4 years of Francis. Hummes: “Every reform raises resistances”
March 20, 2017 · By ANDRÉS BELTRAMO ÁLVAREZ for www.lastampa.it
On the anniversary of Bergoglio’s pontificate, an analysis by the Cardinal who whispered to the newly elected Pontiff the famous phrase: “Do not forget the poor!”
Some refer to him as one of the “grand electors” of the Argentine Pope. He reacts more modestly and does not accept any merit. Nor he would have ever imagined that a simple phrase uttered as a friend would have had such an impact on Jorge Mario Bergoglio. That March 13, 2013, the Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes was the first to embrace the newly elected Pope and whisper in his ear: “Do not forget the poor.” A few simple words, that had an enormous effect on the Pontiff to the point of taking the name Francis after the poor of Assisi.
Hummes, a Franciscan, former archbishop of São Paulo and former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in an interview with Vatican Insider takes an overall look at Bergoglio’s four years of pontificate, during which the Church has lived and is living a “strong shock” despite some resistances. Which, according to the cardinal, are “normal” because “every reform arouses resistance.”
How would you consider these past four years?
“Excellent. It is an extraordinary pontificate. Pope Francis has prompted the Church to open up, to reach out, especially to the suburbs and the poor, asking for solidarity and closeness. He has always done it with great commitment. This is perhaps the most obvious feature of these four years. As well as the issue of peace, another real challenge. The Pope is always where the conflicts are, he is there, he personally goes and convenes the public authorities involved to encourage them to launch peace processes of dialogue and openness “.
What struck you most of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s pontificate?
“I remember that shortly after his election, when he feared the threat of a military intervention in Syria by the United States, the Holy Father called a vigil for peace. He stayed for about six hours in prayer, with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. At the end, there was no war. This means that even Barack Obama has understood … Prayers to God have an enormous power and have moved the heart of the former US president who has long pondered the Pope’s gesture before moving the army. Then the Pope summoned at the Vatican the presidents of Israel and Palestine to pray for peace. And they came! He was also in Cuba to “build a bridge” with the US, he has done a great work for peace. He has also expressed interest in creation, the climate and environment crisis with his encyclical “Laudato si’”. Another of his strong commitments that can be retraced to his name choice: Francis, the saint of the poor, of peace and creation, as he explained to reporters moments after his election. These three topics – the poor, peace, and creation – are the fundamentals of his ministry. “
In your opinion, what has been the impact of the Argentine Pope within the Church?
“The issue of mercy shook the Church. It encouraged relying less on the law and more on love, less on the structures and more on life, to do good and be close to people in a comforting act. Because we shall remember that not the law, but only mercy can saves us. It is a new climate for the Church, in the sense that there is a strong returning to the Gospel. A pilgrimage through history to include people and not exclude anyone. “
Even dialogue has been an important chapter in the Pope’s mission…
“One of the most important things for Pope Francis is sharing the path with everyone: as friends, as brothers and not as opponents, in mutual respect, united when possible always in favor of the common good and the salvation of humanity. This is enlighten history: the Pope wants to dialogue with other religions, with other Christian Churches, with all people of good will. “
March 13, 2013, when Bergoglio was elected Pope, you were the first Cardinal to embrace him with the famous phrase: “Do not forget the poor.” Why did you say this?
“I had not prepared anything, when I embraced him these words came out spontaneously:” Do not forget the poor! “. It was in my heart, but had never practiced it. Nor could I imagine that this could have had such a strong effect on the new Pope, in his thinking. He himself told me that he had chosen the name of Francis for this … Obviously it was the Holy Spirit speaking through my mouth. “
In addition to the positive things, in the past four years some resistances have also emerged. Did you expect such strong criticism against this Church reform?
“All reforms arouse resistance. There are people who are comfortable the way things are and are afraid of losing something, or perhaps just have a different vision. However, diversity within the Church is not a bad thing, because the church itself is united in diversity: diversity of cultures, thoughts, of ways of understanding life. Evil happens when differences become divisions, contrasts, conflicts. This cannot be accepted, division destroys the Church. “
Are these resistances a temporal phenomenon or have deeper roots?
“I am very optimistic. I believe that this is all part of the path, we shall go forward, and the Pope does it with great serenity. We all need support to walk. At the end, God shall enlighten us by his grace. Even reforms grow roots. “
Perhaps the Pope is not fully understood by his critics? For example, do you believe there has been a misunderstanding regarding the exhortation “Amoris laetitia”?
“I would rather not go much into the matter; the context is already quite hectic. I fully support the apostolic exhortation. Let us not forget that there have been two synods to confirm the Pope’s teaching. “
How is the Pope perceived in the southern hemisphere?
“His Latin American and non-European origins are definitely an asset. The Church has broken off from an historical circle. For centuries, in fact, the Church has been “self-acculturated” in Europe and this self-acculturation has been a great success. Now, the fact that the Pope is not part of this “circle” gives the Church a more comprehensive attitude and a new universality. Not that it was not universal before, but it is now richer, and more multifaceted. The Church cannot fail to acculturate from other peoples. The fact that the Pope comes “from outside” gives the Church new openings, new possibilities. “