by Jenna Pirrie editor-in-chief
Editor’s note: Due to the feedback this post has received, a clarification may be necessary. Neither this post, nor the views expressed in the quotes within, in any way represent the official views, standing or doctrinal positions of the Moody Bible Institute as a whole (see our Disclaimer). Individual opinions belong solely to the individuals quoted. Additionally, close examination of all quotes should reveal that these students are not standing in support of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather expressing optimism for the new leadership. The staff of the Moody Standard would greatly appreciate readers’ examining carefully what is actually being said by these students and faculty before accusing the Institution of MBI of falling away from its carefully guarded doctrinal beliefs.
White smoke rose above the Sistine chapel Wednesday afternoon to announce the election of the 266th pope. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has taken the name Pope Francis, and, being from Argentina, is the first non-European pope of the modern age.
“I was excited to hear the news about Francis’ selection,” said Andy Decker, sophomore communications major. “Being the first Pope from outside Europe in over 1,000 years, he’ll hopefully offer a fresh perspective that the Vatican desperately needs. I’m curious to see how God will use him to shape the Roman Catholic Church.” Decker adds, “Francis is known to have immense concern for social justice, as evidenced by his simplistic lifestyle choices, and the question has been raised as to how his Latin American roots will affect Catholicism’s views on liberation theology. The Roman Catholic Church finds itself in a very tight spot at the moment, and, from what I know about him, I think they’ve chosen the right man for the job. Only time will tell.”
Dr. Bryan Litfin, professor of theology, gives a different angle on Francis’s non-European status. He said, “The important point about Pope Francis is not that he is a non-European, but that he is a Latin American. Latin America and South America represent a large part of the ‘next Christendom.’ The strength of global Christianity is rapidly shifting away from the North Atlantic to the South and the Far East. So this papal election is further evidence of the post-Christian turn that is happening in Europe and the U.S., and the rise of a new kind of Christianity south of the equator.”
Brandon Robertson, junior pastoral studies major, remarked on Pope Francis’ theological leanings. “Francis is an Evangelical Catholic with great theological positions that are leading the Church back to its historical theological roots and closer to ecumenical unity with Protestants … His agenda is simple – reground the church socially and theologically in its roots.”
Each new pope traditionally chooses a new name; the names chosen, often representing the pope’s agenda, are typically picked from the names of past popes. In this, Pope Francis broke precedent – he is the first Pope to choose the name Francis. On the new pope and his choice of name, Elijah Turrell, senior biblical studies major, said, “I am ecstatic that the Roman Catholic Church is moving forward! Pope Francis chose the name of a pious, simple, gospel-focused preacher who met the felt needs of those around him. I hope he leads the church into an era of hope for the oppressed.”
To give more background on Francis’s choice of name, Litfin adds, “According to the biographers of St. Francis of Assisi, he was praying before a crucifix when Jesus said to him, ‘Francis, go repair My house, which you can see is falling into ruin.’ I think the new Pope Francis probably feels the need for some ‘repair’ of the Catholic Church during his pontificate. He also wants to take up the spiritual legacy of St. Francis as one who cared for the poor and lived in harmony with nature. But let’s not forget the other Francis: Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits. This tells me that the new pope is going to be intentionally missional as the Jesuits always have been–and that the missional model is going to be the witness of humble service, not authoritarian power.”
The newest pope, a Jesuit himself and previously the archbishop of Buenos Aires, first appeared to the public on the balcony of the Vatican at 3:23 p.m. on Wednesday. During his first appearance, Pope Francis said, “It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.” The papal Twitter account went active shortly afterwards for the first time since Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement, tweeting:
HABEMUS PAPAM FRANCISCUM
— Pontifex (@Pontifex) March 13, 2013
EDIT: This tweet has since been removed, and the account has been officially transferred over as the official account of Pope Francis.
Pope Francis was elected on the second day of voting; Tuesday’s ballots each resulted in black smoke from the chimney of the Sistine chapel, indicating no pope was chosen. The white smoke, indicating a decision, rose at 2:09 p.m. on Wednesday, at the conclusion of the fifth ballot of voting.
Andie Moody, senior communications major, expressed her own reasons to be happy about the recent papal developments. She said, “As an ecumenical protestant, I am always concerned with issues that will effect the global Church in our lifetime, and I pray that the new pope would have the God-given guidance and wisdom to help lead the global Church faithfully and reverently.”
Litfin adds, “In today’s global religious setting, we Evangelicals should view the Catholic Church as much more of an ally than an enemy. Despite our many doctrinal differences, we stand together more than apart, in comparison to other hostile religions and philosophies in the contemporary world. The election of Pope Francis is of vital importance to Evangelicals because, relatively speaking, Catholics are our co-religionists in so many ways.”