On Friday, Pope Francis celebrated the six-month anniversary of his election.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, offered Vatican Radio a reflection on some of the highlights of those six months.
As two great novelties he pointed out the selection of the name Francis and the end of the “Church’s Eurocentrism.”
The Pope himself explained why he chose the name Francis, given his intention to focus on the poor. And in regard to the fact that the Pope is not European, Father Lombardi said, “This is seen in a rather positive sense as a widening of the horizons. We saw it in particular during the World Youth Day” with the Pope in his continent and we also learned that his style is “pastoral, his way of relating directly to the people, his simple language.”
All the popes have been universal, clarified the spokesman, “although the election of a pope who comes from another continent brings, in fact, something specific in the style, in the perspective, and it’s something desired by the universal Church.”
The Vatican spokesman also spoke of the way Francis is able to reach those “estranged” from the Church. “The style, the Pope’s direct language, his attitudes, also the novelty of his style of life, deeply touch people and cause great interest and great enthusiasm,” he said.
Father Lombardi remarked that behind this curiosity there is a profound element that attracts: “the fact that the Pope emphasizes very much a God who loves, a God of mercy, a God who is always ready to forgive, whom he addresses with humility.”
Father Lombardi also spoke of the task set before Francis of reforming the Curia, however, he warned against overemphasizing the “so-called reforms of the structure of institutions.”
“What matters is the heart of the perennial reform of the life of the Church and in this connection, Pope Francis with his example, his spirituality, his humble attitude and closeness certainly wants to bring us close to Jesus, he wants to make us a Church that is journeying, that is close to today’s humanity, in particular suffering humanity, which needs the manifestation of God’s love more,” he said.
“Let’s allow the Lord to lead us,” the spokesman added. “The Pope is not one who thinks that he has the organizational design of history in his hands. The Pope is a person who listens to the Spirit of the Lord.”
Regarding the historical reality of a Pope and a Pope Emeritus both in the Vatican, Father Lombardi said, “it’s going very well, it’s going perfectly!”
“This coexistence is going exactly as Benedict XVI said, as he announced on the occasion of his renunciation. He would continue to walk with the Church, but more by way of prayer, and of offering his own life, of spiritual closeness more than with, let’s say, his operative presence,” explained the Vatican spokesman.
Father Lombardi acknowledged that he also “had the joy of being close to Pope Benedict and to see his serenity, his faith, his spirituality, his extraordinary affability which he testified so much to us during the time of his pontificate and which continues to characterize him, although now in this new and more discreet way. I think that, although we don’t see him often, we always feel the presence of his affection, of his prayer, of his wisdom and of his counsel, which is certainly always at the disposition of his Successor also, should he ask for it.”
On a personal note, Father Lombardi reflected that his role as spokesman is to make the Pope well understood. “Honestly,” he added, “it seems to me that in these six months of the pontificate of Pope Francis he has acted and talked so intensely that I, fortunately, have been able to be in the shadow of the one who is the protagonist, the principal voice the faithful want to hear, which is precisely the Pope’s.”