It was a real privelege for me to see the new pope’s first appearance on the Vatican balcony, while teaching a class on contextual theologies to an international group of theology students at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences in Leuven. A moving event: to share the joy and hopes of a group of young committed theologians, and to see how the first jesuit pope bowed to the crowd on St Peter’s square, receiving their prayers and blessing, before giving his blessing to them. A sign of humility of someone who leads a truly sober life and who is not afraid to communicate directly and from the heart. The name “Francis” left me wondering whether he would mean Francis of Assisi or Francis-Xavier … maybe both, expressing the wish to live a sober life near to human daily toils, a concern for God’s presence in the world, and the desire to name this presence by its name. This inspires me … and obviously it also moves a lot of people, if I take the great number of messages, tweets and posts that I received as a testimony: this is a day of hope for many who are looking for the human face of the Church.
I must admit, I knew but very little about this new pope, coming from the global south, the son of Italian immigrants in Argentina, a man who must be familiar with issues of migration, of poverty, of dictatorship, of economic crisis and of secularization. He will be able to talk to the heart of many of those who suffer today’s global crises. I looked up the Wikipedia pages to get some first information … I literally saw the text on the webpages changing: information was added, other information was removed as inaccurate, … discussions were already starting, showing a person in the midst of the controversies and ambiguities of our world. There Francis fascinates me and I am looking forward to learn more about his commitments and thought.