Just finished reading an excellent book on the Pope called ‘Pope Francis - Untying the Knots’ by Paul Vallely. Of all the books rushed out to capitalise on the widespread interest of a new pope – this seems to be the best so far in English. The title is well chosen because it refers to a painting of Our Lady – Untier of Knots that Bergoglio has a special devotion for, but also refers to the task that the author was facing looking at a complicated life of a Jesuit who has often found himself in leadership roles, often in very difficult circumstances, with a legacy that isn’t straightforward to tease out. I think the author seems to do a fairly good job. However what was fascinating for me – was the account of Bergoglio’s ‘intervention’ (speech) which made such a big impact amongst the other cardinals at the general congregation before the conclave started. Unlike many of the other speeches, which have been reported as being inward looking – this electrified the synod hall – because it was simple, spiritual, theological and most important from the heart.
The only purpose of the Church is to go and out and tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ. Evangelizing presupposes in the Church the “parresia” of coming out from itself. The Church is called to come out from itself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographical, but also existential: those of the mystery of sin, of suffering, of injustice, those of ignorance and of the absence of faith, those of thought, those of every form of misery.
When the Church does not come out from itself to evangelize it becomes self-referential and gets sick (one thinks of the woman hunched over upon herself in the Gospel). This self-referentiality, is a sort of theological narcissism. In Revelation, Jesus says that he is standing at the threshold and calling. We often assume that the text refers to the fact that he stands outside the door and knocks to enter. . . But at times I think that Jesus may be knocking from the inside, that we may let him out. The self-referential Church presumes to keep Jesus Christ within itself and not let him out.
The Church, when it is self-referential, without realizing it thinks that it has its own light; it stops being the “mysterium lunae”. The mystery of the moon is that it has no light but simply reflects the light of the sun. When the church thinks it gives out its own light it gives rise to a grave evil, that of spiritual worldliness (according to Henri De Lubac, the worst evil into which the Church can fall). To simplify, there are two images of the Church: the evangelizing Church that goes out from itself; or the worldly Church that lives in itself, of itself, for itself.
Thinking of the next Pope: a man who, through the contemplation of Jesus Christ and the adoration of Jesus Christ, may help the Church to go out from itself toward the existential peripheries, that may help it to be the fecund mother who lives “by the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”
The speech delivered in Italian – was short – just over 3 minutes, but it made a big impact. Cardinal Schonborn turned to a neighbour and said – ‘That’s what we need’. Cardinal Ortega from Havana asked Bergoglio later if he could have a copy to distribute. It was only a few scribbled notes, but overnight Bergoglio transcribed from memory what he said and passed it on, giving permission for it to be put up on the website of the Archdiocesis of Havana in Cuba. My version (above) is a mixture of Vallely’s, Sandro Magisters and my own translation.