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Pope Francis

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Yesterday was certainly a busy day for the Catholic Church as we welcomed the 266th Vicar of Christ. I am sure that many of you watched the events of the day on television and listened to many of the different commentators opine on the significance of the election of the first non-European, the first Jesuit, the first New World Pope, and the first to call himself Francis. (The Vatican was explicit in saying that the Holy Father is Pope Francis. One cannot be Pope Francis I until there is a Francis II.)

Naturally, the commentators also ruminated about the changes that the Holy Father would need to make in the Church. I do not disagree that change may be in the wind. Already I noticed that he did not wear the red mantle trimmed in ermine, that he did not put on the stole until he gave his blessing and that he removed it immediately afterwards, and that he constantly referred to himself as "your bishop."

However, while these changes might signal a change in style, the change that the world seems to think the Church needs is not something that can be imposed from the Chair of Peter. The change that the Church needs is the conversion of its people. We are the Church. If the Church is to change, that change must come from our own conversion. When we change, the Church will change.

I have often said that the Gospel is not about perfection. The Gospel is about conversion. "Repent" is one of the first words we hear when we open our Bibles to the Gospel of St. Mark, the first of the Gospel to have been written. The Gospel is about evangelizing ourselves first and then the rest of the world. Another thing that I noticed in the new Pope's first words is that he spoke about his task of evangelizing "this city" over which he presides. I also noted that he gave a nod to his "vicar," the Cardinal Archbishop who acts in his stead. In this I believe that Pope Francis was making plainly evident that he understands that the way to change the Church is by changing the lives of the people of the See of which he is the Bishop.

We may continue to see changes in the "style" of this Pope's governing of the Church. However, if we hope to see changes in the Church itself, then we must bring them about by believing in the Gospel and turning away from sin.

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