On October 1st, the new Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life kicked off at Georgetown University with remarks by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and a panel discussion on Pope Francis that included PBS NewsHour political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks. It has been six months since Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected to lead the Catholic Church following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and all panelists agreed that not only the Catholic Church but the whole world is living an exciting and historic moment. Much to the surprise of the organizers, the gorgeous auditorium at the Jesuit University was at full capacity. But why is Pope Francis generating such fascination? His message is simple but profound “We should know the Gospel, but we should Do the Gospel”. In other words, he is inviting us to work together for the common good. Cardinal Wuerl noted that Francis’ program is not political but that of Faith in action, of the Gospel at work.
The audience was captivated and the panelists talked with passion about a man whom nobody really knew, except for Argentines, six month ago. One of the panelists exclaimed “I wake up every morning and I say to myself what has he done today!” David Brooks, New York Times Columnist and non-Catholic (he is Jewish) argued that Pope Francis brings a spiritual counterculture that transcends the Catholic Church. John Carr, Director of the Initiative, was timely to note that whereas Washington is paralyzed and polarized, Pope Francis has brought renewal and vitality to the Vatican. Carr brought the audience to laughter when he said “Who would have thought that Hope and Change would come from Rome!” Mark Shields agreed and added “He brings humility, which is an endangered species in DC!”. All panelists granted that when there is a crisis of leadership in many parts of the world, Pope Francis has come to illuminate, to demonstrate what servant leadership really is.
Undoubtedly, Pope Francis is leading a revolution, a revolution in the hearts of people. He brings a sense of Joy in a world full of sorrows and conflicts. “The Francis Factor” at Georgetown University was a lively dialogue that lasted two hours. And when all participants were leaving the auditorium, I heard a woman say “Do we have a day when the Pope does not bring us to tears?”.-
Editor’s note: Last week, Jesuit journals around the world published “A Big Heart Open to God” an interview with Pope Francis. You can read the interview in English at America.