The Promise of Francis: The Man, the Pope, and the Challenge of Change by David Willey

The Promise of Francis: The Man, the Pope, and the Challenge of Change

byDavid Willey

Hardcover | September 8, 2015

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With more than four decades of firsthand experience reporting from Vatican City, David Willey explores the religious and personal background of Pope Francis and his ability to fulfill the promises of reform made during the first two years of his papacy.

Sex crimes and cover-ups, financial scandal, declining membership, and the unprecedented resignation of its chief executive, Pope Benedict XVI. These were the ingredients of a twenty-first century crisis in the Vatican—a crisis that might have anticipated the election of a steadily conservative pope, a career bureaucrat, and an insider. An operator.

Instead they chose Francis.

Using his unparalleled access and knowledge of the inner workings of the Vatican, BBC correspondent David Willey chronicles Francis’s first two years as pope and analyzes what could happen in the years to come. He tells the inside story of how this most unlikely man came from “the end of the world” to lead the world’s largest corporation into the future, stirring millions to interest and faith again through his frank speeches and benevolent beliefs. In putting this all into context, Willey seeks to further unravel the mysteries and conspiracies that continue to surround the worldwide headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

The world has never seen the Church in a greater state of flux, as Francis’s words and deeds have enchanted, entertained, and sometimes enraged the public. In this comprehensive biography complete with full-color photography, David Willey explores the religious and personal background of the inspirational Pope Francis, his stunning impact on the Catholic Church, the hopes he has raised, and the legacy he will leave behind.
Title:The Promise of Francis: The Man, the Pope, and the Challenge of ChangeFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:320 pages, 9 X 6 X 1 inShipping dimensions:320 pages, 9 X 6 X 1 inPublished:September 8, 2015Publisher:Gallery BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1476789053

ISBN - 13:9781476789057

Appropriate for ages: All ages

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The Promise of Francis 1 The Bishop of the Slums The work of the priests in the Buenos Aires slums is not ideological, it’s apostolic, and therefore part of the church of Rome. Anyone who thinks it’s a different church doesn’t understand how priests work in slums. —POPE FRANCIS, RADIO INTERVIEW, BAJO FLORES, ARGENTINA, MARCH 13, 2014 The first time I saw Pope Francis in person and heard his gentle but powerfully convincing slow tones in the Vatican’s cavernous audience hall just days after his election, he made it crystal clear that he had no sympathy for the external trappings of a rich church. He had extensive firsthand experience of real poverty in his years of ministry in the teeming slums, the villas miserias, of his native city, Buenos Aires. He was the first pope ever elected from a megacity, a metropolis inhabited by more than ten million people. “How I would like a church of the poor, for the poor,” he told us. As head of the Catholic Church in Argentina, he had never kept a set of custom-tailored cardinal’s formal red robes handy at the Vatican for ceremonial occasions, like some of his fellow princes of the church. Nor had he ever fastened around his neck the “Cappa Magna,” the long red silk ceremonial train still worn by some fashion-conscious senior clerics who enjoy parading in costly ecclesiastical finery. As pope, he has publicly deplored clerics who are “unctuous, sumptuous and presumptuous.”1 In fact during one of his 2015 local parish visits as bishop of Rome, he was spotted wearing a white cassock with cuffs seriously frayed from hard use. Italy’s leading daily La Repubblica commented: “After the plastic watch and the iron cross, now it’s the fraying tunic. In a photo taken during the visit of Pope Francis to Ostia, on the Roman coast, the Pope’s vestment is visibly getting worn.” It was not the first time that his lack of interest in sartorial matters had been noticed. His scuffed black shoes and his black socks peeping out from under his white cassock attracted media attention immediately after his election. Former Pope Benedict used to favor expensive custom-made red slippers more in line with Vatican tradition. The mass-circulation Italian Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana (Christian Family) wrote: A small detail, certainly. But indicative of the pastoral style of Bergoglio. The black shoes he has worn since his election, the simple cross of metal, the ring of the fisherman in silver and a very simple watch on his wrist: a Swatch, a basic model, giving the date but with no other special function. It costs about 50 euros. It is said that when the watch broke, it was not easy to convince him to buy a new one. He wanted to change only the strap, and “gave in” to buying a new one only after he was assured that a new one, identical to the old one, would not cost more than changing the watch-band. He hailed from a country, Argentina, that by the second decade of the twenty-first century had turned into an economic basket case, unable to repay its international debt. It had been a dramatic shock for gaucho pride, after enjoying the status of being one of the wealthiest countries in the world during earlier economic booms, for Argentina to descend slowly toward international penury at the end of the twentieth century. In 2015, the country suffers under the burden of 40 percent annual inflation. At home, the cardinal from Buenos Aires who liked to be called “Father Jorge” had already espoused poverty as a virtue, just like his namesake Francis of Assisi. After promotion to the leadership of the church in Argentina, he refused to move into the large suburban mansion occupied by his predecessor, and lived simply in two rooms in a property next to his cathedral church. So Francis’ first promise was to transform the popular image of the Vatican as a place that flaunted its wealth and its artistic riches to a place where the poor and even the homeless would not feel out of place. He refused to move into the ostentatious palace where all popes in living memory had resided, chose to take his meals in a cafeteria, slept in a guesthouse, and used a Ford Focus service car, not the Vatican’s official papal limo, for his sorties into Rome. Bumping into a bishop one day in the guesthouse lobby, he asked the prelate what he was waiting for. “My driver,” the prelate replied. “Shouldn’t you be walking, like I do?” was the new pope’s startling reply. In 1964, the future Pope Francis, twenty-eight-year-old Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was still completing his studies to become a full member of the Jesuit order. He was doing a two-year teaching stint at one of the oldest and most prestigious high schools in all Argentina. Among his teenage students at the Immaculate Conception College in Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz, three hundred miles from Buenos Aires, was Jorge Milia, then age fifteen. “We were rebel adolescents, full of hormones, and thirsty for novelties,” Milia recollected in a recent interview.2 “We couldn’t play any instruments, since we had none—no drums, no electric guitars—but it was the sixties, and we all wanted to be Beatles.” Seeking help, they turned to the priest who was teaching the boys literature, psychology, and art history. “Within a short time he helped us find electric guitars, a room to rehearse in, and an amplifier.” Father Bergoglio also located for the boys, who now called their Beatles-style band The Shouters, an English-speaking student who could transcribe the words of the Beatles’ songs. “Father Jorge never refused a request for help. If he saw that people became involved, he continued to support them.” During those same two years of high-school teaching, Father Bergoglio introduced his pupils in literature to the works of the already famous Argentinian short-story writer and novelist Jorge Luis Borges. Through a family connection—his own former piano teacher who became personal secretary to Borges—Father Bergoglio contacted Argentina’s most famous literary celebrity and invited him to visit the school. Borges came and stayed five days. To encourage the students’ appreciation of the novelist’s work, Bergoglio had his students emulate Borges by writing their own short stories. The best were sent to Borges, who wrote an introduction to a book that was later published—and became a local best-seller. On yet another occasion, Bergoglio arranged a showing in the school cinema of the Ingmar Bergman movie The Seventh Seal. His point was to illustrate literary connections with the dance of death, a common theme in Spanish literature. Theater as well as cinema was important; for a high-school performance in 1964, a historical play was staged about battles between Spanish and indigenous tribes, set in what is today’s Uruguay. In such all-male church schools the female roles were usually played by boys dressed as girls. Bergoglio, producer of the play, complained that this damaged the image of women and encouraged the mothers and sisters of some of the actors to take the female parts.3 They did; in its way, this was revolutionary. From the beginning, as these incidents suggest, Bergoglio showed a particular sense of creativity—a capacity to think outside the box. Asking myself where this began, and where he had begun, I traveled to Argentina in the summer of 2014, where I was startled to see a sign in a travel agency offering a three-hour bus tour called “The World of Pope Francis.” All the better that the tour was free, subsidized by the city of Buenos Aires. For it, our guide, Daniel Vega, wore a smart black blazer. Before we left he helped the driver attach to the side of the bus a large banner proclaiming CIRCUITO PAPAL. Our tour began outside the Church of St. Joseph of Flores, a twenty-minute subway ride from the city center. This was the parish church in which the young Bergoglio and his family used to attend Sunday mass, and where, at age seventeen, he had a mystical experience during confession—“a moment of truth,” he later recounted—that made him decide to become a priest. The church interior was dilapidated, and restoration work under way on the cupola intimated a risk of collapse. This was the church opposite a small park in Flores, at the time a relatively modest suburb or barrio, where the Bergoglio family made their home: his father, Mario; his mother, Regina; his two brothers, Alberto and Oscar; and his sisters, Marta and Maria Elena. Born December 17, 1936, Jorge was the eldest sibling. His grandparents, who had six children, had sold the coffee shop they owned in Turin and migrated to Argentina in 1929. Argentina had been a Spanish colony since the 1580s and gained independence from Spain at the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1816. Italian émigrés had already been arriving in Argentina in increasing numbers since the second half of the seventeenth century. Today it is estimated that of its population of twenty million, 50 percent to 60 percent have some Italian ancestry. The Bergoglios and their only child, a son, Mario, who had been working

Editorial Reviews

"Willey keeps the story moving as well as compelling, sharing vignettes from history to the present day…this honest account will allow readers to become more informed on pressing issues facing the Catholic Church.”