The Fifth Anniversary of the Election of Pope Francis

Today is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph and it is also the fifth anniversary of the Mass for the Inauguration of Pope Francis.  When Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected and “Habemus Papam! (We have a Pope!)” was proclaimed five years ago, most people wondered who this man was.  But the excitement felt there in Saint Peter’s Square and around the world already gave one indication – he is firstly the living continuity with Peter and therefore with Jesus Christ and his Gospel.  Then, from the moment he stepped out onto the balcony, he has set a vibrant tone and witness in being a Spirit-filled missionary disciple of Jesus and his loving mercy.

In a world that thirsts for a love which does not disappoint, that is hungry for justice and more than what our materialistic, commercialized society offers, the Holy Father calls us to respond proactively with caring and kindness. Again and again, we hear him say to “go out” and embrace with Christ’s love those we encounter, particularly those on the margins of life, the poor, the vulnerable and the outcast.  What Pope Francis is doing – in his apostolic travels, homilies and writings, in his pastoral outreach to hospitals, charities, prisons and refugee camps, and in his proclaiming a Jubilee Year of Mercy – is the New Evangelization, proposing the Gospel in a living, attractive way that provides people the uncomplicated treasure of Christ’s love.

In this respect, one of Pope Francis’ great contributions to date I believe has been the reconnecting of the Church – you and me – with the energy of the Second Vatican Council, the excitement of renewal, mission and a focus on the primacy of love as the engine driving the Church, her teaching and her outreach.  The fruits of this effort have been abundant, including informing our own Archdiocesan Synod on being the best Church we can be, and in the commitment to accompanying others with love, as I discussed in the recent pastoral plan to implement Amoris Laetitia, the Holy Father’s inspiring teaching on marriage and family.

All this was on display too when we were honored and blessed with his pastoral visit to Washington in 2015.  Reminding us that we “are heirs to the bold missionary spirit of so many men and women,” Pope Francis urged us to “rejoice in the Lord” and “siempre adelante, keep moving forward” and “offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.” Then, practicing what he preaches, he embraced and offered comfort and hope to clients of Catholic Charities, saying to them, “As it did for Joseph, faith makes us open to the quiet presence of God at every moment of our lives, in every person and in every situation.  God is present in every one of you, in each one of us.”

Five years after he was elected, we thank God for the gift of Pope Francis.  Our Chief Shepherd has given his life for the flock, a true pastor of souls.  Wishing him a happy anniversary in the traditional way, we shout out, “Viva il Papa!