“I can’t wait to see how the rest of this story turns out,” John Carr of Georgetown University wrote. Late June, Francis completed 100 days as the 256th pope after Peter. He shunned robes, red handcrafted shoes and offered a chair and a sandwich to a tired—and startled—Swiss guard. “There’s enough room for 300 here,” Francis said of the papal apartments, then lodged at the spartan Vatican hostel. “Here’s a pope who knows how to pope,” wrote a Protestant.
From Day One, Francis began changing the Vatican, not the other way around. “[He] is adapting the customs of the papacy to his pastoral manner,” from washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday to naming a “gang of eight”—a council of cardinals from all regions who’d recast the bureaucracy in the Curia. In a sacramental church, symbols are substance. “He’s Our Francis, Too,” says the evangelical publication Christianity Today. However, his call is muffled in Burma (Myanmar). There, a Buddhist extremist movement ravages minority Muslims, notes the Times of India.
“Marking the first 100 days is an arbitrary measure,” wrote Alessandro Speciale in The Guardian. The Catholic Church is “a 2,000-year-old institution that thinks in centuries.” But this most unconventional of popes lifted the gloom clamped by issues. Francis grappled with a scandal at the start of his second 100 days.
“Monsignor Cinquecento” was how his hometown of Salermo dubbed Nunzio Scarano, the Economist reported. A banker turned priest, he doled out 500 euro notes by the fistful. The Vatican suspended him early June, saying he had laundered donations. Scarano served in the Institute for the Works of Religion. Founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII, IOR manages assets for religious or charitable works and Vatican employees’ pension system. It doesn’t perform key banking activities, like loans.
“Neither St. Peter nor St. Paul had any bank accounts,” Pope Francis said in his June 11 homily. “When St. Peter had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to the sea to catch fish and find the money in the fish, to pay.” Few took special notice until two weeks later when Francis launched a commission, with carte blanche powers, to probe the IOR. By then Italian police had arrested Scarano and two conspirators: a police officer and a broker. They were zapped for trying to smuggle 20 million euros from the families of Neapolitan shipowners to duck taxes.
“Pope Francis’ new attempt this week to impose transparency and clarity on the Vatican’s financial dealings could not be more timely,” BBC noted. “Though awkward for the Vatican, the latest case will strengthen Pope Francis’ arm as he sets about trying to reform one of the darkest corners of his domain,” the Economist added.
“Creation of the commission suggests Francis has not been completely ‘reassured’ by the financial watchdogs that Benedict XVI installed,” Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli wrote. The assignment means Francis is saying, “Trust with reluctance but verify deeply.” What if the five-man commission recommends padlocking the bank?
Would the principle of tantum quantum by St. Ignatius of Loyola then kick in? “Whatever brings you to God, use it,” the founder of the Jesuits taught. “Whatever leads you away, avoid.” If this Jesuit pope concluded, after perusing the commission’s report, that the IOR compromised the Church, will he shut down the carnival? Our take is he would.
Beyond the Vatican Bank, two encyclicals are on the way. Francis is completing Benedict’s encyclical on faith. And he’s writing one his own that focuses on the poor and challenges the silence on poverty in public life. He also flies to Latin America for World Youth Day.
Will Pope Francis reveal, in this home continent, that the stalled beatification cause for Archbishop Oscar Romero will proceed? The bishop of El Salvador denounced government death squads and was shot while saying Mass in March 1980.
That’d ripple to the Philippines, where paramilitary goons in North Cotabato cut down 59-year-old Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio in October 2011. For over 33 years Father Pops shepherded the lumad with the sacraments and programs from child immunization to adult literacy. The murderer hasn’t been nailed.
Personnel is policy: Who Francis chooses to lead key Vatican offices is decisive. Some focus on the next secretary of state. More crucial is who will be named bishops around the world. Give me names of pastors who will shepherd, not princes who demand to be served, Francis told a meeting of papal nuncios.
That resonates here, where some bishops lost in their partisan campaign against the supporters of the reproductive health bill. We were “not pleased,” Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles told the Inquirer. Isn’t this the “self-referential” syndrome Francis denounced?
“Sisters matter.” How Francis deals with the Leadership Conferences of Women Religious is crucial. “In a battle between the religious and the Curia, most lay Catholics come down with the sisters.” The signs are mixed. This matter has taken on symbolic meaning for many on how the Church treats all women.
Who will Francis look to actually lead the Church? Synods became frustrating forums for endless five-minute speeches in the past. There’s little genuine listening and discussion on issues from clerical sexual abuse to poverty. Who is accountable to their flocks? Local churches or Vatican structures?
“Look at the peacock,” Francis suggested. “It’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth.”
(E-mail: [email protected])