March 15, 2013


Welcoming our new pope

With great joy, the Church in central and southern Indiana joins the Universal Church in welcoming our new pope.

His Holiness Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, becomes the latest—No. 265—in a very long line of popes to succeed to the ministry of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome and as the Vicar of Christ.

Our new pope has accepted a truly awesome responsibility as “the perpetual source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the whole company of the faithful” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #882).

Unity in teaching, in the practice of the faith, in Church governance and in the celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments is both the blessing and the burden of the new pope’s ministry.

Left to our own devices, we human beings have a tendency to fragment and water down everything, including the great gifts that Christ gave us to help carry on his work on Earth.

The pope, in union with all the bishops throughout the world, is called to safeguard and foster our unity. He accomplishes this extraordinarily difficult task by teaching, sanctifying and governing the whole Church, but he cannot do this work all by himself.

To be successful, any pope, including Pope Francis, will have to be a man of prayer who is “close to God.” He will also have to teach faithfully the Word of God and proclaim with joy the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our new pope will need to be a man of wisdom who listens attentively to his brother bishops and all the clergy, religious and lay faithful in order to understand more fully the needs of the Church he is called to unite.

Pope Francis may be a native son of Argentina, but he now belongs to the world, and he must show himself to be keenly aware of the diverse challenges facing people in very different situations and circumstances in every corner of our global community.

Pope Francis is the successor of St. Peter, but he is also the successor of all those who went before him. That means he carries on the work of holy men like Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI—to mention only the most recent popes.

We are confident that our new Holy Father will bring his own distinctive style and personality to the position he has been given through the power of the Holy Spirit. We all have our own ideas about what his priorities should be—about what he should do or not do, emphasize or ignore, change or keep the same.

In the end, all any of us can do is extend to him our promise of obedience and prayerful support, which he so humbly requested in his first appearance to the people of Rome and the world. God walks with the pope—helping to make his burdens light and transforming his sorrows into joy.

Our job is to pray for the pope, to listen to his teaching and to walk with him on the journey of faith while we also try to be “close to God.”

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is doubly blessed with a new pope and a new archbishop to serve our pastoral needs—while our former pope and our former archbishop continue to serve the Church as “emeriti” who sustain us by their prayer and example. We thank God for all these wonderful men, and for the selfless witness they offer us in Jesus’ name.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin has commented on how much he has come to appreciate the genuine “Hoosier hospitality” that he has experienced since coming to Indiana.

Let’s extend that same spirit of welcome to our new Holy Father. Let’s welcome him warmly and enthusiastically on behalf of all the Local Churches in Indiana and throughout the entire world!

Pope Francis, may the Lord bless you with his grace and his peace as you begin your ministry to the Universal Church. Unite us in faith, hope and love. Teach us to know, love and serve Christ and all our sisters and brothers throughout the world. Help us to be close to God and to one another always.

—Daniel Conway

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