On March 13, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will celebrate the one-year anniversary of stepping out on the loggia above St. Peter’s Square and giving the world its first glimpse of Pope Francis. And what a year it’s been.
Endearing to all from the first, the pontiff has been the subject of interviews and articles, magazine covers and surveys. He’s inspired books and pamphlets, aided in the popularity of the caffeine-laden Argentine beverage mate, and brought simplicity and humility back in vogue. But despite a fixation by the media on Pope Francis’ style during the first 12 months of his pontificate, the “pope of firsts” has delivered on substance as well. And he shows no sign of slowing down.
Nothing, perhaps, can illustrate this point as effectively as Pope Francis’ schedule in mid-February. In one week beginning Feb. 17, Pope Francis participated in his third meeting (in five months) with a hand-selected eight-man Council of Cardinals, elevated 19 men to the role of prince of the Church, presided over a two-day meeting discussing pastoral challenges of the family, created a new secretariat to oversee Vatican finances and issued a letter to families. Between conclaves, the College of Cardinals often has served as more of an honorary body, but Francis has put them to work. As he said in a Feb. 23 homily, cardinals are not members of a “royal court,” but “servants.”
Despite a fixation by the secular media on Pope Francis’ style during the first 12 months of his pontificate, the
“pope of firsts” has delivered on substance as well.
During the past year his accomplishments also are numerous. He’s established a commission focused on protecting children from clergy sexual abuse. He’s called for an extraordinary synod of bishops to discuss the pastoral challenges of dealing with the modern family. He’s introduced a collegial type of governance with a focus on transparency. He’s traveled to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day and taken several daylong pilgrimages in Italy or just beyond. He finished Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”) and penned a widely read apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”). And he didn’t even take a summer vacation.
It has been said that Pope Francis’ work ethic was instilled in him as a teenager by his father. The result is a man who, when he makes a decision, acts on it without delay — something that has been made manifest in the many personal phone calls dialed on the pope’s private line and his scheduling of unscripted interviews.
With more than 10 million followers on Twitter, Pope Francis recently took to another medium: video. Inspired by a friend, he recorded a short video greeting to a group of American Pentecostals on a shaky smartphone that subsequently was uploaded to YouTube and shared with the world.
Pope Francis appreciates immediate action and efficient results, and he isn’t afraid to try new methods of achieving those goals. While the world has been captured by his personal touch and his extemporaneous style, his pontificate to date has been characterized by a no-nonsense tone of efficiency, with a splash of creativity. Behind every action, too, has been Pope Francis’ faithful adherence to — and passion for — the Gospel. With determination, hard work and a sense of joy, he is bearing witness to Jesus’ call by following our Savior’s words and leading the faithful closer to him.
Like any good pastor, ultimately, Pope Francis is challenging each of us to continue with him on the walk of discipleship. Here’s to the start of year two.
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor