2013
custodia.org

Habenus papam Franciscum

The Custody of the Holy Land, together with the universal Church, rejoices in the election of the new Pope.

The election, which took observers by surprise, surprised the Franciscans even more when the Pope chose the name Francis, with reference to St. Francis of Assisi, their founder.

“I was very surprised when I heard his name,” says the Custos of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa. “I didn’t expect it, and it was a shock. The evening before, I spoke with the Apostolic Nuncio in Jordan, who said that he hoped the new pope would take a name like Joseph or Francis as a prophetic gesture for the future. And here we have it. In fact, I believe that in this name we have an entire program.”

A program that the Franciscans are very familiar with because they live it. A program that already inspires this Jesuit who is known for his closeness to the people, his simplicity, his love for the poor.

Since the Custody of the Holy Land has a monastery in Buenos Aires, Fra Pierbattista had already had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis when he was Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, and he was touched by his humility and simplicity. “Buenos Aires is one of the largest cities in the world. When meeting the Cardinal, one expects a certain protocol. But it is he who opens the door, shows you where to park your car in the courtyard of the diocesan residents, and makes the coffee!”

Father Custos also remembers his humanity and his attention to religious life. “A few years ago, we had some problems in Buenos Aires and there was a question of closing the Custody’s monastery there. The Cardinal asked us to stay and to maintain the presence of the Franciscans of the Holy Land; he fought for it. With regard to the problems we were having, he studied the question and helped us to take the necessary measures, all the while thinking constantly of the good of individuals and their defense. I think he is a real believer.”

From the point of view of the Holy Land, the election of a pope from the far end of the New World raises questions about his perception of the Middle East. Of course, he was Ordinary for the faithful of Oriental Rite who were resident in Argentina, but what does he know about the situation in this part of the world?

According to the Custos of the Holy Land: “Latin America and Argentina are really quite distant from the Middle East. It will take him time to grasp the realities here. But the time has come for him to be concerned with the continent where half of the Catholics in the world live. It is also important for the universality of the church. Europe is an important point of reference for culture, but not the only one. It is time for us to take a point of reference that will allow us to move forward in a different way.”

For all that, the Custos continues, “He is known for being much attached to the principles of the faith and also very open to dialogue with everyone. He had excellent relations with the Argentinian Jewish community, but also with the sizable Muslim community in that country.”

“The realities of the Middle East are very distant from Latin Americans. They have their own problems, but they are very concerned about questions of peace and justice.” A point they share with Christians of the Middle East.

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