Pope Francis Beyond Manila

Pope Francis Beyond Manila

February 7, 2015

What events are shaping beyond Pope Francis’ successful visit to the Philippines? The Associated Press’ Nicole Winfield asked en route to Rome from Manila on the papal flight last Jan. 19.

Which cities in America will you visit? While there, will you go to California for the canonization of Junipero Serra?

Do you intend to preside over the beatification ceremony of El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero? Where? And are you heading to some African and Latin American nations?

“There’ll be a war between Cardinal Amato and Monsignor Paglia over which of the two will do the Romero beatification,” Francis said, chuckling. Beatifications are normally done by the cardinal of the dicastery.

A shy conservative prelate, Archbishop Romero turned into a blunt, fearless critic of El Salvador’s military junta for its abuses. A sniper killed him while he was raising the consecrated host at Mass.

The three US cities are Philadelphia (for the meeting of families), New York and Washington, plus perhaps a stopover at the United Nations, Francis said.

What if President Barack Obama or the US Congress invites you? Francis waved that aside—for now.

“I’d like to go to California for Junipero Serra’s canonization, but there is the problem of time,” the Pope added. It requires two more days. So I will do that canonization at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Born in Majorca, Spain, in 1713, Father Serra joined the Franciscan order in 1730. He became an eminent theological professor before relinquishing his comfortable life to evangelize in the Americas. From 1769 to 1835, 90,000 Indians were baptized along the US West Coast, from San Diego to San Francisco.

The decision to canonize will not be unanimous. Some prominent critics dub Serra as less than saintly, the New York Times reports.

Deborah Miranda, professor at Washington and Lee University, flay mission mythology as masking the forced stay of about 310,000 Indians in what is now California. Only one-sixth remained 100 years later,

Mission Dolores, in San Francisco’s Mission District, was founded by Serra in 1776. Made of adobe and wood, the simple white church abuts a garden and cemetery of slanting tombstones of people with Spanish and Irish names.

More than 5,700 Indians, many of whom died prematurely, are buried at the mission. In one unmarked trench are the remains of 363 Indians who contracted measles from Europeans. All are buried under what is now church offices, a school, and a parking lot. The only indicator at the mission of their deaths is one thin, wooden gravestone.

The Pope plans to go to the Central African Republic and Uganda this year. “I think this will be toward the end of the year, because of the weather,” he said. “They have to calculate when there won’t be rains, when there won’t be bad weather. This trip is a bit overdue, because there was the Ebola problem. It is a big responsibility to hold big gatherings—contagion, no?”

The Latin American countries foreseen to be visited this year—everything is still in draft form—are Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. These three.

“Next year, God willing—but everything is still in draft—I would like to go to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Peru is missing there, but we don’t know where to put it.”

The afterglow from Francis’ Manila visit continues. On the papal flight, Filipino reporter Kara David of GMA7 asked: Is there something the Holy Father learned from the Filipinos?

It was challenging, and, as we say in Spanish, “pasada per agua” (it rained on the parade). It is beautiful. The gestures! The gestures moved me, Francis said. They are not protocol gestures, but felt gestures, gestures of the heart. Some almost make one weep. There’s everything there: faith, love, the family, the future.

A second gesture is an enthusiasm that is not feigned, a joy, a happiness (alegria), a capacity to celebrate.

Even under the rain, one of the masters of ceremonies told me that he was edified because who were serving never lost the smile on their face. No, no! It was a smile that just came, and behind that smile there is a normal life, there are pains, problems.

There’s a word that’s difficult for us to understand because it has been vulgarized too much, used too much, but it’s a word that has substance: resignation. A people who knows how to suffer, and is capable of rising up.

A reporter said: In Manila, we were in a very beautiful hotel. Everyone was very nice and we ate very well, but as soon as you left this hotel, you were, let’s call it morally accosted, at least by the poverty. We saw children among the trash, treated possibly, I would say, as refuse [themselves].

We know of cardinals who served among the lepers, so I’d like to know why it is so difficult to follow that example.

Francis said: And here there is hunger, one next to the other. And we have the tendency to get used to this, no? To this that… yes, yes, we’re here and there are those thrown away. This is poverty, I think the Church must give an example, a much greater example here, refusing every worldliness. Do we consecrated bishops, priests, sisters, laity truly believe that the gravest sin and the gravest threat is worldliness? It’s really ugly when you see a consecrated man, a man of the Church, a sister, who is worldly./Juan L. Mercado


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