Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Habemus Papam


The first intimation we had at the Oxford Oratory last night of the elction of a new Pope was the appearance of Br Oliver in the sanctuary at the side of Fr Anton who had just finished giving communion at the 6pm Mass. Following their hurried discussion Fr Anton told us "Habemus Papam", but that he knew no more than that. We marked the occasion with the rapid distribution of hymn books and the singing of the Te Deum.

The congregation scattered in search of news - in my case to an Internet cafe where I tuned in to the BBC News 24 site. I missed the actual announcement by Cardinal Tauran of the new Pope's identity, picking that up from the running band of headlines at the bottom of the screen.

Like many people I was surprised, thinking that the conclave would select a man of say 68 to 72 in age, and therefore I thought Cardinal Bergoglio too old to be a likely candidate - and in that I was far from alone. I did remember him as someone prominent in the speculation about the 2005 Conclave, and the reports that during that Conclave he gathered support, whereupon he indicated his support for Cardinal Ratzinger. Few reporters mentioned him this time, which bears out what I posted about Vaticanologists a few days ago, although John Thavis appears to have picked up indications of support, which can be read here, as had, from what he said on television, other people in Romeitself, such as Mgr Roderick Strange.


Pope Francis 

Image: ocregister

Recently I was told an interpretation of the two Conclaves of 1978. in the first the Cardinals sought a  Bishop of Rome who would preside in collegial charity over the wider Church, and believed they had found one in Pope John Paul I. In the second election of that year they sought a candidate with a wider appeal and remt, and found him in  Pope John Paul II. Last night I was reminded of that in so far as the new Pope addressed his words very much to the diocese of Rome, yet much of the commentary on him focussed on his Latin American origin and the universality of the Church as expressed in his election. I wondered if the Conclave believes it has found a combination of the two models in their choice.

He has a number of firsts on his Papal curriculem vitae- the first Pope to take the name Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, the first non European since Pope Gregory III, who reigned from 731-741, the first American, the first Argentinian and the first religious since 1846.

There has been some discussion as to which St Francis he alludes in his choice of name. I assume with others taht it is il poverello of  Assisi, but there are also those great Jesuit saints, Francis Xavier and Francis Borja.

St Francis of Assisi is a much more complex and intimidating figure than the media and popular perception might think, so they may be in for a surprise.

Which brings me to the prophecies of  St Malachy - we have heard less of them this Conclave, probably because, as they stand, and whenever compiled, this Pope is supposed to be the last Pope, and to be the Angelic Pope of  Joachimite expectations - and those revolved around the hopes and ideas raised by St Francis of Assisi, the propoganda of Olivi and others, and the expectations of the Spiritual Franciscans, notably in respect of Apostolic poverty. This of course became focussed upon Pope Celestine V in 1294 and on the aftermath of his abdication. We shall perhaps see if anything like this manifests itself in coming months and years.

A Christian critique of world in its current mess may well be what we need, and Pope Francius may well be the figure to provide it. It will be good for the Church, and a blessing, if he can build on the foundations reinforced by Pope Benedict. I found apost on the internet from 2005 which gives a series of quotations from the then Cardinal Bergoglio which gives an insight into some of his ideas, and which can be read here.  

The surprise generated by this choice suggests that once again the Holy Spirit has moved as He wills, and not as we might expect  or predict.

Let us keep Pope Francis in our prayers and trust he will lead us in the right way.

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