Francis has no desire to go down in history as a “transitional” pope. That which he is doing, he wants it to survive his departure. And to make sure of this he is institutionalizing the things dearest to him, he is making them stable, with all the numbers to keep moving forward on their own.
The World Day of the Poor is one of these creations of his, officially canonized a few weeks ago.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s idea that the Church is like a “field hospital” will be embodied from now own every year, in November, in a celebration of works of mercy on behalf of the hungry, naked, homeless, strangers, imprisoned.
With the pope, this pope, who in Rome will eat together with hundreds of the poor, it will be difficult for one of his successors not to do the same. Pope Francis will run the dress rehearsal in Bologna on October 1, where the program for the visit already shows that at noon the pope will be “at lunch with the poor at the basilica of San Petronio.”
Then there are the “Scholas Occurrentes,” a network of schools that, born in Buenos Aires when Bergoglio was archbishop of that city, now connects more than 400,000 institutes all over the world, no matter whether Catholic or secular.
There is nothing religious in the meetings among these schools. What holds sway are words and concepts like “dialogue,” “listening,” “encounter,” “bridges,” “peace,” “integration.” And even skimming the now numerous talks Francis has given to the “Scholas, the silence on the Christian God, on Jesus and the Gospel, is practically sepulchral.
But in spite of that, Bergoglio has set up the “Scholas Occurrentes” as a “pious foundation” of pontifical right, hosts their world conferences at the Vatican, and three weeks ago, on June 9, inaugurated an office for them within the pontifical palace, which will make it more complicated to dislodge them in the future.
The turning point is no small matter. For centuries, the schools of the Society of Jesus have been the beacon of Catholic education. While these “Scholas” so dear to the Jesuit pope make more news for the frequent soccer games “for peace” that he sponsors with Maradona, Messi, or Ronaldinho at his side, as also for the bizarre encounter one year ago in the ring in Las Vegas – this too convened by the pope under the banner of dialogue – between a Catholic and a Muslim boxer, both of whom were received at Santa Marta after the Muslim, who lost by knockout in the sixth round, had been released from the hospital.
In the political field the same thing is happening. Not a year goes by in which Francis does not convene around him a world meeting of what he calls the “popular movements.”
This network of movements did not exist before him – far from it. It is another of his inventions. He has entrusted its selection to an Argentine trade unionist friend of his, Juan Grabois, who fishes each time from among the diehards of the historic anti-capitalist and anti-globalist assemblies of Seattle and Porto Alegre, with a side order of indigenous and environmental groups and with prominent guests like Bolivian president Evo Morales, in his capacity as a coca grower, or former president of Uruguay José “Pepe” Mujica, with a past as a guerrilla, who has now retired to live a frugal life on a farm.
To this gathering, Bergoglio gives fiery speeches every time of thirty pages and more, which are the quintessence of his general political vision, harnessing the people as a “mystical category” called to redeem the world.
There have been four convocations so far: the first in Rome in 2014, the second in Bolivia in 2015, the third again in Rome in 2016, the fourth – on a regional scale – in Modesto in the United States last February, with the pope joining this time by video conference. Others will follow.
But that’s not all. For his successor, Francis has prearranged even more. He has dismissed all the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life and has appointed new ones.
With the difference that while before they were all adamantly united against abortion, artificial procreation, and euthanasia, today that is no longer so, each member of the academy thinks his own way. Because what must be put in first place is dialogue.
This commentary was published in “L’Espresso” no. 26 of 2017, on newsstands July 2, on the opinion page entitled “Settimo Cielo” entrusted to Sandro Magister.
Here is the index of all the previous commentaries:
Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s intention to “institutionalize” the things dear to him has not escaped the American vaticanista John Allen:
POSTSCRIPT – This note was already written and published when the drama over the case of little Charlie Gard was at its height, with Pope Francis silent in spite of the universal and spontaneous wave of appeals for him to intervene “ad personam” in defense of that child’s life:
And also in spite of the seriousness of the legal objections against the verdict that in fact has sentenced Charlie to death:
This is a case that cannot help but have an impact on the “fortunes” of this pontificate. All the more so if a comparison is made between the energy that Pope Francis has exerted for the “Scholas Occurrentes” and other initiatives on a similar level, precious as can be to him, and his astonishing silence on crucial questions like the emblematic one of Charlie Gard.
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)