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Lane Center Comments 

Reflections on the Election of Pope Francis I

I am an Argentinean who lived in Buenos Aires during a dictatorship under which 30,000 people disappeared. Most of the Catholic hierarchy either condoned repression or remained silent while the military annihilated people, including nuns, priests, or lay Christian activists. Only four bishops, out of eighty, publicly denounced the dictatorship. One of them, Angelelli, was then assassinated in a fake car accident. Specific complicities are emerging at the current trials to torturers and assassins, including the Movimiento Familiar Cristiano (Christian Family Movement) assistance in “distributing” some of the 500 babies seized as spoils of war, most of them born in captivity from political prisoners who where then disappeared. The years of terror are over. The law is judging and punishing the guilty. Those of us who witnessed state terrorism must assume the responsibility that witnessing carries and act upon it. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio failed to apologize for the Catholic hierarchy’s complicity. As Pope, he has a historical opportunity. He could disclose what the Vatican knew at that time and ask all Argentineans, including those on trial, to confess what they know. It’s not only about what happened three decades ago. New information will help locate seized babies, now in their late thirties, and reunite them with their biological families. By promoting truth and justice, Pope Francis would place the issue of crimes against humanity as a priority in the Catholic Church’s agenda, telling Argentineans and the world that the Church won’t tolerate impunity. After all, he is the Pope and people will listen to him.
    -Susana Kaiser, Associate Professor

Upon Pope Francis' I election I was immediately filled with a sense of brotherly camaraderie. I am a product of Jesuit high school education, and you can't help but feel good for your own team. This moment of pride was coupled with shock, however. After all, a Jesuit is usually the last person you'd suspect to be elected to the papacy. Regardless, within the first minute of his address I sensed a change. Simple gestures, such as his dress, his austere cross, and the way he spoke all filled me with hope. A hope that this is someone the universal Church can get behind and follow. And if Francis had it his way, he would be the one following the people of the Church.

What does this mean for students and young people like myself? I'm not sure what will come of his election, but I think this may be someone who we can be proud of. It is hard to be embarrassed by a man that is dedicated to serving the poor and not concerned with hierarchical pageantry. Perhaps this will inspire young people to be more open about their faith, or take more time to reflect on questions of faith. It is hard to say what specifically will happen in the future, but I have an intuition that whatever it may be will be a step in the right direction.
    -Dominic Scheuring, USF Sophomore

A Jesuit’s election to pope was a surprise and delight to many, but particularly to those of us who work at Jesuit institutions. The surprise was due to the fact that there had never been a Jesuit pope, and some thought it impossible. The delight stemmed from our love and admiration for our Jesuit teachers and colleagues who now share a rigorous, holistic formation with the pope. These feelings deepened immediately as the new pope greeted the crowds outside St. Peter’s. He started humbly, referring to himself simply as the new bishop of Rome. And he ended movingly by reversing roles and asking the crowds in the square and those watching around the world to bless him.

The middle of his talk spoke of unrestricted love, a charity that would unite the whole world. On Palm Sunday, he continued this theme of expansive love, emphasizing that sin is a lack of love, not only against God and our neighbors but against “the whole of creation.”

He chose to celebrate Holy Thursday at a juvenile detention center instead of St. Peter’s, and, against a liturgical law prohibiting women’s participation in the foot washing, he exemplified radical love by washing the feet of two young women, one a Muslim. On Easter Sunday he reminded us that the story of Christ’s death and resurrection teaches the divine wisdom that love conquers even death.

The hope that sustains our love is in Christ. But this Easter our hope is strengthened by our new pope, Francis.
    -Mark Miller, Assistant Professor

When I found out about Pope Francis’s election, I felt surprised! The first thing I did was wear my I Love Jesuits t-shirt (yes, I own such a shirt). I had not followed news about the conclave closely, and I expected a European bishop to be elected as Pope. So, I received the news of our first Latin-American and first Jesuit pope with great joy and excitement! As I learned more about Pope Francis over the next few days, my enthusiasm continued to grow. Pope Francis’s efforts to live simply and be a voice for the poor within the Church are encouraging and inspiring to me. I hope he will continue to lead by example, and be a model for all Catholics of faith that does justice. He has accepted his role as Pope with humility and a sense of humor, and I look forward to seeing how he will lead our Church in the coming years.
    - Lauryn Gregorio, USF Junior

The Occupy Movement and Catholic Social Thought

The Lane Center staff recently discussed the Occupy Movement in light of our understanding of the Catholic social tradition. Our comments lift up some features of the Occupy Movement that resonate strongly with the vision of social justice developed in Catholic social teaching. At the same time, we draw upon Catholic social thought to raise questions and challenges for the Occupy Movement as it approaches an unknown future and as faith communities discern their role in that future. 

The recent statement by The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority” echoes many of the concerns that have animated the Occupy Movement. Specifically, the Vatican identifies the growing inequalities within and between countries as a serious moral problem and they lift up the principle of solidarity as a challenge to unregulated capitalism. The Occupy Movement can also find support within Catholic social teaching for the reform of this country’s political system. The current pope has argued that democracy cannot be realized when politics are driven by the economy. 

The Occupy Movement has raised important questions about how to be an effective citizen in the midst of imperfect political institutions. The Catholic social tradition maintains the positive value of the government, as it is responsible for protecting the common good. Every citizen shares the responsibility of protecting the common good. This understanding invites us to consider how citizens can use public space, both physically and politically, in a way that is mindful of the entire community. As camps are being cleared from city property, the Catholic social tradition invites us to hold in tension the rights and freedoms and individuals with their responsibility to the community. As the movement progresses, Catholic social thought calls for full participation in decision-making by all those affected and involved. 

The Catholic social tradition invites us to evaluate society from the vantage point of the most vulnerable. The US Bishops stress this in their pastoral letter on the economy – we need to evaluate an economy based on what it does for people, especially the poor. Examining the Occupy Movement through this lens, we are invited to listen for the perhaps unheard voices within the 99%. Does the movement represent the 99% of our world, especially those in the global South, or only those in the United States? What do the labor leaders, longshoremen, and truck drivers have to say about shutting down the ports of the west coast? Why have reporters observed a disconnect between the Occupy movement and the black community in some cities? 

As faith communities discern their response to the Occupy Movement, some interesting encounters and conversations have emerged. Some communities have had a visible presence at the camps, others have provided hospitality for protestors as camps are cleared. This presents an opportunity for dialogue on social justice from religious and non-religious perspectives. An openness to such dialogue by all parties will benefit all of us as we work to build up the common good.

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