Pope Francis praised as right man for job

In an interview with the Ketchikan Daily News, Bishop Edward Burns expressed optimism about the ascent of Pope Francis. While in Klawock for his week-long Pastoral Visit to St. John by the Sea parish, the Bishop stated to the KDN that there was “no doubt in his mind” that Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the right man to shepherd the Vatican.

“He’s already captivating the faithful and the people of the world with his humility, zest and love for the poor, his outreach as well as his spiritual depth,” Bishop Burns said Friday.

Bishop Edward Burns celebrates the annual Chrism Mass with Diocese of Juneau priests at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau, March 8th, 2013.
Bishop Edward Burns celebrates the annual Chrism Mass with Diocese of Juneau priests at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau, March 8th, 2013.

“He’s tried-and-true in being a good spiritual leader for the people of Argentina” Burns said. “It was wonderful to see how excited his people were, but you feel bad for them, because now they’re going to lose their shepherd and share him with the world.”

Speaking on the new pope’s Jesuit background, Bishop Burns thought it would be apparent throughout  his papacy.

“I think… it will be manifested through his very ministry,” he said. “It’s very much a part of his formation—it’s who he is. The Jesuits, they have such a care for the needy, the poor, the marginalized. “They have such a great care for issues of justice, of peace and of dignity for all people.”

In the interview with the KDN, Bishop Burns also shared thoughts on the damage to the Church’s credibility caused by sexual abuse by clergy, saying that Francis’ dedication to justice and dignity is what the Vatican needs.

“We have lots to do in order to bring forth healing because of the scandals of a few,” he said. “We cannot forget about them, nor can we sweep them under the rug. We have to face them, and face them with a great amount of responsibility.” He added that it was the duty of every church official to “bring forth a sense of healing and responsibility.”

Jesuits have a long history in building up the Church within Alaska. According to the Bishop, the first Vatican-installed official of the church in Alaska was Father Tosi, a Jesuit priest. The first bishop in Alaska, he said, was Bishop Crimont, also a Jesuit.

Also in an interview with the KDN, Fr. Scott Settimo of Holy Name parish in Ketchikan said Francis was a “priest of the people,” while his predecessor was a “theologian.”

“Pope Francis seems to have more pastoral experience,” Settimo said, “with more impetus toward being a priest of the people and interact with the poor and those very much on the margin (of society).”  While he said the new pontiff’s Jesuit past won’t “make a lot of practical difference,” he said it speaks to a renewed “outward” focus of the church.

Both Bishop Burns and Fr. Settimo said the push from without for a more modern Vatican with a more open position on current social and political issues won’t change the direction or beliefs of the church.

“Truths stay the same,” Bishop Burns said. “They prove the test of time. The truths that the Holy Father will teach, sometimes are contrary to what society will want to hear, but it will be the Holy Father who assesses whether this is a truth to proclaim to the world.”

Fr. Settimo said the church’s doctrines “do not change.”

“As it’s said in the scripture itself,” he said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. However, approaches to the ministry—those approaches have every possibility to be changed or updated.”

Bishop Burns, who uses an iPhone and follows the pope on the social networking site Twitter, said that while the message will be unchanged, the presentation should undergo change.

“I followed Benedict as he tweeted his message to the world,” he said. “I look forward to Francis engaging the 1.5 million who may be awaiting his tweets.”

Much has been made of Bergoglio’s choice of Francis as his name while in the papacy. It harkens back to St. Francis of Assisi, who embraced a life of poverty.

“I think it’s a unique choice,” said Nicole Miller, a youth minister with Holy Name, “and it’s kind of the way that the Holy Spirit moves. It really spoke to the world, especially because he’s the first. “…It’s one of those cool God moments.”

Pope Francis prays with retired Pope Benedict XVI after arriving at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, March 23. Pope Francis travelled by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo for the private meeting with the former pontiff. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)
Pope Francis prays with retired Pope Benedict XVI after arriving at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, March 23. Pope Francis travelled by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo for the private meeting with the former pontiff. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Bishop Burns said he was “absolutely impressed” by Francis’ request that those gathered at the Vatican pray for him before he blessed the crowd. Fr. Settimo said it was a revealing act by the new pope.

“He is a man who deeply feels his own limitations and need for prayers and help from God” Fr. Settimo said of the 76-year-old pope who has only one lung.

Both Bishop Burns and Fr. Settimo agreed it was significant that Francis didn’t want to be a pope and when elected, joked with the conclave that they would need to beg forgiveness from God.

“It’s great when we’re blessed with a servant leader,” said the Bishop.

Nick Bowman, KDN Staff Reporter
contributed to this article