Ok, I’m no Roman Catholic and yes, I don’t get a vote on who’s going to be the next Pope. Nevertheless, I still want my say and it’s going to be here! Of course I’d prefer a liberal-leaning Emergent type Pope but it so happens that almost all the Cardinals who stand a chance of being the next Pope are all theologically conservatives appointed by the conservative Pope John Paul II. Therefore, of all the theologically conservatives, which Cardinal attracted me the most? It’s the Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
While I don’t claim to know a whole lot about his life, I’ve read quite a few articles about him and the things said about him just inspires me so much. I believe here’s a man who truly lives out God’s compassionate heart for the people and the poor. He’s a leader who first and foremostly lets his actions do the talking. Here are some things about his life:
- When he became a cardinal he told his supporters to stay home and give the money they’d raised for the festivities in Rome to the poor.
- He chooses not to live in the archbishop’s palace, but instead shares a small apartment with an elderly bishop and cooks dinner there every night.
- When he’s called to Rome he walks to the Vatican rather than be chauffeured around the city.
- In Argentina, he takes public transit.
- Rather than order a new silk cassock when the pope made him a cardinal in 2001, he asked that the garment of a predecessor be tailored to fit him.
- His attitude towards the media is the opposite of Pope John Paul II who loved the media and being in the spotlight. Instead, Bergoglio normally shuns the media and doesn’t give interviews.
I think the above clearly describes a leader who understands the importance of one’s personal lifestyle in reflecting one’s values. He’s prepared to evaluate the Roman Catholic’s traditions and live differently if he feels he ought to. His heart is to get close to the people on the ground and live the way the ordinary and poor do. And that’s something I admire so much about him. Most leaders, when they are in that high position, spend most of their time interacting with people of their level. Bergoglio does that I’m sure, but he doesn’t lose touch with the people lower down. As a leader and a person of higher authority, there are surely many benefits available to you that are not available to the ordinary person. But Bergoglio doesn’t see the point of being any different from the ordinary and the poor. I think Bergoglio’s humble, simple and frugal lifestyle is the mark of true servant leadership that Jesus very often demonstrated.
Here are some quotes by him that expresses where his heart lies:
The bishop’s fidelity to the Gospel and his love for the spirit of poverty lead him to a special option in favour of the poor who are at the central core of the Good News of Jesus. The bishop walks with them.
In this area of missionary activity the Synod fathers pointed out the bishop as a prophet of justice. Nowadays the war of the powerful against the weak has created an abyss between the rich and the poor. The poor are legion. Before an unjust economic system with strong structural inequalities, the situation of the marginalized is worse. Today substantial groups of people suffer hunger. The poor, the young and the refugees are victims of this “new order”. Women in many places are looked down upon and are the object of a new hedonist culture. The Bishop must never tire of preaching the social doctrine which comes from the Gospel and which the Church has made explicit since the times of the early Fathers.
Bergoglio said this in response to the vandalism of a church during a gay-pride parade:
We hope it is understood that when we express our doctrines around sexual conduct, we do so within the standard of truth we believe, but never without an attitude of respect and understanding toward individuals.
And finally, this was written of him:
Cardinal Bergoglio arrived at the Francisco Muniz Hospital for Infectious Diseases where he washed and kissed the feet of 12 AIDS patient. The Mass that he celebrated there on Holy Thursday was attended by patients, nurses, doctors, volunteers, and relatives. “I come, following the footprints of our only master, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to express how close the Church is to those who must suffer the pain and discrimination,” the cardinal said. After the Mass, Cardinal Bergoglio and the hospital chaplain, Father Andres Tello Cornejo, brought the Eucharist to patients who were unable to attend the ceremony.
“Cardinal Bergoglio’s will to express his solidarity with AIDS victims in such an eloquent way is a courageous decision and a significant signal that brings hope to those who work on the behalf of AIDS victims,” said [Health Minister Hector] Lombardo.
In an age of mass media where the importance of image is played up and leaders are evaluated on the superficial, where organizational hierarchy separates those on top from those at the bottom, where the personal lifestyle, integrity and values of the leader doesn’t matter as much as “results”, Cardinal Bergoglio stands out because of his humble and servant lifestyle. I think he understands the true essence of leadership more than most, and just like Jesus did. May God raise up more leaders like him.