(Vatican Radio). Jorge Bergoglio became the 266th Pope on March 13, 2013. His humble and direct style was immediately clear as he uttered his first words as pontiff: “buona sera.”
Four years on, his reform of the Church and of the Curia ploughs ahead, he continues to enjoy the acclaim of cheering crowds every Wednesday at the weekly General Audience and at all public appearances, his call for mercy and his openness and pastoral outreach towards the peripheries and towards the most vulnerable stand out as constant traits of his ministry.
The past year of France’s pontificate has given us unforgettable moments and important teachings such as the historic embrace with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba, his silent prayer in Auschwitz, the canonization of Mother Teresa, his ecumenical journey to Lund to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the publishing of his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, to name but a few.
The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, one of Pope Francis’ closest collaborators looked back on the year gone by with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti starting with that unique “buona sera” with which the new Bishop of Rome greeted his flock asking it for prayers, thus entrusting himself not only to the Lord, but to “the holy people of God”.
It was immediately clear, Parolin said, that his vision of a Church going forth, of walking together – shepherd and flock – entrusted to prayer and to the grace and the mercy of God, would be important characteristics of the new Pontificate. A trait that Bergoglio reinforced with the choice of the name “Francis” and his attitude which exudes simplicity, peace and serenity.
Cardinal Parolin highlighted the fact that although Pope Francis continues to call for a Church that goes forth and that is able to accompany men and women in the difficulties and challenges of everyday life, he does so always attentive to the voice and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
He also pointed out that although the Jubilee Year of Mercy is concluded, mercy continues to be one of the pillars of Frances’ pontificate. He explained however that the Pope’s insistence on mercy does not derive from a personal sensitivity, but focuses attention on God’s love and on the mystery of salvation.
“The Pope, Parolin said, is directing us to God’s love and making sure the Church acts as a channel for that love and a place of encounter between God’s mercy and man as he lives the concrete joys and sorrows of life on earth.”
Parolin also said that the fruits the Year of Mercy have yielded are many including the ‘re-discovery’ on the part of many Christians of the Sacrament of Confession and a heightened attention towards situations of poverty and need.
Regarding the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, Parolin described it as a gift that has given great impulse to the pastoral ministry of the family, and has produced fruits of renewal, hope and accompaniment for those in fragile family situations.
Cardinal Parolin also mentioned the reality of some criticism towards the Church and expressions of dissent saying “there have always been critical voices in the Church!”
The important thing, he said, as the Pope himself says is that they be “sincere and constructive, and willing to find a way to make progress together and a better way of putting God’s will to work!”
At the heart of Pope Francis’s pontificate, Parolin concluded, is the desire to continue to reform the Curia because he believes that – to use an evangelical word – “the Church must continuously seek conversion, it must strive to be evermore authentic, get rid of the crusts accumulated in centuries of history and shine forth with the transparency of the Gospel”.
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