Ad multos annos, Holy Father!
Following the historic and surprising decision by Pope Benedict XVI to resign from the pontificate, first announced on February 11, 2013, the conclave of cardinals elected a new pontiff: a Jesuit and the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who chose the name Francis as a sign that his Petrine ministry would be a tribute to and would aim to fulfill the mission of the Poverello of Assisi: Saint Francis.
March 13, 2018, will mark the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis; he is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the southern hemisphere, and the first from outside of Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.
Without a doubt, the first five years of this unique pontificate have seen the realization of the dream of St. John XXIII. St. John, when he so wisely and joyfully convened Vatican II on January 25, 1959, had a vision. Pope Francis is making it a reality: his unique style of ministry has brought fresh air and renewal to the Church.
As the Greek philosopher Protagoras said: “Man is the measure of all things.” And the style that Francis has imprinted on his pontificate reflects the essence of his own humanity, his Christian, priestly and Jesuit life.
This essence can be summarized in three words: nearness, humility and mercy.
Better still, a single sentence captures the core of this papal reign: The pontificate of Francis has been a ministry of nearness, humility and compassion.
This pontificate has been near to the realities that Francis himself calls peripheral realities, both geographically and human, pertaining to the whole of society as well as to the ecclesial community itself. These are peripheral realms where those most in need of the light of the Gospel and the compassionate and merciful love of God live and suffer; Pope Francis insists that the Church’s disciples of Christ are called to convey God’s love to those discriminated against in a thousand ways—because of their creed, race, origins, sexual identity; these are the poor among the poor, the marginalized, the rejected, the impoverished, migrants, the divorced, etc.