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“Let Us Be Protectors!”

Pope Francis charts a course of unity and charity

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The March election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as bishop of Rome sent shockwaves around the world. Observers are taking a close look at the new pontiff — the first to take the name Francis — and trying to discern where he hopes to lead the church. The Holy Father has already sent out signals. Here is some of what he has had to say in the early days of his pontificate. Pope Francis expresses his thoughts and hopes on a wide range of issues — from ecumenism to Christian concern for the poor — that are close to his heart, and close to heart of CNEWA.

We can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not build on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses; it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ — I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy — ‘Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.’ ... When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we profess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord; we are worldly — we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

14 March
first homily as pope

During the election, I was seated next to the archbishop emeritus of São Paolo and prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor!’ And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man. ... How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor!

16 March
address to members of the media

The vocation of being a ‘protector’ is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension that is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families; husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents.

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