- Created on 14 March 2013
VATICAN CITY — On the streets in Buenos Aires, the stories about the cardinal who has become the first pope from the Americas often include a very ordinary backdrop: The city bus during rush hour.
Tales are traded about chatting with Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio as he squeezed in with others for the commute to work. They sometimes talked about church affairs. Other times it could be about what he planned to cook for dinner in the simple downtown apartment he chose over an opulent church estate.
Or perhaps it was a mention of his affection for the tango, which he said he loved as a youth despite having one lung removed following an infection.
On the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica just after a rain shower Wednesday, wearing unadorned white robes, the new Pope Francis appeared to strike the same tone of simplicity and pastoral humility for a church desperate to move past the tarnished era of abuse scandals and internal Vatican upheavals.
While the new pontiff is not without some political baggage, including questions over his role during a military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s, the selection of the 76-year-old Bergoglio reflected a series of history-making decisions by fellow cardinals who seemed determined to offer a suggestion of renewal to a church under pressures on many fronts.
"He is a real voice for the voiceless and vulnerable," said Kim Daniels, director of Catholic Voices USA, a pro-church group. "That is the message."
A cousin back in Argentina said the new pope "has a good spirit" that will benefit Roman Catholicism.
"He is naturally humble and a pastor," said cardiologist Hugo Bergoglio, adding: "Jorge never thought he would be pope, or even a cardinal. That's why he ended up becoming pope."
Francis, the first pope from Latin America and the first from the Jesuit order, bowed to the crowds in St. Peter's Square and asked for their blessing in a hint of the humble style he cultivated while trying to modernize Argentina's conservative church and move past a messy legacy of alleged complicity during the rule of the military junta of 1976-83.
"Brothers and sisters, good evening," he said before making a reference to his roots in Latin America, which accounts for about 40 percent of the world's Roman Catholics.
Groups of supporters waved white-and-blue Argentine flags in St. Peter's Square as Francis made his first public appearance as pope. Bergoglio, who flew to Rome in tourist class, reportedly had envoys urge Argentines not to come to Rome to celebrate his papacy, but instead donate money to the poor.
In taking the name Francis, he drew connections to the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi, who saw his calling as trying to rebuild the simple spirit of the church and devote his life to missionary journeys. It also evokes references to Francis Xavier, one of the 16th century founders of the Jesuit order that is known for its scholarship and outreach.
Francis, the son of middle-class Italian immigrants, came close to becoming pope during the last conclave in 2005. He reportedly gained the second-highest vote total in several rounds of voting before he bowed out of the running before selection of Vatican insider Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
By returning to Bergoglio, the conclave confounded speculation that it would turn to a younger candidate more attuned to younger elements in the church and with possibly more stamina for the rigors of the modern papacy with nearly nonstop obligations and frequent global travel. Francis appears in good health, but his age and possible limitations from his single lung raise questions about whether he can face the demands of the position. He doesn't much like to travel, say priests in Buenos Aires.
Unlike many of the other papal contenders, Bergoglio never held a top post inside the Vatican administration, or curia. This outsider status could pose obstacles in attempts to reform the Vatican, which has been hit with embarrassing disclosures from leaked documents alleging financial cover-ups and internal feuds.
But the conclave appeared more swayed by Bergoglio's reputation for compassion on issues such as poverty and the effects of globalization, and his fealty to traditional church teachings such as opposition to birth control.
His overriding image, though, is built around his leaning toward austerity. The motto chosen for his archdiocese is "Miserando Atque Eligendo," or "Lowly but Chosen."
Even after he became Argentina's top church official in 2001, he never lived in the ornate church mansion where Pope John Paul II stayed when visiting, preferring a simple bed in a downtown building, warmed by a small stove on frigid weekends when the building turned off the heat. For years, he took public transportation around the city, and cooked his own meals. He likes to drink mate, a traditional South American tea. He rises at 5:30 a.m. and starts work at 7.
A man doesn't like the limelight, Bergoglio almost never granted media interviews, limiting himself to speeches from the pulpit. He was reluctant to contradict his critics, even when he knew their allegations against him were false, said Bergoglio's authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin.
Bergoglio's legacy as cardinal includes his efforts to repair the reputation of a church that lost many followers by failing to openly challenge Argentina's dictatorship.
He also worked to recover the church's traditional political influence in society, but his outspoken criticism of President Cristina Fernandez couldn't stop her from imposing socially liberal measures that are anathema to the church, from gay marriage and adoption to free contraceptives for all. Fernandez compared his tone to "medieval times and the Inquisition."
Yet Bergoglio has been tough on hard-line conservative views among his own clerics, including those who refused to baptize the children of unmarried women.
"These are today's hypocrites; those who clericalize the church, those who separate the people of God from salvation," he told Argentina's priests last year.
Bergoglio feels most comfortable keeping a very low profile, a personal style that is the antithesis of Vatican splendor.
Many Argentines remain angry over the church's acknowledged failure to openly confront a regime that was kidnapping and killing thousands of people as it sought to eliminate "subversive elements" in society. It's one reason why more than two-thirds of Argentines describe themselves as Catholic, but less than 10 percent regularly attend Mass.
Under Bergoglio's leadership, Argentina's bishops issued a collective apology in October 2012 for the church's failures to protect its flock. But the statement blamed the era's violence in roughly equal measure on both the junta and its enemies.
"Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticized the leftist guerrillas. He doesn't forget that side," Rubin said.
The statements came far too late for some activists, who accused Bergoglio of being more concerned about the church's image than about aiding the many human rights investigations into the junta era.
Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court. When he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman said.
At least two cases directly involved Bergoglio, who ran Argentina's Jesuit order during the dictatorship.
Bergoglio told Rubin that he regularly hid people on church property during the dictatorship, and once gave his identity papers to a man with similar features, enabling him to escape across the border. But all this was done in secret, at a time when church leaders publicly endorsed the junta and called on Catholics to restore their "love for country" despite the terror in the streets.
Initially trained as a chemist, Bergoglio taught literature, psychology, philosophy and theology before taking over as Buenos Aires archbishop in 1998. He speaks Spanish, Italian and German, and reads English. He became cardinal in 2001, when the economy was collapsing, and won respect for blaming unrestrained capitalism for impoverishing millions of Argentines.
Later, there was little love lost between Bergoglio and Argentina's government. Relations became so frigid that the president stopped attending his annual "Te Deum" address, when church leaders traditionally tell political leaders what's wrong with society.
"Is Bergoglio a progressive, a liberation theologist even? No. He's no Third World priest," said Rubin. "Does he criticize the International Monetary Fund, and neoliberalism? Yes. Does he spend a great deal of time in the slums? Yes."
- Created on 12 March 2013
VATICAN CITY — The election of a pope follows a series of choreographed rules and rituals that have been tweaked over the centuries ever since the term "conclave" or "with a key" was used in the 13th century to describe the process of locking up the cardinals until they have chosen a new pope.
Here are the rules in use to elect the 266th pope:
Only cardinals under age 80 are eligible; in this case 115 men fit the bill and will vote. Two cardinals who were eligible stayed home: The emeritus archbishop of Jakarta, Cardinal Julius Darmaatjadja, who is ill, and Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who recused himself after admitting to inappropriate sexual behavior.
WHAT IS THE RITUAL?
The conclave's first day begins with the "Pro eligendo Romano Pontificie" Mass for the election of a pope. In the afternoon, cardinals gather in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace and file into the Sistine Chapel chanting the Litany of Saints and the Latin hymn "Veni Creator," imploring saints and the Holy Spirit to help them pick a pope.
Standing under Michelangelo's "Creation" and before his "Last Judgment," each cardinal places his hand on a book of the Gospels and pledges "with the greatest fidelity" never to reveal the details of the conclave. A meditation on the qualities needed for the next pope and the challenges ahead for the church is delivered by Maltese Cardinal Prosper Grech.
The master of liturgical celebrations then cries "Extra omnes," Latin for "all out." Everyone except the cardinals leaves and the voting can begin.
HOW DO THEY VOTE?
Each cardinal writes his choice on a paper inscribed with the words "Eligo in summen pontificem," or "I elect as Supreme Pontiff." They approach the altar one by one and say: "I call as my witness, Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who, before God, I think should be elected."
The folded ballot is placed on a round plate and slid into an oval silver and gold urn. In the past, a single chalice was used to hold the ballots. But conclave changes made by Pope John Paul II in 1996 required three vessels: one for chapel ballots, another for ailing cardinals at the Vatican who can vote from their beds and the third to hold the ballots after counting. No cardinals are expected to require the bedside voting, but all three flying saucer-shaped urns were in the Sistine Chapel regardless.
The ballots are then bound together with a needle and thread — each pierced through the word "Eligo" — and burned in the chapel stove along with a chemical to produce either black or white smoke.
Up to four rounds of voting are allowed each day after the first day, and a two-thirds majority — 77 votes — is needed.
If no one is elected after three days — by Friday afternoon — voting pauses for up to one day. Voting resumes and if no pope is elected after another seven ballots, there is another pause, and so on until about 12 days of balloting have passed.
Under norms introduced by Benedict XVI just before he resigned, the cardinals then go to a runoff of the top two vote-getters. A two-thirds majority is required; neither of the two top candidates casts a ballot in the runoff.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THE POPE IS ELECTED?
Once a cardinal has been elected pope, the master of liturgical ceremonies enters the Sistine Chapel and the senior cardinal asks "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?" Assuming the cardinal says "I accept," the senior cardinal then asks: "By what name do you wish to be called?" The master of liturgical ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, then enters the information on a formal document.
At this point, white smoke pours out of the Sistine Chapel chimney and bells of St. Peters toll.
The new pope then changes into his papal white cassock, and one-by-one the cardinals approach him to swear their obedience.
In a change for this conclave, the new pope will stop and pray in the Pauline Chapel for a few minutes before emerging on the loggia of the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. Preceding him to the balcony is French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the protodeacon, who announces "Habemus Papam!" Latin for "We have a pope" and then introduces him to the world in Latin.
The new pope then emerges and delivers his first public words as pope.
- Created on 08 March 2013
Black Entertainment Television is bringing its auditions for the hit gospel singing competition show "Sunday Best" to town this weekend. Chicago is one of four cities the show is traveling to for auditions looking for vocal standouts in gospel music.
Tryouts will be held Saturday, March 9 at New Faith Baptist Church, 25 S. Central Avenue, in south suburban Matteson. Doors open to singers age 18 and over at 7 a.m. and close at noon.
Chicago is home to the founders and legends of gospel, including Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson. It is also home to Shari Addison, a finalist in the first season of the cable network competition show. A number of other Chicagoans have competed on "Sunday Best," now in its sixth season.
The show airs on the cable network and is hosted by Kirk Franklin. Gospel celebrity judges - for the auditions and the show - include Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and CeCe Winans. Singers will have to perform any one of 23 contemporary and traditional gospel songs and hymns as part of the audition. The playlist includes: 2013 Stellar Award-winning "Awesome" by Chicago’s Rev. Charles Jenkins and his Fellowship church choir; the traditional sound of "Thank You Lord (For All You’ve Done For Me)" by the legendary Walter Hawkins; and "I Surrender All" - Traditional Version. Winans recorded an an arrangement of the hymn on her "Alone In His Presence" album.
- Created on 11 March 2013
VATICAN CITY — Cardinals from around the world have descended on Rome to discuss some of the major problems facing the Catholic Church ahead of the conclave to elect Benedict XVI's successor as pope. Topping the agenda: Vatican scandals, Benedict's remarkable decision to resign and efforts to keep Christianity relevant in today's world.
The first pre-conclave meeting is scheduled for Monday morning, headed by the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano. He has said the date for the start of the conclave won't be set until all the cardinals are in Rome, meaning a definitive date may not come until mid-week.
The function of the pre-conclave sessions is to discuss core issues facing the church and for the cardinals to get to know one another better — both of which are designed to help the 115 voting-age "princes" of the church choose the right man for the papacy.
This time around, there's one unofficial agenda item that is attracting the most attention: a briefing from the three cardinals who conducted the investigation into the leaks of confidential documents from the pope's study.
Italian news reports have been rife with unsourced reports about the purported contents of the cardinals' dossier — reports which the Vatican has labeled as "false."
Even if the reports are off, though, the leaks themselves confirmed a fairly high level of dysfunction within the Vatican bureaucracy, with intrigues, turf battles and allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the highest levels of the church hierarchy.
In one of his last audiences before resigning, Benedict met with the three cardinals who prepared the report and decided that their dossier would remain secret. But he gave them the go-ahead to answer cardinals' questions about its contents.
"What we talk about ... will be certainly the governance of the church and in that context there may be questions to people who did the report," U.S. Cardinal Francis George told reporters. "I think we will find out a lot from a lot of sources to figure out what is necessary now to govern the church well here in Rome itself."
The pope's ex-butler was convicted by a Vatican court of stealing the papers and giving them to an Italian journalist, though he was later pardoned by Benedict.
Another topic facing the cardinals is the reason they're here in the first place: Benedict's resignation and its implications. His decision to end 600 years of tradition and retire rather than stay on the job until death has completely altered the concept of the papacy, and cardinals haven't shied from weighing in about the implications for the next pope.
Previously, cardinals might have been wary about electing a very young pope, fearing a lengthy papacy. With Benedict's resignation, the field might be open now to a younger pope, or conversely an older one who may serve for a few years and then retire without having his final years play out on the world stage, as was the case with Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., said the demands on a pope are enormous these days and take a toll: There's world travel, writing encyclicals, holding audiences with visiting heads of state and bishops — not to mention governing the 1.2 billion-strong church and taking time out to pray.
"I wonder if the church isn't better served by simply knowing we can choose the best person we think to be pope, then at a certain point if he thinks 'I can't do this anymore,' then he is free to step aside, just like Pope Benedict did," Wuerl told The Associated Press on Sunday. "I think it is a very liberating thought that we are free to face this reality, this possibility."
Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, though, has said the resignation was "slightly destabilizing" for the church and that he doesn't want it to create a trend with popes "popping in and out."
South African Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier told Spain's El Mundo newspaper that a talent for governance and stamina were important considerations for choosing the new pope — but more important was that the pope must be someone who can show that the church and faith are alive.
It's a sentiment echoed by Wuerl: "Our task is to say to as many people as will listen 'There is a God. God loves you. God wants to be a part of your life,'" Wuerl told AP. "If there are some internal problems in the Vatican, administrative problems at the Vatican, that eventually will be dealt with. It certainly isn't going to condition how I am going to be looking at who is going to guide and lead the church in the next years."
- Created on 07 March 2013
COMMENTARY– The shift in the center of gravity in world Christianity from the West to the global South, and the changing demographics in world Christianity, demands that the Eurocentric types and models of church and Christianity need to be abandoned.
African Catholicism, like all local Catholic Churches throughout the world, can only flourish when it has the freedom to mine local and cultural resources and to develop its own narrative of faith and life, while embracing the positive heritage of Catholic and Christian history.