Meeting the needs of the poor, a simple lifestyle, evangelic freedom, openness to dialogue. These are some of the features of the new pope according to Monsignor Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto (Italy).
What can be said about Pope Francis’ first acts?
I think he wanted to send, from the beginning, a message of unity, a signal to the entire world, combining universality and local identity. The name he chose, Francis, is noteworthy. It outlines a programme and a lifestyle. The lifestyle of someone who is humble, simple, close to the poor, loved by his people, and nonetheless respected by the ones who fear his evangelic freedom. In other words: a shepherd speaking in a simple and spontaneous manner. Asking for the people’s prayer before imparting the urbi et orbi blessing is a meaningful act.
Why did Pope Francis give such great importance to the city of Rome?
He is the bishop of Rome, or, more properly, the shepherd of Rome who, in God’s plan, presides in charity over all the churches in the world. His insistence on his relationship with the single local church of which he is now the bishop is something wonderful and moving. On the other hand, he is the first Latin American among Peter’s successors; Latin America is the continent with the highest number of Catholics, but it also experiences poverty and terrible inequalities. As he said, “my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth” to get the new bishop of Rome and this undoubtedly sends a message of hope and light to all the poor people on earth, to everybody waiting for justice and for attention.
How will Pope Francis speak to the contemporary world?
He will be the bishop of the destitute, the servant of the poor, the friend of the little ones, and in this way he will be able to give hope and peace to everybody. I feel that he will help the Church in giving an answer to the basic questions once asked by the Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez: “How should we speak about God revealing Himself as love, in a context marked by poverty and oppression? How should we proclaim the God of life to those experiencing an untimely and unjust death? How can the gift of his love and justice be seen by innocent sufferers? What language should we use to tell those that are not considered people that they are children of God?” Pope Francis answers these questions with his smile and his simple acts, and he reminds us that God reaches every heart and speaks every language, that He is close to every human who is suffering because He speaks the language of love!
In his first speeches, the Pope underlined the word “brotherhood”…
In his first words he presents himself as a brother, as a bishop of the Church who presides in charity, determined to evangelize the people of Rome and then the others with new enthusiasm. Certainly, the new pope will continue giving an impulse to ecumenical dialogue ensuring that followers of other religions can trust him. As he said, he wants to be a servant of “confidence” among us and “brotherhood” among all peoples. His frankness, his deep sense of God will touch many hearts and will give way to truly unprecedented dialogues and meetings. Even non-believers will find a message for their lives in the words of this witness of God as a friend of humanity, in this bishop of Rome who is a servant of God’s servants: I am certain that everybody will feel respected, welcome, understood, and loved by him.
What did you feel when you heard the new Pope’s name?
I was very happy for the choice made by the Conclave. As I said, Pope Francis will certainly give strength and vitality to the Church. He will bring a change in the Church, which needs to proclaim the simple and revolutionary message of the Gospel to the contemporary world in a more widespread and up-to-date way. I personally appreciated the qualities of Pope Francis during my many visits to Argentina.