In the March 28, 2013 issue of
As Catholics celebrate the joy of the resurrection at Easter, they are especially invigorated by the selection of a new Pope. This humble and unpretentious servant of God was elected as Pope for the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. In his first public appearance he asked for prayers for himself, then said "Let us pray for the whole world." This is in keeping with the most important celebration in the Christian world: Easter. While Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead distinguishes Christians from other religions, Christ truly died for all mankind and for a better world.
The Easter celebration often coincides with Passover because Jesus was born in a Jewish family and spent his life following the Jewish religion including observing the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread. However, he gave this celebration added meaning for Christians by calling the bread and wine his apostles were eating and drinking "His body and blood." This symbolism is reenacted in every Catholic mass.
Although this Easter celebration is always a new beginning for Christians, this year's selection of Pope Francis reinforces the Church's commitment to helping the poor and vulnerable in our society. Particularly striking is that Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas, particularly South America where there are so many Catholics. As a true man of God he is the first non-European Pope in l300 years. Pope Francis' installation mass was attended by 200,000 including leaders from many nations and religious organizations. His message was that he was there to protect "all of humanity" and he wanted to "bring hope - to others." He suggested that true leadership and power is in service "to others." The name he selected, Francis, is for Saint Francis of Assisi, the most popular saint of all times.
The message of Easter and of a new Pope resonates for the whole world. All nations should appreciate Pope Francis' concern for the poor and his efforts for people in great need. In keeping with the Saint whose name he selected, this Pope has called for the protection of the weak, poor and the environment. God's plan is to protect nature, political and social life and this can only be accomplished by serving "in love."
The world can now use this new Pope's compassionate ways and his evangelical spirit. However, it is also true that in our society religious liberty is being threatened. This mission for the Pope casts him as a reformer.
Although his native Argentina and South America boast of high numbers of Catholics, his mission must go beyond that in an increasingly secular world. The need for an all encompassing faith which looks at all of society's problems, especially the poor which have always been a mission of must religions. As the first Jesuit to be Pope his Ignatian training and spirituality will help him to be a reformer in many ways, including defending of religion in society. His humility and dedication should encourage people to give of themselves to others in need: financially, socially and morally. Just as Jesus Christ came to save all the world, so Pope Francis will be a symbol of humanity, compassion and charity for the world.
The celebration of Easter and Christ rising from the dead gives hope to all people that new beginnings can create many opportunities for a better life. This Easter our new Pope's example shines as a beacon of hope for peace, prosperity and good will for all the world.