[some initial "stream of conciousness" ruminations - - JW]
Habemus Papam Franciscum!
I myself, at 58, and do not remember the papacies of the men from my birth up until the Vatican II era (Pope Pius XII and John XXIII are but ciphers to my memory). I do remember Paul VI and it seemed like this small man was around forever. I remember when Paul VI died in 1978 and the naming of John Paul I. Like most of the observing Christian world, even we who are not Romanist, I remember being both shocked when John Paul I died mere weeks after his elevation, and doubly (triply) shocked when a Polish Cardinal by the name of Karol Wojtyla was selected as his successor—the also long tenured John Paul II. All of this was gleaned by me through the older and traditional news media outlets (evening News, radio, daily paper) before the days of CNN and world-wide live feeds.
I had been pleasantly pleased at Joseph Ratzinger’s election to Pontiff in 2005; especially since I had been following his career as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He had a reputation for being more of a “traditionalist” (at least in his elder years) and was referred to as John Paul II’s German “brass knuckles.” I also felt warmly toward Ratzinger simply because I knew how much the liberals (in the Roman church and the secular world/media) hated him with every fiber of their atheistic hearts. I liked Benedict XVI and was sorry to see him leave. No Pope has ever known Luther as well as he did. His selection (in 2005), for some reason, I missed seeing live.
Today, this afternoon in Kansas (13 March Anno Domini 2013) I have spent a couple of hours watching history being made: LIVE. Here on my home PC I have watched both the Fox News and ABC News live feeds from St. Peter’s Square. I have seen and heard the Cardinal on the balcony announce: Habemus Papam!
As the blessed Reformer Saint Martin of Wittenberg would say in a situation such as this: “What does this mean?”
Well, maybe not much from a purely Lutheran Confessions’ position. Pope Francis is an ardent Roman Catholic and will continue to defend the teachings of the Church of Trent. Insofar as he refuses to rescind the anathemas of said Council, than truly do the pronouncements of the Symbols stand [Apology Art. XV, para. 18, Jacobs p. 220; SA Art. IV, para. 14, Jacobs p. 320].
But from a purely human and societal position, though it’s too early (way too early) to make any predictions, I venture forth some speculative observations:
1) The fact that he is a Jesuit (hitherto a liberal trouble-making sector of Romanism; at least for the last 50 years) does not mean ipso facto that he will embrace a more modernist agenda. It was Pope John Paul II that elevated Jorge Bergoglio to the College of Cardinals. JPII was no “fan” of South American liberalism or its feculent scion, Liberation Theology. Also, for a Jesuit to take the name of the non-academic Saint from Assisi, is very interesting.
2) The fact that Bergoglio did select FRANCIS as his Papal name suggests the desire to be irenic, charitable, and humble. These are good qualities in any human being, especially so in a Christian. It would be salutary if more Confessional Lutherans were likewise as interested in seeking these virtues of brotherly love.
3) Pope Francis’ age (76) though younger than Benedict XVI at his investiture, still seems to indicate that the College of Cardinals did not want to “go” with a man who would/could be in office for a couple of decades or longer. Pope Francis may serve longer than did Ratzinger, but I venture not much longer.
But again, “what does this mean” for we Confessional Lutherans? Time will tell, but I submit that we would all do well to put away our “poison pens” and our Reformation-battle axes, and simply watch, and pray. We should pray to the REAL Vicar of the Holy Trinity’s Church on earth: Our Lord Christ Jesus, to be with all His flock (yeah, even the more screwier protestants) and guide them all back to His pure Word and rightly administered Sacraments. We should pray that whatever this new Pope’s theological aberrations and heterodox positions on ecclesiology and soteriology, that he would continue to be a champion (like his predecessors) of the pro-life positions of THE Lord of Life. Insofar as Pope Francis should (remember, pray) continue to oppose homosexual marriage, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, fornication outside marriage, and artificial contraception (I threw that last one in there just to rile up modernist Lute-rins) he is an ally to all of us. The enemy of my enemy may well be my, ally, if not my drinking buddy and bosom friend. That the sodomites, socialists, modernists, and militant atheists will hate Pope Francis almost as much as his most immediate predecessor, is my best bet. We should stand with him in the “Kingdom of the Left” where we can.
There are interesting times ahead to be sure.
I did note one positive theological point that commends Pope Francis to us Lutherans who believe what the Symbols say about Saint Mary of Nazareth. In his Papal blessing to the 100,000-plus crowd in Saint Peter’s Square, the Pope mentioned that Saint Mary was/is Semper Virginie! Dang Straight il Papa! Preach it.
Oh, one last thing (and this coming from the guy who DOES love pointy hats and capes)...if the Pope can have dozens of uber cool Swiss Guardes in nifty helmets (with Lobster tails or whatever they're called) and pikes...why does Pres. Harrison have to settle for four overweight German American ILL'ers/Dart Ball veterans??