Wednesday 13 March 2013

Habemus Papam!

Now, listen up, the BBC and others. You are only "Anything the First", and thus "Anything I", once there is an "Anything the Second", and thus "Anything II". We do not now have "Pope Francis I". We may or may not ever have "Pope Francis I". We have Pope Francis.

A scientist, a Chemistry graduate. That is significant. For one thing, why is there so much Natural Theology, Philosophy of Religion, and so on, written in terms of, and by reference to, Physics and Biology, but little or none written in terms of, and by reference to, Chemistry? I have wondered that ever since I was a Theology undergraduate. We may be about to find. We may be about to see it change. At the very least, the Pope is a qualified scientist. And that matters.

He may be a Jesuit, but that white cassock is Dominican; if you read the contrary on the Internet, then suspect that to have been written by a Jesuit, although I shall not be putting up any comments on this dispute. It is always a Dominican who is the Theologian of the Papal Household, who should keep him right.

But the Argentine Jesuits were in the vanguard of opposition during the Dirty War, and his links to Communion and Liberation indicate a man fully committed to the inseparability, the catholicity, of traditional family values from social justice and from peace, and vice versa, all bound together by an absolute commitment to the sanctity of each individual human life from fertilisation to natural death, itself the expression of utterly orthodox Christology and sacramental, supremely Eucharistic, theology. Kathoulo, indeed.

I do wish that people asking what this means for the Falklands, and digging up sermons delivered at Falklands War anniversary events or what have you, would give over. What else was he supposed to say, on the occasion? And it probably depends how you translate it. But on the principle of the thing, you are really only asking whether he is Argentine, which in point of fact he is. It has nothing to do with being Pope. What possible difference could it make to anything? The Papal States, with the Pope as their temporal sovereign, were regularly at war with other utterly Catholic countries for a thousand years. It has nothing to do with the Petrine Office.

"Francis" is at least as likely to have been taken for the legendary (but in no sense mythical) missionary Saint Francis Xavier, one of the very first Jesuits, as it is to have been taken for Saint Francis of Assisi. That would tie in very well with the Holy Father's opening address about the re-evangelisation of "Rome", i.e., of Europe and the West. Even more, in a European context, it might be a reference to Saint Francis de Sales, although he was not a Jesuit.

There are a lot of Italian-Argentines, such as the late General Galtieri. I heard the Pope speaking in Italian, his parental language, and I wondered how foreign he sounded to a Roman crowd. American-in-Britain foreign, and vice versa? More foreign than that, like a Frenchman or a German speaking English? Or what? I now understand that Argentinians sound odd when speaking Spanish, with their Italian, German, English or Irish accents. Certainly, Anglo-Argentines speak English without the slightest hint that they are not Southern middle class. Britain and Argentina: disputes within families are always the worst...

Nevertheless, I am baffled at the suggestion that Catholics in Britain might have anything against an Argentine Pope, or vice versa. The Pope was an Italian on every single day of the Second World War, and for 33 more years thereafter.

It would be entirely understandable if the Pope did not take these Islands terribly seriously these days. But Jesuits used to. And if he still does, then he has his work cut out for him. All that most people here can see, I fear, is a Conclave with no British representation electing an Argentine the day after the Falkland Islands referendum result.

God Bless Our Pope!

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