Pope Francis! Papa Francis! Holy Father Francis!
For a few months now people have excitedly called out the name of our new Pope and in many different ways. But no matter how you say it, it refers to the same person and the same mission they are to carry out for the rest of their lives. A name may seem like a simple thing – only a word to be called by – but for the Roman Catholic Pope, choosing a name to accompany all the actions and decisions that come with the job, can be a big deal.
How did this start? It’s a tradition that dates back to ancient, biblical times. When God called upon someone for a special job, their name was changed. All Popes have done this and have done it with different rationals. Many have taken the name of a predecessor (like John or Paul), one they’ve admired and would continue their focus. Sometimes there’s more than one predecessor a new pope respects and combines the two names (like John Paul).
When the most recent Pope was elected, names were flying around with much anticipation. Would it be John? Paul? Leo? If the Pope picked Benedict, it would be a sign of a continuation from the old Pope. But if a new name was chosen, which doesn’t happen often, it would signal a new direction. In the end, we have the first ever Pope Francis!
So, why did the Pope pick the name Francis? Here is what he had to say about it ~
“I will tell you the story. During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes—a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two-thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said, “Don’t forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi.”
(Quote taken from The New Yorker article)
Now we have Pope Francis with a mission to serve and unite with the poor! Let’s see how he chooses to live out this Franciscan spirit throughout his papacy.
Here is something to ponder: if you were given a special mission from God, what name would you choose? Think carefully and comment below!