Anthology of the soul of a Pope


L’Osservatore Romano publishes two texts signed by the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, respectively preface and introduction to the volume “A vocabulary of Pope Francis”, published by the Vatican Publishing House

Even if the words “can never fully describe or adequately define the human heart”, nevertheless “they can reveal glimpses into the world of another human being”. It is one of the considerations that the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I offers to the reader in the preface of the volume “A vocabulary of Pope Francis”, published by Lev and edited by Joshua J. McElwee and Cindy Wooden. Similarly, in the introduction to the book, Cardinal Sean O’Malley investigates the spirituality of the Pope, “completely Jesuit, Ignatian in his entirety, and fascinated by St. Francis”, both of which are present in the words and gestures of his magisterium.

Below are the full texts, published in today’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano


It is with great joy that we join this wonderful “anthology”, the Greek word for a fascinating selection of stimulating reflections, a collection of interesting contributions inherent in one of the most eminent religious leaders.

This volume collects reflections on the key words of the message and ministry of our beloved brother, Pope Francis. The words, however, are much more than just comments, far more important than common sentences. Words are an intrinsic expression of life, our most intimate reflection of divinity, the very identity of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (Jn 1: 1).

And in fact, we will have to account for every word that comes out of our lips (cf. Mt 12:36). Words can save or break down (cf. Prv 12, 6), prove productive or destructive (cf. Prv 8, 21), generate benevolence and edification (cf. Eph 4:29) or bitterness and curse (cf. Rom 3, 14). Above all, we should be “always ready to answer anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you” (1Pt 3, 15).

During the meetings and reflections with our brother, the Bishop of Rome, we experienced the profound sacredness of words. We remember and are aware that words are capable of erecting bridges, but also walls. Therefore, together, we have tried to promulgate a dialogue of love and truth, “acting according to truth in charity” (Eph 4:15).

Of course, words can express and describe human emotions, but they can never fully narrate or adequately define the human heart. However, they can reveal glimpses into the world of another human being, give voice to his interests or concerns. If we pay attention to how often we repeat certain words or how we pronounce them, we will discover the tendencies and passions that shape our own lives.

For this reason, it did not surprise us too much to discover that the terms selected in this volume are those that distinguish and evoke the fundamental principles that Pope Francis privileged and his own:

– His ministry is entirely devoted to Jesus and the Church as the Body of Christ, while at the same time continuing to highlight clerical abuse and encourages greater assumption of responsibility;

– He works to relate the sacraments of the Church with the concrete life of the world, from baptism to tears;

– Within the Church as an institution, he wants less clericalism and more collegiality, while continuing to warn against indifference and supporting discernment;

– In relations between his Church and others, he promotes dialogue and ecumenism, encounter and embrace:

– In the global community, the intricate connection between capitalism and creation, persecution and refugees is undermined;

– Cares about family, women, children and grandparents.

But above all, what is striking are its specific virtues, which define its message and bear witness to it:

– dignity and justice,

– mercy and hope,

– but above all love and joy.

This book transcends mere words. It is a splendid mosaic of colorful and engaging elements that reveal the merciful and compassionate man we have known as Pope Francis.


I’ve always liked the joke about Jesuits and Franciscans who one day walk on the street, when suddenly they are approached by a young man who asks them: “Brothers, can you tell me which novena I should recite to buy a BMW?”. The Franciscan replies: “What is a BMW?”. And the Jesuit: “What is a novena?”.

Now we have a Pope who escapes these categories, bringing together both the Jesuit and the Franciscan in a single figure. I believe that Pope Francis is the Ignatian Jesuit par excellence. He embraced the vocation of being a follower of Ignatius who wants to be a saint like Saint Francis. Our Pope is completely Jesuit, Ignatian in his entirety, and fascinated by Saint Francis. During his first year of pontificate, in an interview with “La Civiltà Cattolica”, Father Antonio Spadaro asked him why he had become a Jesuit. The Pope replied that three things of this order had attracted him: the missionary spirit, the community and the discipline, including the way they manage time.

It is evident that Pope Francis possesses these characteristics in abundance. He lives his Jesuit vocation with intense missionary zeal, love for the community – which is community on mission -, and with discipline in which nothing is wasted, especially time. Shortly before his ordination, the thirty-two year old Jorge Bergoglio wrote a short creed, and made it known that even now he keeps that document at hand, as a reminder of his fundamental convictions. It is a clear sign of his habit of introspection, so deeply rooted in the Jesuit formation.

Pope Francis is dedicated to introspection, central to the spirituality proper to this order. The practice of the examen to be undertaken individually anywhere and whenever circumstances allowed, was the way Ignatius proposed to keep the Jesuits gathered in God, to maintain their concentration despite the active lifestyle. The Holy Father commented on this spiritual attention in his speech to the Brazilian bishops during the World Youth Day of 2013, asking: “If we do not train ministers capable of warming people’s hearts, of walking in the night with them, of dialoguing with their illusions and disappointments, to recompose their disintegrations, what can we hope for the present and future path? ».

Pope Francis reminds us that in the heart of God there is a special place for the poor. In fact, it is very eloquent in its defense towards the most needy, and reminds us how it is our duty to help them through promotion and assistance programs, but also by working to eradicate the structural causes of poverty. In Evangelii gaudium, the Holy Father makes one of his most passionate appeals for the poor, stressing the importance of providing them with personal assistance: “I wish to affirm with pain that the worst discrimination suffered by the poor is the lack of spiritual attention. The immense majority of the poor have a special openness to faith; they need God and we cannot fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his Word, the celebration of the Sacraments and the proposal for a path of growth and maturation in faith. The preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into privileged and priority religious attention “(Eg 200).

He also said that Catholicism is not a “list of prohibitions”. He urges us to be positive, to exalt what unites us and not what divides us, to privilege the connection between people and the shared path, observing that if we focus on the aspects that unite us, it will be easier after overcoming the differences. The Holy Father also suggests that any form of catechesis should proceed along the “way of beauty”, showing others that following Christ is not only good and just, but also beautiful, something capable of filling life with new splendor and joy deep, even in the midst of difficulties.

Pope Francis understands that the words we use to speak about the people of God and the work of the Church are of great importance and can often make the difference between being open to greater listening and taking into consideration a life of faith, or moving away feeling rejected , rejected or marginalized as unworthy. Starting from the spiritual reflection that all our gifts, talents and achievements are gifts from God, the Holy Father has given us a vocabulary in which attention, concern, inclusion and service appear. With the help of God and with the mutual support of one and the other we can take these teachings to heart and continue on the journey as missionary disciples for Christ.

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