Australia’s first Jesuit bishop says the widespread interest in the election of Pope Francis highlights the continuing relevance of the Church, and its capacity to bring hope and promise to the world.
The Bishop of Port Pirie Diocese in South Australia said he has been inundated with calls from journalists wanting to know his reaction to the election of his brother Jesuit as Pope.
‘In a time when abuses in the Church have dominated its portrayal in the media, the coverage given to Pope Benedict and now to his successor Francis shows well that for many, even beyond the Catholic community, the Church remains a sign of hope and promise’, said Bishop O’Kelly.
Bishop O’Kelly noted how the new Pope taking his name from St Francis of Assisi points to a desire for a more humble faith, and a Church more intimately connected with nature and with the vulnerable of the world.
However, he said as the Archbishop of a modern, westernised city, Pope Francis would also know the many challenges facing the Church in the 21st century.
‘Remember also that he has lived through the era of Eva Peron, and then the Junta of the Colonels, with their “dirty war” of abduction and murder, and the “mothers of the missing” staging their extraordinarily powerful weekly protests.
‘As Provincial of the Jesuits he had to deal with the disappearance and presumed murder of some of his priests known for their opposition to the regime. And out of all of this, it is always the poor and homeless who suffer most, and hence his efforts to identify with them as Archbishop.’
Bishop O’Kelly noted that the new Pope will be tasked with addressing the need for reform in the Vatican in issues of style and governance.
‘May Pope Francis have the strength and determination to go against any tide that would seek to resist good change. May he help the collegial come again into the Church.’
He added that he didn't expect Pope Francis would treat him any differently than his fellow bishops, despite them both being Jesuits.
'I must assure you that there is yet no hotline set up between Francis the 1st and Gregory the 0th!' he joked.
Image by Claudio Celli, Intermirifica.