The truth, not conspiracy, shall set us free
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In the media feeding frenzy that first preceded and then walked boldly out onto the balcony with Pope Francis yesterday, it was a blessing that Vatican correspondent Paul Badde and down-to-earth parish priests like Fr. John Todd Zuhlsdorf were right there on site.
Historian Paul Badde, Vatican correspondent for the German daily newspaper Die Welt, is author of the book The Face of God, among others.
Fr. John Zuhsldorf, fondly known on the Internet as “Fr. Z” runs the blog What Does the Prayer Really Say?, listed by The Staggers, the blog of the British magazine New Statesman as one of the top ten Christian blogs in the world.
Theology and a knowledge of the subject at hand trump media braggadocio any day.
Awaiting my first glimpse of the new Pope along with so many others via the Internet yesterday, I was running down the details of what I suspected was a conspiracy masquerading as truth floating its way around the Net, seemingly well on its way to gospel status. I sent an email off to Paul Badde asking him if he could confirm the veracity of said conspiracy, and was both impressed and relieved when his return email pointed out that the source from whence it came was “unreliable”.
Loaded down with “santini”, or holy cards of St. Peter and waiting in front of the obelisk, in the piazza yesterday, Fr. Z. was right on site.
This is Fr.’s moving account from What Does the Prayer Really Say? today.
“Lights went on in the loggia of the facade of the basilica.
“The doors opened. Instead of seeing workers who would put out the old Pope’s arms over the rail, out came the Cardinal Deacon. The announcement was made.
“There was kind of a shocked silence.
“Instead of the eruption one might think, everyone was taking it in. Some told me later that they had a hard time hearing, but from where I was, in front of the obelisk…I heard every word.
“It hit me.
“Jesuit! American! New name! And…I know this guy!
“More on that some day. I got to know him a little from when he came to Rome.
“But the reaction in the piazza was not unlike, in some ways the quite (quiet) reception of “Wojtyla”. Who??
“He came out without all the trappings of office. He looked downward, almost to his feet, which is consistent with what i recall of this man of few words. I had the sense that he was, rightly, terrified.
“In a few words he had people praying…people want to pray, you know, when there is a certain trumpet, certain voice to lead…praying for Benedict. And he began to pray…
“The crowds took him up.
“And that’s when I broke down.
“Glory be to the father…
“He called for silence…he imposed a ready voluntary silence..which must precede any undertaking.
“Silence in St. Peter’s Square during the first words of the Pope. Silence.
“I don’t know what to expect from this new Pope of ours. He reached out in a definitive way to the old Pope, Benedict. Later we learned in a press conference that Francis called Benedict before appearing on the balcony and that he will visit him tomorrow/today/ He reached out in a definitive way to the Romans, for this is now his diocese. He reached out to a great many who are yearning for a strong but simple message.
“And part of that message was silence.
“Here is a man who, as head of the Jesuits in Argentina, helped to stave off Liberation Theology by keeping his province under control. He lived in an apartment rather than the episcopal palace and rode public transportation. He has lived with one lung most of his life. He kept the priests of the place out of political strife. He cooked and cleaned for himself and took care of a disabled Jesuit brother. He is now “Francis”.
“Francis”, I thought.
“I suspected that he was invoking Francis of Assisi for his simplicity and evangelical witness. But there is also Francis Xavier, the mighty Jesuit missionary.
“Either way, neither saint was a pastel picture or statue. They were both as hard as nails and willing to die in their service of the Church. Think of Francis Xavier and the conversions and baptisms in Asia. Think of Francis of Assisi, who went for a face off with the Sultan during the Crusades and so impressed him that he survived with praises.
“Personally, I worry about a Jesuit Pope, not because he might be Jesuitical. I suspect there are a lot of liberal, slightly Catholic Jesuits spinning this election like doomed Grimm’s figures, bizarrely working gold into straw. I worry a bit because there is an old adage that good Jesuits and good liturgical worship are almost like matter and anti-matter. Rare is the Jesuit who is also a good liturgist.
- But, in the balance…. will this Pope turn back Benedict’s vision? No.
- Is he going to change the Church’s teaching on homosexual sex? No.
- Is he going to change the Church’s teaching on contraception? No.
- Is he going to change… change… change…? No.
I suspect that, as a nearly complete outsider regarding the Roman Curia, he will begin to tread with tiny steps. But the Curia will be walking on eggshells around this unknown force in their midst. The house needs purification. I think he will undertake it, but perhaps not with heads on pikes along the Via della Conciliazione.
I have more and will write more eventually. But it is O’Dark Thirty and Father has been lugging “santini”, all now blessed by Pope Francis, in the rain, which wet me through, and, perhaps hid some of the wetness of my cheeks. That fools no one, of course. It wasn’t raining as we prayed. After these week of anger at the resignation, mixed with compassion for the frail old Benedict, whom I used to see in the halls of the Palazzo del Sant’Uffizio and elsewhere, and the days of anxious hope for a man to continue a vision I sense is important for the Church…. habemus Papam, a man from the other side of the world, the first of his religious family, bearing itself the Name by which we are saved, and this Pope’s name is Francis.”
In a secular world where Jesus Christ is being driven from the Public Square, the negativism, conspiracy theories and even ridicule that preceded Pope Francis out on the balcony, will continue to torment and stalk him.
Meanwhile people of faith shouldn’t worry. For it is the truth and not conspiracy that shall set us free.