Four years ago today, as a result of an ancient process of prayer, silent reflection and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Bishop of Rome and thus Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, also called Servant of the Servants of God, and became the 266th Vicar of Christ.
Then there were few Americans who knew Cardinal Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Today, as we celebrate his fourth anniversary, we have come better to know and love him. In these past four years, Pope Francis has come to our country and to the Archdiocese of Washington. Everywhere this humble Pontiff went people rejoiced in his radiant smile and sincerity of pastoral concern as he inspired us with words of encouragement and solidarity.
What the Holy Father brought first and foremost to everyone he encountered was Jesus Christ and his Gospel which calls us to see one another as brothers and sisters all of us children of God. As he explained in his talk to the bishops of this country: “To testify to the immensity of God’s love is the heart of the mission entrusted to the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of the One who on the cross embraced the whole of mankind.”
Since that visit, our Holy Father has also presided over two synods on the family, one in 2014 to address the challenges families face and one in 2015 to encourage us in fostering family life and supporting one another in the challenges of Christian discipleship today.
More recently, we witnessed the closing of the Jubilee Year of Mercy where we were reminded that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy and that we need constantly to be merciful in the full measure in which we have received that great gift of divine compassion.
In these past years, our Holy Father has blessed us with post-synodal apostolic exhortations and an encyclical letter, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), and The Care of Our Common Home (Laudato Si’).
Today, we continue to remember with inspiration the Canonization Mass of Saint Junípero Serra at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception during the September 2015 visit of our Holy Father, his address to a Joint Meeting of Congress, and his visit to the center of Catholic Charities and the time he spent with the homeless and marginalized served by the archdiocese. We also fondly recall his significant stop at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s home and, of course, his special visit to the newly founded Saint John Paul II Seminary where he offered words of encouragement and challenge to all of our seminarians.
As we join with Catholics all around the world today, we offer warmest best wishes and prayerful congratulations to the Supreme Pontiff on the fourth anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter. Together with the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Washington, I renew on this anniversary our pledge of devout prayers, continued loyalty and heartfelt affection.
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