The appearance of the seagull, a bird with rather a less divine reputation compared to the dove, on top of the Sistine Chapel chimney, while awaiting for the white smoke to come out signaling the election of a pope, may have been an omen that finally the right pope is about to be named to reform and protect the church from the onslaught of scandals emanating from within.
True enough, the conclave chose for a new pontiff the cardinal from Argentina, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he who embodied the character, words and works of St. Francis of Assisi, the name he took upon for the duration of his papacy.
Thus, the sight of the seagull proved providential for in choosing the papal name of Francis he was invoking the works of the godly man who also happens to be the patron saint of animals, the environment and who is often portrayed with a bird, usually in his hand.
One must remember, however, the most important quality of the saint. He was a rich young man from the town of Assisi in Umbria, Italy who renounced wealth and founded the Franciscan order of friars in 1290, whose identity are descriptive of peace, poverty and a simple lifestyle.
In choosing the papal name, Pope Francis, Bergoglio was paying homage to the saint who he described as “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects others.”
The choice, no doubt, foresees the pope’s priorities in striving to bring a sense of adequacy, wholeness and serenity to the troubled church of today, much as it was when St. Francis is said to have been called by God to repair a church in ruins.
Pope Francis has already called for the Catholic Church to remember that its mission is “spiritual not political,” and to ensure that Jesus Christ, not the pope, is at the center of its work.
He warned cardinals that the Church would fall apart “like a sand castle” if it did not have a solid spiritual foundation and urged them to share their wisdom – “good wine that gets better over the years” – with young people.
This illustration of what the real work of the Church is not only timely and important practice that should be heeded by the country’s Catholic Church hierarchy for it tries to differentiate generally the functions between the State and the Church.
It has always been my contention that the Church is there to save souls for the greater glory of God and the State, to work for the interest of the country and to save and uplift lives of its citizens.
Pope Francis has also opened up to Catholic leaders about the need for spiritual renewal and evangelization and cautioned them against worldly glories, as well as calling for a “poor Church” that should be closer to ordinary people.
“How I would like a poor Church for the poor!” he said.
Of this, and in the Philippines, I don’t think Pope Francis has to worry much about it.
The old churches built during the Spanish era that are still standing and useful, as well as the new ones constructed, will always belong to the poor.
He should know that the rest of the people in this country have already transferred their churches.
They are now inside the gigantic shopping malls all over the country.