Campus leaders discuss pope

St. Edward’s University clergy said the new pope’s name choice is indicative of a leader who, while conservative, may bring structural reform to the Catholic Church.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected March 13 and is the first pope from South America. Bergoglio has taken the name of Pope Francis. He is the first pope to have taken this name.

“What Francis has done by taking the name of St. Francis of Assisi is aligned himself and the church with the poor,” said the Rev. Peter Walsh, director of Campus Ministry.

Walsh said Pope Francis wishes to emphasize poverty, the needs of the poor and the connection between living a simple lifestyle and spirituality.

Francis is also the first Jesuit elected to the papacy.

“The name Francis was interesting particularly because he’s a Jesuit by training,” said the Rev. Louis Brusatti, associate professor of religious studies.

Francis chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscans in 1209.

Walsh said that the name Francis was an unlikely choice because St. Francis of Assisi was not a priest. However, he advocated church reform, leading a movement against church corruption.

“I think he’s signaling a real desire to bring some reform to the governing structure of the church. So not the teachings, but in the day-to-day workings [of the Church]. In the very last few years of Benedict’s reign, there was all kinds of leaks about how different offices of the church were mismanaged and working against each other,” Walsh said.

The new pope is known for being conservative and interacting closely with people, Brusatti said.

“He went to the small church of the Vatican, called the Vatican parish, said mass there, and talked for six minutes and 10 seconds off of the top of his head. It was very much about forgiveness. He stood outside the church and greeted people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pope do that. It seemed very down to earth,” Brusatti said.

During the papal conclave, Campus Ministry hosted several events focusing around the election of the new pope. However, the conclave took place during Spring Break, which posed problems in terms of student attendance, Walsh said.

“Usually they wait for 15 to 20 days after the death of the pope. That wasn’t the case here, so the conclave happened sooner,” Walsh said. “We had a talk by Father Lou [Brusatti] about what the conclave process was, and sung night prayer. That was to recognize the end of Benedict’s ministry as pope.  The day the pope was elected, the brothers rang the bells and we watched the election in Ragsdale with a very small group of people. That night we had an evening prayer where we celebrated and prayed for [the new pope].”

Although Spring Break reduced the amount of students present to attend these activities, Walsh is interested in further events aimed towards educating the student body about the new pope.

“It would be interesting to look at some initial gestures that he made. He bowed in silence and asked for the prayers of the 150,000 people in the crowd that day,” Walsh said. “Those were some very interesting gestures, walking outside the door of the parish church and greeting everyone by hand, walking into the street … Those are very dramatic gestures about how he perceives his role as pastor and pope.”