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Election of His Holiness, Pope Francis and Letter of Prior General

On Wednesday the 13th of March the conclave in the Sistine Chapel came to an end and the church was given its 266th Pope in the person of Jorge Mario Begoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He chose the name Francis and, in doing so, is only the second Pope to choose a name not previously chosen by a predecessor.  He is the first Jesuit Pope and is also the first non-european Pope since Gregory III (731-741).  In fact, if we include St. Peter (Peter, while leader of the early Christian community, was not a Pope in exactly the same sense as we understand the position now - the office did not yet exist), Francis is the 11th non-european Pope in the history of the church.  He is, however, the first Pope from the Americas.

Born in 1935, this Jesuit priest in Argentinian born but of Italian parents.  His father was  railway worker and his mother a housewife.  Perhaps it was his humble origins that inspired him to pray in such a simple way for his predecessor (Pope Benedict XVI, now retired) with all of the 200,000 people present in St. Peter's Square.  His appeal to those present to pray for him in a moment of silence was also a powerful message of the importance of the People of God to which the Pope, as a baptised Christian, also belongs.


The Prior General of the Augustinian Order, Fr. Robert Prevost OSA has written a special letter to all members of the Order to mark this occasion.  What follows is the text of his letter:

March 13, 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
The Church has just been introduced to the new Bishop of Rome, our newly elected Holy Father, Pope Francis, up until now known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The celebration and rejoicing that was apparent in St. Peter’s Square is undoubtedly the experience of Catholics throughout the world. Our new Pope, the first non-European in modern times elected as bishop of Rome, well known for his simple lifestyle (living in a small apartment, using public transport), and for his commitment to the poor, who has up until this time been dedicated to serving the people of Argentina, has now been called to take up the Petrine ministry at this particularly challenging time in the history of the Church.
Presumably at some point early in his pontificate, the new Roman Pontiff will give us an explanation for his choice of name, Francis. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I would like to mention two great saints who share the same name: Francis of Assisi, the saint of the poor who literally gave up all his material riches in order to follow Christ; and Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary, who preached the Gospel tirelessly with great courage, especially in Asia. Francis Xavier, with his fine theological training, decided to dedicate his life to evangelization, to announcing the message of Jesus Christ in lands far from the comforts of his homeland. Whatever the reason or reasons for the Pope’s choice in taking his name, as Augustinians we can use this occasion to recommit ourselves to those aspects of our own life modeled to us by these two great saints, Francis of Assisi and Francis Xavier, and in doing so we are reminded that in our vocation, we are called to live our consecration to God in communion with the whole Church, in simplicity of life, service to the poor, and as followers of Christ who announce the Gospel in word and deed through our missionary spirit. Most fittingly, our Constitutions (n. 3) speak of the special devotion and fidelity that we have as an Order to the Pope, and there is no better time to remember and renew our loyalty than at this moment of the commencement of the pontificate of Pope Francis.
In his first greeting to the people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and before giving his blessing to those “in the city and in the world”, Pope Francis humbly bowed his head and asked for our prayers for him. Let us pray for our new Pope, and recommit ourselves as brothers and sisters united in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, in fidelity to Pope Francis, and with all those who through word and deed announce the Good News throughout the world. May the Spirit of the living God be with Pope Francis and guide him, and through his ministry may the entire Church be blessed!
Fr. Robert F. Prevost, O.S.A.
Prior General

Article posted on 14th of March 2013

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