The Vatican under Pope Francis has been the theme of a book presentation in Rome.
The book “Il Vaticano Secondo Francesco: Da Buenos Aires a Santa Marta Come Bergoglio Sta Cambiando la Chiesa e Conquistando i Fedeli di Tutto il Mondo” (The Vatican According to Francesco: From Buenos Aires to Santa Marta How Bergoglio is Changing the Church and Conquering the Faithful of All the World) by Massimo Franco, tells of how Francis has revolutionized the way in which a pope responds to social challenges and courageously challenges the status quo for the good of the Church and the world.
The book presentation was organized by Associazione della Stampa Estera in Italia and was held Thursday at their Rome headquarters.
Among those speaking were Giulio Anselmi, president of the press agency ANSA and of the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers; Romano Prodi, an Italian politician and statesman; and Father Gian Paolo Salvini, a Jesuit priest, Italian economist, and former editor of the Italian publication La Civita Cattolica.
A common theme throughout the presentation was how Francis has stayed consistent. He lives a simple, peaceful existence at Santa Marta, but, like he did in Argentina, takes on challenges that others might not have dared to do.
The author Massimo Franco told ZENIT: “The main aspect of this book I would like to point out is the shift from Europe and Italy to Latin America.”
He added, “It’s a major shift for the Catholic Church and means that we’ve passed from a time in which Europe and Italy matter the most to a period in which Italy and Europe are not anymore a missionary continent, but a continent in which missionaries from Latin America come and try to revive Catholicism. This is the main shift. The Pope is just the expression of this major shift, which is both georeligious and geopolitical.”
Describing the Pope
During his discourse, Anselmi listed various adjectives that characterize the Holy Father, including Jesuit, direct, popular, decisive, and humble and how each of them are significant and will affect his pontificate.
The ANSA president said that “this book captures the personality of the Pope.” Francis is “charitable, merciful and generous, but also decisive and direct. Even if something isn’t easy or pleasant, he still confronts the issue, even within the Curia.”
The former Italian prime minister, Professor Prodi, noted how “this book shows Francis’ ability to take on and address complex political structures.” He noted how Francis was willing to confront this challenge in Argentina and is willing to do the same in Rome, and noted the Pope’s successes during his Holy Land visit last week.
Substance and perception
Jesuit Father Salvini spoke on Francis’ courage to confront the status quo, even if it displeased some in the Roman Curia. He clarified, though, that, as this book shows, “Pope Francis has not changed the Church, but the perception of the Church,” to be more “open” and “active in dialogue.”
He said, “Francis truly goes out to the ‘periphery.’” He noted this “is appropriate for the Pope as a Jesuit and serves as a sign of the Pope’s availability and openness to the people.”
The fact that as Bishop of Rome, Francis doesn’t just stay in the center, but goes and makes himself available to those in the outskirts, is evidence that he is reaching out in a way, which has not been done before, he said.
Elisabetta Pique, an Argentine journalist who personally knows Francis, moderated the event.
She reflected how she feels this work “reveals the coherence of the man,” the coherence of Cardinal Bergoglio, saying it highlights “his simplistic way of life, almost monastic, as he’s a very spiritual man, we see him with the Ford Focus and choosing to live in Santa Marta.”
By coherence, she elaborated his actions have been consistent, whether it was his setting an example for priests of a simple life or working to reform complex structures.
“When he started as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he said: ‘No, Thank You.’ Instead of living in the palace, as was tradition, he said that can be used for spiritual retreats, instead, he said, he wanted to live in a simple room. Those who know him see the ‘coherence’ of the man with his decision now, as Pope, to live in Santa Marta, instead of the apostolic palace.”
The book shows the “coherence” of Francis in other ways, including his ambition to reform complex, financial structures. “He is working toward reform, putting involving specialized international entities and implementing enhanced audit procedures, for the Vatican bank, and, likewise, he worked toward similar financial reform in Buenos Aires,” she stated.
Pique shared with ZENIT that its English speaking readers should stay tuned, as the book will be available in English in the coming months.