Pope Francis ‘does not want Christians with sour faces’

Archbishop of Dublin says pontiff’s popularity ‘not due to any polished’ PR operation

Pope Francis "is a man who accepted the will of the Lord to become successor of St Peter when it was put to him, without any questioning or without any strategic planning sessions," Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said this evening.

The Archbishop recalled how "on the internet, there is a remarkable photograph of Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis) leaving the final meeting of the Cardinals before entering the conclave. He is dressed simply, with what looks like a somewhat old black overcoat covering his cassock and practical black shoes, which he still wears today. It is a photo of the quiet, thoughtful and reserved Cardinal that I knew from Synods of Bishops. Somehow, once elected the Spirit gave him a new lease of life, a new energy."

Rather “than become bowed down by the burden of his new office - he has allowed the joy of living and proclaiming the Gospel to transform him and give him new energy. The Church needs renewal and that renewal will only be one which is marked by the joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis does not want Christians with sour faces,” the Archbishop said.

Speaking at a Mass in the Pro Cathedral to mark the first anniversary of Pope Francis's inauguration at St Peter's Square in Rome, Archbishop Martin remarked how "it has been an exciting year and as anyone who has begun to understand Pope Francis can imagine, there are certainly more surprises to come. Pope Francis has struck a cord in people hearts right around the world. Yet he has remained himself."

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His “fame and popularity are not due to any polished public relations operation. He has remained himself and he has been very firm in not allowing anyone else to tell him how he should act as a Pope. As Pope he continues to be a priest: he celebrates Mass and preaches daily, he hears confessions, he visits parishes in his own diocese and each morning at Mass he receives representatives of a different Roman parish,” he said.

But,he noted, "everyone had something to say about Pope Francis' anniversary except Pope Francis. He was on retreat in the countryside outside Rome with the members of the Roman Curia and we have not heard a word of how he celebrated his anniversary, except that we know he carried on a normal day without any change in the programme of his prayer and reflection."

He wants "to remain himself, a human being and a priest, who is driven in all his activity not by public relations gestures or seeking popularity, but by responding authentically to the Joy of the Gospel, Evangelii Gaudium , as his recent apostolic exhortation is entitled," Archbishop Martin said.

Pope Francis's "agenda depends on us, the missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, and how far we are willing to make his agenda truly and uncomfortably our own and bring it into the life the world around us, in family, at work, in society, in politics, in the fight to defend the poor, the exploited and the marginalized," he said.

The Mass was celebrated by papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Browne with music from Our Lady's Choral Society who sang the Misa Criolla by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramirez. Included was solo singing from tenor Andrew Bushell and boy soprano, Andrew Jones.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times