May 1, 2013
By now we all know that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13 this year. It was a surprising and historic moment for the Church and for the world. He was the first non-European pope to be elected in the past 1,300 years and the first Latin American ever. His election was not, however, out of the question. In 2010 Latin America accounted for some 40% of the world’s Catholic population and growing. One hundred years ago, in 1910, only 24% of the world’s Catholics lived in Latin America. On the other hand, Europe had 65% of the Catholic population in 1910 and only has 24% today. The Church is also growing rapidly in Africa and in many parts of Asia. Considering this data it is really not surprising that the College of Cardinals elected a non-European and a Latin American. It is obvious that the “center” of Catholic population has moved out of Europe over the past one hundred years, especially during the past fifty years. The command of Jesus, after his resurrection, to go out into the whole world to preach the Gospel has perhaps been realized more during these past one hundred years than in the past nineteen centuries combined. No doubt Pope Francis brings to the Papacy a truly universal vision and understanding of the Church and knows firsthand the needs of the Church for a new evangelization, a revitalization of our Catholic faith, and a personal commitment to those most in need among us.
In Guatemala the people rejoice that a Latin American is now Pope and they look to the future with a renewed sense of faith and hope. I would like to share with you a first-hand account, written by one of our faculty members at Marmion’s Guatemala mission, of the reaction of our students, faculty and monks at our mission who had gathered together for this historic occasion.
“On March 12th the Conclave for the election of the new pope began and on March 13th the new Pope was elected. That day did not pass unnoticed at Priory and Colegio Seminario San José. After hearing the news of the white smoke, we all quickly met in the St. Scholastica cafeteria and were able to witness on television the announcement of who would be the new Pope. It was a very emotional moment for all of us. Students, major seminarians, teachers, community members and visitors were united in faith with the whole Church. Finally the awaited announcement came in Latin:
‘Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum: habemus Papam. I announce to you with great joy: we have a Pope.’
Incredibly, the new Pope was the Argentine Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., a Latin American Cardinal. The announcement caused a great emotion among us, and we were all applauding and thanking God for this blessing for the Latin-American Church.
It was a unique moment, in which we truly felt the presence of God and even more so as we learned that he had taken the name of Francisco. But the highlight of the moment was when, in place of giving his blessing, he asked the world to pray for him. At that moment we all experienced a deep silence, when, despite the distance from Rome, we felt united with the Universal Church.
The election of Pope Francisco fills us with a renewed hope for the Latin-American Church, that it seeks to be more unified and surely for a new evangelization. Pope Francisco every day surprises and pleases us with his humble attitude; because with his example he evangelizes even more. The preferential choice of the Pope for the poor causes us great satisfaction. The poor are a part of society which in many countries is abandoned; a situation that certainly exists in Guatemala and in many Latin American countries.”
I invite you to keep Pope Francis in your daily prayers.
Abbot John Brahill, ‘67