Tom O’Connor, Director of Communites and Supporters Division at CAFOD writes:Yesterday evening white smoke emerged from the chimney of the Sistine chapel as the Cardinals elected a new Pope. Soon afterwards we saw Pope Francis I greet the world for the first time from St Peter’s Square. Today, Catholics across the world woke to a new era in the life of our Church, and here in Rome, there has all day been a tangible sense of excitement and enthusiasm.
In every age, the Church needs to be reformed and renewed and our age is no different. Once again we are asking the question: How can we communicate to a modern and complex world the good news of our faith: the good news that every person regardless of religion, culture, language or belief is loved profoundly by God and that we belong together as members of a single global family as we make journey through this life?
One of the ancient titles of the Pope is ‘Pontifex Maximus’ which means ‘great bridge builder’ and as Catholics we now look to Pope Francis I to build new bridges in our world through his teaching, his prayer and the example of his life. In choosing the name Francis, the Pope has reminded us of the legacy of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis turned his back on a life of comfort and wealth to live among the poor because he believed that we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God. The simplicity and humility of his faith made a huge contribution to re-building the Church in his life time and in the centuries that followed.
We now look to our Pope as he begins a new stage of his own journey in the spirit of St Francis. At CAFOD we are inspired and delighted by the fact that he has been consistently outspoken on behalf of those who live with poverty and injustice and that he has offered an example of simplicity and humility in his own life. This will resonate strongly with the 5 million Catholics in England and Wales on whose behalf CAFOD works to support the poorest communities around the world.As Catholics, we are called to support Pope Francis in his efforts to build bridges between our faith and our modern world. It is also our vocation to show compassion for those facing hardship and injustice because in them we see the face of Christ. As we begin this new era, let us all come together to embrace that challenge, and do so with the same sense of excitement and enthusiasm that we feel today.