The Bishop’s letter, concerning our new Pope

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we will all hear the name of our new Pope in the Eucharistic Prayer. We know it already: Francis. He is the first Pope to take that name, the first Pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit to become Pope. As a monk, may I add that he is the first Pope for over 150 years to be a “religious” (consecrated to God through the profession of chastity, poverty and obedience). All of these things are refreshing. They come from the Holy Spirit. They open new horizons.

Here in the Church in Scotland we have been feeling a lot of distress. At the heart of it is a sense of things being broken: things like personal integrity, trust in our bishops and priests, the credibility of our faith and teaching. All of these things have seemed to collapse, and behind our sadness or anger there is a great cry inside us for them to be given back to us. A cry for a new purity and honesty, for the Gospel, for Christ.

Gestures often speak louder than words. Before he gave his blessing from the balcony of St Peter’s, Pope Francis asked the people to pray that the Lord would bless him. He bowed his head, silence fell and the people prayed. Then he in turn called down God’s blessing on them. What a beautiful sign! What a symbol of reconciliation – priest and people united in prayer under the blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Only the Trinity, the Three and One, can put the broken together again and restore the integrity we long for.

‘Leave me Lord for I am a sinful man,’ says Peter in the Gospel. He speaks for every Pope, bishop and priest. He speaks for each of us in the Church. But the Lord did not leave him, and he does not leave us. Instead he says, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ ‘And they left everything and followed him.’ With Pope Francis, Peter’s new successor, let us continue our Christian lives, let us recommit to our own vocations, let us leave everything dishonest and bitter and sinful behind. Let us follow Christ, who is taking us so powerfully this Lent and Easter through his cross to the Resurrection.

Yours devotedly in Him,
+ Hugh O. S. B

17th March 2013