he is held account. Pope Francis is accountable to our Lord, not to the cardinals who elected him. And he will exercise the office according to his own discernment, not according to a preconceived agenda.

A lot of people whom I spoke to in recent weeks had favourite papabile. A cardinal whom they backed and wanted to win. I hope they don’t feel like losers today; I hope they’re not disappointed in our new pope. That’s the danger, I think, in treating the conclave like a political campaign, and getting drawn into the “horserace coverage” which sells newspapers.

St Josemaría spoke to a group of Opus Dei men during the sede vacante of 1968. His words can be expanded to all of us. He reminded his listeners that a Catholic’s filial devotion to the Pope is not a cult of personality. It’s an esteem and affection for the office. That’s why he encouraged people to pray for the pope even before they knew who he was.

Having adopted Cardinal Sepe, I had my hands full until today. But now I will be able to follow Josemaría’s advice, and offer all my prayers and sacrifices for Pope Francis.

I would like to speak to you once more about the upcoming election of the Holy Father. You know, my sons, the love that we have for the Pope. After Jesus and Mary, we love the Pope with all the strength of our soul, whoever he may be. Therefore, we already love the Roman Pontiff who is to come. We are determined to serve him with our whole life.

Pray, and offer to our Lord even your moments of relaxation. We offer even this for the Pope who is to come, just as we have offered the Mass during all these days, just as we have offered even our breathing.

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