Malvern’s Perspective on the New Pope

Jake Sorensen

Pope Francis sure is quite a fellow. He is the first South American to be elected for such a position, let alone a Jesuit. Instead of taking up his proper dwelling inside the papal palace, he’s stunned billions of people by choosing instead to live at a hotel that he stayed in prior to the election. He isn’t just doing a publicity stunt; ever since he was just “Cardinal Bergoglio,” he has lived with humility. Rather than demand the royal (or “papal”) treatment, Pope Francis prefers taking a public bus over a private driver and hosting the Washing of Feet ceremony in a Juvenile Detention center. He is a departure from all of the pope “norms” before him, so he’s certainly being watched with hopeful eyes around the world.

Of course, here at Malvern Prep we’d expect our resident friars to have opinions on the Pope as well.  I managed to interview both Fr. Meehan and and Fr. Flynn, both of whom were happy to answer the one question posed to them, which was “What do you think?”  I was also able to get some words from Mr. Boyce, a teacher especially known for his devoutness to the Catholic faith.

Fr. Flynn, the admirable President of Malvern Prep, had much to say. He noted that the Pope is “inspirational [and] stands for all the right things in my mind.”  Flynn stated that the Pope embraces virtues, that, even though they were also held by previous popes, seem to be more “visible and transparent”, with a sense of “kindness.”

“He’s in love with the church, and by that, I mean the people,” noted Flynn, indicating how he believes Francis will treat the Catholics that he, above all others, guides to Christ today. He concluded by saying that he believes in the Church’s new leader.  “God really chose him… I don’t know why God wouldn’t inspire the cardinals to select the best possible pope.” According to Fr. Flynn, he is “the person God wanted to lead the Church”.

Fr. Thom Meehan, a well-known freshman theology teacher who is frequently at the pulpit during chapel services, also offered some insights.  Meehan stated how happy he is that Pope Francis from South America, as opposed to European cardinals that have dominated the position for a long time in the Church’s history.   He noted that, “He is a very genteel man, a very kind man.”  He also had seen on the television how Francis gave a blessing to man on a gurney, which made him very happy.  Fr. Thom thinks that the Pope’s selection of the name Francis means that “he’s going to, hopefully, take care of the poor in this world.”

I then asked him whether he thinks Francis’s conservative theological views will affect his public image.  Fr. Thom observed, “He’s brand new in the job, and I don’t label people as conservative or liberal.” While that might have not been the direction I hoped to take in this interview, he ends this by stating that “I know that he will continue with the tradition with the church, and enforce them, but I’m almost positive that he has an open heart and an open mind to listen to what we have to say, as his flock.”

Mr. Boyce began by discussing the immediate advantages of having Bergoglio as pope, thanks to his bringing a “new dynamic […] coming from a different part of the world with a massive growth in Catholic population.”  South America is credited for its abundance of Catholics: nearly 28% of the global Catholic community.  Mr. Boyce stated that the pope can spread the virtues of humility due to his roots and experience in an area that “has a tremendous background in poverty.”

Mr. Boyce concluded by noting that he expects the Pope will face difficulties due to his “orthodox standings on gay and lesbian matrimony, celibacy and women priests.” The Church’s new leader has already surprised many with his humility and inclusiveness.  It will be interesting to see how this new chapter of the Church’s leadership develops.