First Impressions of Pope Francis

by jimmyakin

in +Religion, Francis

We have a pope! Should you be concerned?

A reader writes:

Hi Jimmy, I hope you don’t mind me writing to ask you a question.

I have been eagerly awaiting your take on Pope Francis. I trust your opinion like no other.

I am wondering why you have not posted your opinion. I do not mean to put you on the spot, but I’m worried and am wondering if you are too.

First, let me say that I don’t mind the reader writing at all. I only wish I had the opportunity to respond to all the emails I receive. I’m afraid that I’m not able to, but that should never stop anyone from writing, though. 

The reader is also too kind in his interest in my opinion. There are many qualified Catholic commentators who have opinions as good–or better–than mine.


No Blogging Yet?

Regarding my not (yet) blogging in this case, I have to plead the fact that this has been a very busy few days for me.

I’ve been giving interviews about Pope Francis right and left, as well as preparing materials about him that will be published soon by different Catholic outlets.

It’s been a hectic time(!), and I haven’t been able to blog in any depth on the subject.


First Thoughts

I’ve been blogging on his election in the small ways I’ve been able to, and I’ll undoubtedly blog more soon, but for the moment, allow me to offer a few thoughts:


1) I’m jazzed to have a new pope!


2) Like everybody else in the English-speaking world, I don’t know Pope Francis as well as I knew Pope Benedict when he assumed office.

When Pope Benedict was elected, I already knew him really well. I’d followed him and read his writings (which had been translated into English) for years. He was a known quantity, and I was super-jazzed about his election.

Pope Francis isn’t as well known (by me).

I already knew about him, but–given his age–I didn’t expect him to be elected pope (he’s only two years younger than Pope Benedict was when elected, and after Pope Benedict’s resignation for age-related reasons, I expected the cardinals to go with a younger man).

As a result, I haven’t focused on him as much–plus there is the fact that his writings as a cardinal are in Spanish and haven’t yet been translated into English.

Currently, I’m working on a book that he wrote with a rabbi (a kind of dialogue book, where they give their views on different topics), but my Spanish isn’t great, and it’s slow going.

I’m also reading his speeches as pope as soon as English translations are available.

As a result, like many people, I’m still getting to know Pope Francis.


3) I trust the wisdom of the college of cardinals.

These are a group of men guided by God–and appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

That’s gotta count for a lot.

If they think this man is the best person to entrust with the ministry of St. Peter, who am I (or any of us?) to question that?

My default position is thus, even if I don’t know as much about Pope Francis as I would wish, I should proceed with an open, trusting attitude toward the decision of the pastors of the Church, as rendered below the fresco of Michaelangelo’s Last Judgment.

We should trust them.


4) From what I knew about Cardinal Bergoglio before his election, I had no reason to doubt that he would make a worthy successor of St. Peter.

I had a positive impression of him then, and I still do now.


5) From what I’ve been (rapidly!) learning about him since his election, my belief that he can be a good pope has only strengthened.

I am more reassured now than I was when he was first announced, and I have every confidence that this will grow even stronger, given what I am learning. Thus . . .


6) I’m expecting good stuff ahead!


I’m sure that there will be surprises during Pope Francis’s tenure. There always are when a new pope is elected.

But God guides his Church, we have Jesus’ word on that, and we may look to the future with confidence.

More soon!

Your pal,

Jimmy Akin

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Brandon Christison March 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm

I, too, hope for some English translations to his old writings. I’m excited and really enjoyed his first homily and the humility to ask for prayer before giving prayer. Also choosing the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi has to be a good sign. Overall, I’m on the same page as you.

dbwheeler March 15, 2013 at 4:51 am

In my little local paper this morning about Pope Francis…”The difference in style was a sign of Francis’ belief that the Catholic Church needs to be at one with the people it serves and not impose its message on a society that often doesn’t want to hear it….”   Sounds ominous to me…kind of like ‘I’m okay, you’re okay” and ‘who am I to impose my views on you” etc.  Well, he certainly sounds like a holy man…but what about the rest of us who are often weak and needy?  I found much strength and guidance from our beloved Pope Benedict XVI. But, I too am going to hope for the best.

marycatelli March 15, 2013 at 10:19 am

@dbwheeler Well, yes, — IF your paper has a clue.  Don’t count on it.

dbwheeler March 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm

@marycatelli Indeed, that goes without saying! ;o)  To be honest, my biggest problem is accepting ANYONE, no matter how wonderful.  I find I’m still grieving at having recently lost a’father’, for Pope Benedict XVI  has been my pope since my conversion in 2007, and I find it difficult adjusting so soon. I am conforming my prayers for Pope Francis, and time will work its healing power, I’m sure.  All of us must be as one in praying for Pope Francis’ health, wisdom and perseverence in the days ahead.

Kate March 24, 2013 at 12:26 pm

@dbwheeler Try to remember that what you were reading was someone else’s interpretation – possibly either wishful or fearful – and that we would be wise to look to the man’s own words….which, as far as I’ve encountered them, seem rather nuanced and focused on effectively evangelizing by effectively loving.

JARay March 15, 2013 at 4:55 am

The comments on the Traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli are anything but complimentary. They see him as undoing Summorum Pontificium since he effectively stymied any real celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in Buenos Aires.

Nancy D March 15, 2013 at 5:34 am

Our Holy Father, Benedict, recently stated that to deny God is to deny the inherent Dignity of the human person, created in the Image and Likeness of God. Those persons who remain in Christ’s Church physically, having left His Church spiritually by denying the personal and relational essence of the human person-the self-evident truth that every son or daughter of a human person can only be a human person, and that only a man and woman can exist in relationship as husband and wife, are part of The Great Apostasy, that for awhile, fooled even some of the elect. If Pope Francis brings back The Charitable Anathema and restores The Liturgy, we will know that he understands that Love requires desiring Salvation for one’s beloved. The Sacrifice of The Holy Eucharist, The Sacrifice of The Cross, Is The Sacrifice of The Most Holy Trinity, for ” God so Loved us that He sent His Only Son…”

Kate March 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm

@Nancy D What I don’t understand is why you seem to think that it is troubling that our Holy Father cares for the materially poor – who, after all, the Church has a ‘preferential option for’, since that in no way hinders him from carrying out the Church’s mission to teach and draw the world to Christ through the Church. I haven’t read anything (anything reliably sourced, anyhow) that Pope Francis has said or written that is at all heterodox. He says the mass very reverently, has a great devotion to the Eucharist and to Our Lady, rejected liberation theology without rejecting the need to carry out the Corporal Acts of Mercy, and is in many ways a sign of contradiction for everyone who wants to reduce the Church to only the commands of Christ that they are personally comfortable with.

Bill O March 15, 2013 at 5:35 am

I look forward to the coming months and getting to know Pope Francis better.  From what i have seen and read thus far there is NO reason for me to think that he is going to UN-do the work that Bl. John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI has done.  Like St. Francis, his namesake i think he is going to be a reformer and bring much need “culture shock” to the Vatican as he concentrates on the orthodox Catholic message of the Gospel.  I am sure some of us may be disapointed sometime in the future, that might even be me who is.  But, Like Jimmy, I trust our Lord Jesus Christ who promised to guide and gaurd His Church and leave the details to Him.  God Bless and guide our new Holy Father, Pope Francis.

PH March 15, 2013 at 5:56 am

M. JA,
Caveat the universals! Some of us knew our Pope Emeritus quite well through his books and articles as ‘fer’ back as 1962. Some of us actually sat with him in Rome with a group of men and women in formation, including priests, aged 25 to 35. We experienced first hand this brilliant, humble, and shy future Pope as he answered questions about prayer and the spiritual life and even shared his own with us.
An experience never to be forgotten! Some of us have a certain hope that he will one day be named a Doctor of the Church. Such clarity and depth and teaching ability!
May the Lord and His Mother continue to bless him and keep him and cause His face to shine upon him and be gracious to him and grant him peace. I pray the same for our new Pope

MarcAnthony March 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

Yeah, the reaction on Rorate Caeli is absolutely shameful from what I’ve heard (after hearing other peoples’ words I made the executive decision not to subject myself to that).

59howlnwolf March 15, 2013 at 9:11 am

Nicaea1 A humble man. A wise choice,and choice the Spirit,put on them,to elect. A smart choice…

Nicaea1 March 15, 2013 at 9:33 am

59howlnwolf God bless you Ted, you are good man,and as you know, Jesus loves you.

Quirarte March 15, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Not sure if this is meant to be the words of Pope Francis, or the late Giussani. Nevertheless;

Quirarte March 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm

And now, the world according to The Guardian (Jimmy, rush that translation!)

Raphael Maria March 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Speaking of “6) I’m expecting good stuff ahead!” ….
Will Pope Francis’ books be translated to English now?

StephanosPedrano March 16, 2013 at 7:55 am

His explanation to an audience for media representatives, Saturday 16 March 2013.
Italian text (from Vatican website) translated to English by Fr. Stephanos Pedrano, O.S.B.
Some persons did not know why the Bishop of Roma decided to call himself Francis.  Some thought of Francis Xavier, of Francis de Sales, also of Francis of Assisi.  I’ll tell you the story.  During the election, I had next to me the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paolo also prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, cardinal Claudio Hummes:  a great friend, a great friend!  When things were becoming a little dangerous, he comforted me.  And when the votes has risen to two thirds, there was the expected applause, because the Pope had been elected.  And he embraced me, he kissed me and said to me:  “Don’t forget the poor!”  And that word entered in:  the poor, the poor.  Then, suddenly, in regards to the poor I thought of Francis of Assisi.  Then, I thought of the wars, meanwhile the ballot-counting continued, until all the votes.  And Francis is the man of peace.  And in this way, the name came, in my heart:  Francis of Assisi.  For me he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and watches over creation; at present we also have a relationship with creation that is not so good, isn’t it?  He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man….  Oh, how I would like a Church that is poor and for the poor!

Nancy D March 16, 2013 at 8:55 am

@StephanosPedrano Yikes! “…the poor, we will always have with us, but man does not live on bread alone, but every Word that comes from The Mouth Of God…IAM The Manna that came down from Heaven…” Jesus The Christ

The Sarge March 16, 2013 at 9:14 am

@Nancy D  @StephanosPedrano

Nancy D March 16, 2013 at 11:33 am

@The Sarge @StephanosPedrano There is a difference between a Church for The Poor in Spirit an a Church that is poor, even if both Churches claim to be for the poor, for man does not live by bread alone…

Bill912 March 16, 2013 at 11:37 am

@Nancy D  @The  @StephanosPedrano
 I don’t get it, either.

Nancy D March 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm

@Bill912 @The @StephanosPedrano The Poor In Spirit are those that recognize that God’s Grace and Mercy are necessary for our Salvation.

Bill912 March 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm

@Nancy D  @Bill912  @The  @StephanosPedrano
 I don’t understand what your comments have to do with this post?

Nancy D March 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

@Bill912 @The @StephanosPedrano Bill, with all due respect, what do you think Pope Francis was referring to when he stated, “when things were becoming a little dangerous” and “a church that is poor”, in his comments about why he chose Francis for his name?

MarcAnthony March 16, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Nancy, can you help us out first please and answer Bill’s question before we answer yours?

Nancy D March 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

@MarcAnthony It is important, for the sake of clarity, to know the meaning of “when things were becoming a little dangerous”, and a Church that is “poor”, although often times words have been lost in translation.

Bill912 March 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm

@Nancy D  @MarcAnthony
 Marc, I think that means “No”.

Brandon Christison March 18, 2013 at 12:05 pm

@Nancy D  @MarcAnthony  I think it is very clear that in the context of what he was talking about and in the context of his feelings about becoming pope over the years that “when things were becoming more dangerous” was his way of saying when it looked more and more like he was going to be elected the next Pope. He also said it in a somewhat joking manner and laughed after he said what the Catholic News Service translated as “When things became a little dangerous he comforted me”. 
What he meant by a church that is poor I think we will see more and more with time. But, again, you must look at context. He started this by saying he was going to answer the reason why he chose the name Francis by telling the story of what happened. His good friend, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, embraced and kissed him when it was known for sure that he was to be Pope and told him “Don’t forget about the poor”. He began to think about St. Francis of Assisi. As a Jesuit, he has taken the vow of poverty, and the reason for this vow is for closeness with God and closeness with the poor. To even consider that the Pope was saying that he wants a spiritually poor church is ridiculous when considering the context of St. Francis, one of the most celebrated saints. To consider that the Pope might sell off some art and other property of the Vatican seems crazy, but possible. What he has shown since being elected, however, is that he personally will live as poor as possible. He has worn the most simple vestments for a pope and has not taken a private vehicle anywhere yet. That is all that is clear at this point.

John Gold March 17, 2013 at 8:48 am

He seems like a humble guy.  Hopefully we won’t have any cult of personality like that around JP2.  Unfortunately he will keep the Church on the disasterous ecumenical dialogue path.

The Sarge March 17, 2013 at 9:45 am

A total non-sequitor in order to take a cheap shot at a Blessed.  You stay classy!

Quirarte March 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

I’m hoping that the example of humility set by Benedict, followed by the charitable witness provided to us by Francis, will demonstrate for us a movement toward unity instead of divisiveness.  Anyway, for myself, I am learning to listen and watch the man himself, as opposed to the implications of others, and to discern this eventful moment in our merciful church. Personally, as a member of C & L, I appreciate the beautiful words from our new pope (apparently written while he was a Cardinal) in the link below. Therefor Jimmy, if that’s an example of what Pope Francis has in store then I truly am waiting for your translation with great anticipation!

John Gold March 18, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Francis is a big time ecumenical loser.  He has allowed the Buenos Aires Cathedral to be used for interreligious prayer.

Bill912 March 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm

I see you took The Sarge’s advice and stayed classy.

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