Pope Francis is greeted by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, as he meets the cardinals Friday for the first time after his election this week. Francis, elected by the college on Wednesday, continued to disarm the cardinals and others with his impromptu style and his humility.
VATICAN CITY — As world leaders head to Rome for Tuesday’s inaugural Mass of Pope Francis, there is one group he has politely asked to stay home: His fellow Argentinians.
On the night of his election, Francis called the papal nuncio in Buenos Aires and told him, “Tell the bishops to tell the people not to come. It’s too expensive. Use the money you would have spent on travel to help the poor,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.
President Obama has appointed Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, as the U.S. delegation. Both Mr. Biden and Ms. Pelosi have drawn Catholic ire for support of abortion rights, but they are the highest-ranking Catholics in the government; GOP Governor Martinez opposes abortion rights.
The Vatican dealt with one other political matter, recirculation of accusations that Francis, as Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, collaborated with an Argentinian dictatorship in the ’70s that murdered thousands, including priests and nuns who worked for human rights. He was accused of looking the other way as the Jesuit provincial superior when two priests were kidnapped and held for months.
“There was never a concrete or credible accusation in this regard,” a Vatican statement said. “Instead, there have been many declarations demonstrating how much Bergoglio did to protect many persons at the time of the military dictatorship. Bergoglio’s role, once he became bishop, in promoting a request for forgiveness of the church in Argentina for not having done enough at the time of the dictatorship, is also well known.”
One kidnapped priest, the Rev. Franz Jalics, said that during his captivity, he did not know what Father Bergoglio did or did not do on his behalf, and left the nation as soon as he was freed. “Only years later did we have the opportunity to discuss these events with Father Bergoglio, who had meanwhile been appointed archbishop. After our conversation, we celebrated Mass publicly and we embraced one another. I have made my peace with these events and, as far as I am concerned, the case is closed. I wish Pope Francis God’s rich blessings for his office.”
The Rev. Jeff Klaiber, author of The Jesuits in Latin America, said witnesses have said Father Bergoglio tried to help the imprisoned Jesuits, but “he could have been more forceful.”
The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit political scientist, said the old accusation “doesn’t make sense.” Jesuits wouldn’t have elected a superior who would endanger their lives, he said.
In Rome, Francis kept showing an egalitarian style. For breakfast with the cardinals, “he just goes around and finds the place that’s available and sits down . . . There is no special place of honor for him. He is just at home among everybody,” the Rev. Thomas Rosica, another Vatican spokesman, said.
For a short talk to the cardinals, he had a text, but ad-libbed many remarks. His unscripted remarks, the spokesmen said, make it impossible to provide advance texts or quick translations.
The Pontiff addressed his listeners as “brother cardinals,” rather than the traditional “Lord cardinals.” He described their relationship as “that community, that friendship, that closeness that will do us all well.”
He acknowledged differences in the church but said the Holy Spirit “is the one who makes unity of these differences, not in equality, but in harmony.”
He called for evangelization. “Do not give in to pessimism and discouragement. We have the firm certainty that the Holy Spirit gives the church, with his mighty breath, the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization.”
Father Lombardi said the papal nuncio to Argentina is reporting a revival. At a parish where the nuncio says Mass, the pastor spends all day hearing confessions. Many hadn’t been to confession in more than a decade.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Ann Rodgers is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Ann Rodgers at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.