Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

I am not Catholic but followed the retirement of Pope Benedict and the selection of the new pope with interest.   From all that you can read about him, he seems to be the right choice for our times.

I worked with Jesuits over most of my career.  As a group they have an interesting mix of intellect and humility.  One of my closest colleagues in the independent colleges was the President of Santa Clara University, Fr. Paul Locatelli.    He moved the University successfully from a good place to a great one.   He raised a lot of money.   He improved both the physical and intellectual focus of the place.   A few years before his retirement from the University, he created a year long project at Santa Clara to think about globalization.   The project was going to begin with a speech/forum by Thomas Friedman (who had just published the Lexus and the Olive Tree) and then proceed through a series of events which explored the range of issues relating to our increasingly interconnected world.   As I was leaving he gave me a list of the speakers and readings that students were going to encounter over the year.  I worried that the balance was not where it should be and wrote him a long note about alternative speakers and sources.  He ended up adding a lot of the stuff - so in the end the Santa Clara community could dig into all aspects of the issues.   What is important here is not that Fr. Locatelli accepted some of my suggestions but that he would conceive of a major role of the university to get the community to engage outside their narrow academic disciplines.

I am intrigued by several aspects of the new pontiff's background.   Among the saints, St. Francis is one of the most intriguing and inspiring to me.  His story and his ministry are compelling.   When we were in Italy we went to Assisi.   You get a good idea about both the life of St. Francis and his relationship to the more organized church.  The new pope's lifestyle presents a lot of the aspects of St. Francis' life.   I suspect that many of the trappings of the papal office will be shed.   That is probably appropriate.   At the same time, it is interesting to see the first Jesuit pope; the first pope named Francis; the first pope in almost 1400 years who is non-European.

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