I am currently reading Austen Iverleigh’s biography of Pope Francis, “The Great Reformer,” which tells the story of Jorge Bergoglio’s life before he was chosen as the Bishop of Rome by the Cardinal Electors at the 2013 Consistory. It is a good read and provides information on the Holy Father’s past which helps in understanding who is this 226th successor of Saint Peter the Apostle.
“You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church.” These words of Jesus established Peter and his successors as His Vicar on earth. Pope Francis sits on the Chair of Peter and is the Supreme Pastor of the Church.
The Holy Spirit has given us this man to be our Pope. His presence in our country and the enormous attention he is receiving from the media should make us proud to be Catholics. Peter is among us and, during his Apostolic visit to our country, he has much to say as he speaks in national and international venues of power. Let us listen to his words, some of which may challenge our thinking and opinions about serious issues that affect humanity, such as poverty, the economy, ecology, government and others. As he preaches at Mass before large gatherings of the faithful, let us pay attention with hearts of faith as he teaches us about Jesus Christ, the Church and our Catholic faith. Pope Francis is among us to confirm us in our faith. Let that strengthening in belief happen in us by attentive and respectful listening to what he is saying.
Around his neck our Holy Father wears a pectoral cross on which there is an image of a shepherd surrounded by sheep, some of whom are carried around his shoulders. This Cross tells us much about our Pope’s ministry as a Shepherd to all, even to the lost sheep who do not have to be lost but can be led to the protection and care of God’s love. The Holy Father’s outreach to those on the margins of life and the church takes its inspiration from his role as a shepherd.
On his finger the Pope wears a ring on which is depicted Saint Peter the Apostle whom Jesus chose to be head of His church. The scene is Peter, the fisherman, throwing his fisherman’s net for a catch and hauling the catch into the boat. That ring also says so much about Pope Francis’ frequent preaching about the immenseness of God’s love and mercy for all of which the church, the bark of Peter, must be a herald.
Let us pray for the Pope that God keep him safe and strengthen his apostolic activities. May his messages be heard and understood by us and by women and men of good will. On the three privileged occasions that I will concelebrate Mass with the Holy Father — in Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia — I will have in my heart the intentions of the faithful of our diocese and offer those Masses for you. You will be remembered at those Masses offered in union with Francis, our Pope.