A “Sunday of four popes”, Todo Cambia
“Anybody can be Pope; the proof of this is that I have become one.”
(Pope John XXIII)
A rare event happened last Sunday, Urbi et Orbi: Pope Francis, in presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is canonizing two of their predecessors in the Petrine Ministry: popes John XXIII ‘the good pope’ and John Paul II ‘the pope of peace.’ Four popes are in the news and in the focus, and this is exceptional since the beginning of the Church two thousand years ago. Four popes, four “centres” of the Roman See, are on the event and in the centre of attention of billions in the world.
But it is not exactly the most appropriate description: the medias speak about a “Sunday of four popes”, a parallel expression to a “year of three popes”, that is, years where there is more than one succession and more than two popes reign over the See of Saint Peter. This “decentring” is far from being actual or even probable: During the ceremony there was one pope, one pope emeritus, and two predecessors.
I had many thoughts about the event, considering that Rome is still of the most active centres of our world. Here are some of these personal thoughts, which can be right or wrong, but in any case worthy to discuss and to develop:
1- There is a “recentring” of the Church’s image and priorities: during the century the Roman Church was a “motor” of Europe, that is, She was her most progressive “locomotive”. This situation changed during the XIXth Century when the Church was taken for the “conservative” or even the “retrogressive” part of the European societies. John XXIII tried to change this view, and today Pope Francis is clearly changing it, that is, putting the Church again in her old position as the progressive centre of the society. This recentring needs heros and saints of our era, thus canonisations will perpetuate and will include contemporary, progressive and popular, great religious and spiritual figures of the Church.
2- The canonization can be seen as a “merger” of two currents in the Catholic hierarchy and in the Church in general: one open, social, progressive and inclusive, represented by John XXIII; and one more conservative and dogmatic, of John Paul II. This way the recentring can be effective as it joins both currents without letting the one overcome or assimilate the other.
3- Todo cambia (All is changing), thus says the famous song by Mercedes Sosa, a great Argentinian singer. It was used as a theme song for Habemus Papam, a 2011 film by Nanni Moretti. Astonishingly, the next pope has come from the song’s home country. And with him the todo cambia comes from the uttermost parts of the Earth to Rome. The only difference is that the elected pope, Francis, is not shy to declare his message.
Yes, all is changing, the oldest establishment in the world can also be the always-changing one. The change takes a long time considering the size, the age and the bureaucracy of this establishment. Yet it is changing!
In a former article I wrote about Pope Francis’ views of centrality within the Church, a view inspired by the reflections of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and of Ignatius of Antioch on the same issue (Please see http://centrici.hypotheses.org/139). Today the change, the recentring, makes me think again of Teilhard de Chardin and his views on the dialectics between the progress “Above” and the progress “Forward”. Hopefully Pope Francis will lead both.
Image credit: the site of the Holy See www.vatican.va