Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the 266th pope of the Catholic Church and took on the name Francis. He became the first Latin American and first Jesuit to lead the church. Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish, Reverend Daniel J. Sullivan, S.J., talks about the newly elected Pope Francis.
Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the 266th Pope of the Catholic church and took on the name Francis. He became the first Latin American and first Jesuit to lead the church. Joining me to talk about Pope Francis is reverend Daniel J. Sullivan, pastor of Saint Francis Xavier parish. Father Sullivan, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte." An extraordinary sequence of events. Popes don't resign and Jesuits don't become popes. How did this happen?
Daniel J. Sullivan: I think it's become apparent that Benedict XVI was becoming ever more feeble, and as he was approaching 85 years old, I believe that he just came to, as he said, a very prayerful decision that it was for the best of the church for him to resign. And that hasn't happened in, as you mentioned, at least 600 years. So that was unprecedented in itself. People saw that as a real act of courage, that he was no longer able to truly and effectively manage, guide the Catholic church.
Jose Cardenas: And even rarer to have a Pope who is a member of an order.
Daniel J. Sullivan: Yeah, then with the fact that Pope Francis is a Jesuit, the Jesuit order or the society of Jesus, is years old. So this is the first time in years that a Jesuit has been elected Pope by his fellow cardinals. Interestingly, also, it's within the constitutions of the society of Jesus that we do not seek ecclesiastical honors like that of a Monsignor or a bishop or archbishop or cardinal, but since we serve at the pleasure of the Pope, the Pope, if he decides that he wants to select a man from any religious order, and then hear from the Jesuits, that the Pope has the certainly the authority to do that. And when he chose José Bergoglio, that he was reaching into the society of Jesus and saying, I want this man for this spot, and that was John Paul II who chose him to be a bishop, and then later a cardinal.
Jose Cardenas: Now, as rare as it is to have a Jesuit as a Pope, Pope Francis was actually in many respects one of the favorites to succeed Pope Benedict. He had been rumored the second choice, the runner up to Pope Benedict.
Daniel J. Sullivan: Correct. Correct. Why he was chosen again is as we can speculate, that it was an opportunity to, I think, reach out into the world, to move beyond the European circle, and there were a number of men who were being talked about as possible candidates for election. The Latin word for that, papali. So you had a cardinal from the Philippines. You had a cardinal from Ghana. You had the cardinal from Buenos Aires. You had the cardinal from Quebec. So they were looking internationally and the cardinals, for however the holy spirit was guiding them, at this time chose to step out into the Third World, the developing world, and to choose the leader from that part of the world.
Jose Cardenas: Now, we have already seen changes that this Pope has made, at least in terms of his personal routine and how he deals with his fellow cardinals, and with the laity. How is he going to deal with what was rumored to be one of the reasons why Pope Benedict resigned, which are the difficulties, the intrigue and scandals and everything else that was alleged to be going on there.
Daniel J. Sullivan: I am sure that the Pope Francis has an idea of the difficulties of managing or administering an international organization. And I think it's also true when some people stay in one place way too long, they get perhaps a lot of power and a lot of influence. And their decision-making isn't necessarily the best.
Jose Cardenas: So you think we will see changes in the leadership of the church?
Daniel J. Sullivan: It's expected that he will make some changes. Now, the direction that's going to go in, I don't know. But when a Pope goes, a Pope is newly elected, then, all of the heads of all the different commissions that report to him, they all submit their resignation. And then it's going to be up to him either to accept the resignation of the various heads of departments or he may say thank you very much for your resignation and put another person in that. And that is how he possibly can affect some significant change within the curia of the Vatican.
Jose Cardenas: Now, just bringing this all a little bit closer to home and then I want to talk about some of the other issues that have arisen with respect to the new Pope. Just being a Jesuit, has there been a lot of discussion within the order amongst Jesuits what this means and the significance for the order?
Daniel J. Sullivan: We were all taken --
Jose Cardenas: You are a Jesuit.
Daniel J. Sullivan: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: Yes.
Daniel J. Sullivan: And I think any religious order, if it had been a Franciscan or Benedictine or Dominican, I think those orders, which are the larger religious orders of men in the world, they would likewise have been surprised.
Jose Cardenas: Because there's only been one other Pope who was from an order. Right?
Daniel J. Sullivan: I believe it was a Dominican. So the -- now I have lost the track of the question.
Jose Cardenas: We were just talking about what it meant to the Jesuits. What does it mean to Catholics here in Arizona and especially in Phoenix?
Daniel J. Sullivan: Saint Francis Xavier parish is the only Jesuit parish in the state of Arizona. We have been in existence since 1928 . Interestingly, one of the early missionaries to Sonora, Mexico, was Padre Kino. He was an Italian Jesuit. And he started the mission trail that was later picked up by the Franciscans and ran all the way up into California. So a Jesuit presence in Arizona goes back to 1678.
Jose Cardenas: Do you think, though, that because we are in the Southwest, because of the large Hispanic influence in this part of the country, that the church here will be able to relate better to this Pope because he is a Latin American? Because he speaks Spanish? That might otherwise be the case?
Daniel J. Sullivan: I would expect that to be true. And the figure that Pope Francis is already cutting, and the path he's already taking, is that the church needs to be poor for the poor. And I think how he is simplifying some of the operations around him, he's wearing a much simpler vestiture. He is wearing black ordinary shoes rather than custom-made red shoes. He prefers to walk and not ride in Papal limousines.
Jose Cardenas: Security nightmare for the guards.
Daniel J. Sullivan: Well, I think it was very touching for the Jesuits is our superior general lives in Rome. And it's a stone's throw, the Jesuit headquarters, is a stone's throw from the Vatican itself. And our superior general got a telephone call from the Pope himself, and just said to the receptionist, "I would like to talk to father general. And this is not a joke. This is Pope Francis." And the person at the desk ran to somebody else who then ran to father general and said, "the Pope is on the phone." So father general, Adolfo Nicolás, picks up the phone and, "Good morning, Holiness, Excellency, what do I call you?" It was the Pope and he said, "I wanted to call and say hello and we are going to have to get together very soon."
Jose Cardenas: We are almost out of time. Final words on what you think is the most significant thing about the selection of this man to be the new Pope.
Daniel J. Sullivan: I think he is going to really focus on the church being poor for the poor. Really being connected with the people. Really -- and moving away from perhaps a sense of triumphalism and really being one with the people. And I think that's going to affect every place in the world.
Jose Cardenas: Father Sullivan, thank you so much.
Daniel J. Sullivan: Thank you, José.
Jose Cardenas: To talk about this incredible development.
Daniel J. Sullivan: Thank you.
Reverend Daniel J. Sullivan, S.J.:Pastor, St. Francis Xavier Parish