"Here there are many 'masters' of the pope"

"Here there are many 'masters' of the pope"



It's clear to everyone by now that Pope Francis likes to pick up the phone and call old friends. Argentine journalist Jorge Milia was on the receiving end of a recent call from his former teacher, Jorge Bergoglio, and Milia's report on that conversation makes for fascinating reading. (Hat tip here to my Italian colleague Lucio Brunelli.)

Milia recounts that in their phone conversation, Pope Francis spoke endearingly about Pope Benedict, whom he calls "el viejo" -- literally, "the old man," but a term that carries with it affection and respect.

"Today I was with el viejo, and we talked a lot. It's a pleasure for me to exchange ideas with him.... You can’t imagine the humility and wisdom of this man,” the pope told me.

“Well, then keep him close to you,” I replied.

“I wouldn't even consider giving up the counsel of a person like this, it would be foolish on my part!”

Milia tells Francis that people view him as more approachable than his predecessor, and that Francis gives the impression that people can come up and speak to him. The pope replies:

“And why not? Certainly, they should be able to do that! It’s my duty to listen to them, to pray with them, to hold their hands so they feel that they’re not alone.”

But the pope adds that not everyone around him at the Vatican can easily accept this.

“It’s not easy, Jorge, here there are many ‘masters’ (padroni) of the pope, and with a lot of seniority in years of service.”

The pope went on to say that every change he’s introduced so far has cost him great effort. He said the most difficult battle was in maintaining some management of his own agenda of activities, instead of having it imposed on him. For that reason, he said, he chose not to live in the formal papal apartment, because many popes have become “prisoners” of their secretaries.

“I am the one who decides who to see, not my secretaries…. Sometimes I cannot see who I’d like, because I need to see who asks for me.”

24 comments (Add your own)

1. Trish J wrote:
Thank you for this summary. I feel we are so blessed to have Pope Francis. He is truly a pontiff/pontifex and his example is inspiring millions, including me. Praise God!

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 11:34 AM

2. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh wrote:
Thankyou, John, for sharing this information about Pope Francis. I believe that he has more life experience than the bookish Pope Benedict.

I do not believe Pope Benedict realizes the enormous harm that he has done to the church by continuing the culture of secrecy, protecting the predator clergy, and re-victimizing the victims of clergy sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults. The amount of suicides of victims worldwide cries out to heaven for justice and so far there has been no real accountability from the Pope.

From what I have learned, Pope Francis has also protected at least one predator priest in the past and did not support the victim.

There needs to be an overhaul of the leadership of the church. Women are at least 50% of the membership and we still have no voice. I believe the future of the church needs to be with lay people and I hope Pope Francis can be an instrument of the Holy Spirit to bring about some of the changes needed for a church that respects lay people and cares about protecting the innocence of children and rids the church of predator priests and complicit bishops.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 12:21 PM

3. claire wrote:
Francis is such a nice change. Lovely to find out that he likes and respects Benedict...
Thank you.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 1:55 PM

4. Teri wrote:
Thank you for that lovely summary. Pope Francis is truly inspiring. I pray that he continues to resist his "handlers" so that the world can truly see change happen at the Vatican

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 3:03 PM

5. shawnbm wrote:
May he continue to mine the wisdom "el viejo" has to offer.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 3:18 PM

6. Joseph Matonic wrote:
While I am skeptical of any involvement of the faction of "Maria Divine Mercy", I see little wrong regarding what has been said here. - just me, joe

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 3:54 PM

7. Arthur Kooyman wrote:
Let us just pray. Let us care for a new spring, whether we are conservatives or liberals.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 5:48 PM

8. T Paplum wrote:
While I disagree strongly with Dr. McHugh's very harsh assessment of Pope Benedict, I do agree with her view that Pope Francis should enable much greater lay involvement in the affairs of the Church from the Vatican to the parish level. We are all called by Jesus Christ to spread the Good News. Hopefully Pope Francis will also encourage women to participate in every aspect of the Church, including ordination as deacons, priests, and bishops.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 6:04 PM

9. Glenna wrote:
To juxtapose Pope Francis with Benedict XVI is simply to try to superimpose the criteria of this world on the working of the Holy Spirit. That dog won't hunt.
BOTH men are gifts to us in their own right. If we have the humility & wisdom to accept the gifts is a whole different question.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 6:08 PM

10. Maxwell Sim wrote:
The problems of the sexual abuse is indeed troubling and is very painful for the entire Church but I think great strides have been made towards reconciling this painful memories of the victims concerned with some form of reparation. But I find Dr. McHugh's and Paplum's assessment and recommendation rather disconcerting. Lay involvement in the Church is at a level unprecedented in the history of the church already. The Church however has a view of women in ministry as a complementary role a.k.a nurturing one. The reason for the participation of the clergy in the running of the affairs of the church is in effect an acknowledgement of the need to understand the nature of the Church i.e. it's not of this world. So far what I have seen from both comments is an effort to recast the running of the Church in the context of the secular world. From the Bible view, the running of the affairs of the churches has always rested with the clergy and the religious as they are the ones called to this ministry. The laity have their part to play and indeed we can see that the laity are serving in the more secular aspects of the management of the church with regards to finances, facilities management etc. But leadership and the teaching authority of the Church is vested in the Magisterium which consists of the Pope, Bishops down to the priests which in following what our Lord did was to anoint men to the position. Women have their part to play.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 8:33 PM

11. Kelly wrote:
The fact that Francis is referring to Benedict as "el Viejo" is quite amusing considering that Francis is Viejo tambien. However, the relationship is as I suspected.. Francis is constantly popping in on Benedict. I also thought that Benedict would regret the relationship more than Francis; he won't be able to study when playing host to his chatty successor.

The rest is in line with what we know about Francis. I wonder if the problem with secretaries has to do with the Clooney-clone situation. It is an odd situation because Clooney clone is still Benedict's secretary.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 10:14 PM

12. Dr. Curt Schmidt wrote:
Since it is the Pope who ultimately decides who will be ordained a priest, and then a bishop, is it not irrefutable to conclude that he can decide who will run the various offices in the curia, and who will become a bishop or a cardinal.

Is there some canon law beyond the power of the Pope to change?

Could he not choose to have one half of the heads of curial offices be women?

If John Paul II made ordination a condition for becoming a Cardinal, could not Francis reverse that determination.

Could Francis not then appoint one half the Cardinals from the ranks of women?

OR are we to think that when Jesus said, "whatever you shall bind on earth . . ." etc was limited by previous rulings?

Or that when he said that "With God, all things are possible," He meant that all things were possible unless John Paul II said they were not possible??

Popes like Pius IX left no doubt that they, and only they, ran the Church. I haven't noticed any decrees since that time that keep Francis from exercising the same ultimate authority -- yet in a far more positive manner than many of his predecessors.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

13. Debbie wrote:
As a third order Franciscan and a woman, I wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. McHugh and Paplum's comments. I cannot imagine anyone who has read the writings and or the history of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI could criticize him so harshly and criticize the role of women in the Church. With God's Masterpiece, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as our model, how can any woman complain? As Jesus told Martha when speaking of Magdalen, "Mary has chosen the better portion," that of sitting at the Feet of the Master. I learned to do that by following Our Lady's example. Secure in my femininity and the fact that I am greatly loved, I praise God for the very special role that women have in the life of the Church. I agree with Maxwell. Holy Mother Church was never called to worldliness. Praise God for that.

Thu, July 11, 2013 @ 11:29 PM

14. Robert LeBlanc wrote:
The more I hear of Pope Francis, the more I see him, I not only love him, but I am thankful to God that we have such a man serving and leading the church. I wonder if Pope Francis has seen in the shoes of the fisherman? Not that I think he should follow the movie because what Pope Francis has done is real and and with the Lord's help lasting. To some of my friends I have described our new pope as Vatican 2.5 We as a church, we as Christians need to re learn and openly practice Evangelization that is not just sharing God's word, but living it and loving the poor in to wholeness.

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 4:09 AM

15. Mike Bolognese wrote:
what a great article

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 4:50 AM

16. Mike wrote:
Thank you, Debbie, for wonderfully expressing what I was hoping to be able to say.

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 8:01 AM

17. Victor J wrote:
In reading the various comments,it sounds like a real "lovefest' between liberal Vatican II modernists, and Pope Francis.

The "Jury is still Out" for many, concerning Pope Francis.
Many prefer, that he act and function like a traditional Pope.
He has just barely started "on the job",of being Pope.
He is actually Pope of a divided, dysfuctional Church,that will be a huge challange.

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 11:23 AM

18. Christine wrote:
Yes, yes Debbie!! You are so right! Anyone who thinks the Church oppresses women is woefully ignorant about the Church and the one True faith.

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 12:41 PM

19. T Paplum wrote:
To clarify, I was NOT agreeing with Dr. McHugh's very harsh comments about Pope Benedict. I found those observations way off the mark.

What I did agree with was the notion of more Catholic lay involvement in the affairs of the Church. Church interpretation of scripture and Christ's dying for our sins can and should remain a teaching authority from those ordained. I believe that many people leave the Church because they are not encouraged to get involved and be a vital part of its ministry.

We can agree to disagree on the role of women as ordained deacons, priests, and bishops. Not only do I believe is it the right thing to do, there is a practical aspect to it. Everywhere we look there is a shortage of priests. This crisis is growing worse each day. Ordaining women would be a step in the right direction to begin the resolve this problem.

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 1:49 PM

20. Lee wrote:
The Church will never ever be a democratic entity, it is The Mystical Body of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI was an awesome gift to the world through all aspects of the papacy. His humility, truth, wisdom and life, were and still are great treasures. Shame on anyone who talks down on him for helping to purify and lead the Church to "her" roots, that will never change. Dr this and Dr that! Your titles mean nothing to God, it is your charity. Leave your titles at the door, you can't take those with you when you die. :-). ps the Church doesn't need to change, it is the world, the so-called civilized world that needs to change in JMJ,

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 3:31 PM

21. Yae wrote:
"Francis is constantly popping in on Benedict. I also thought that Benedict would regret the relationship more than Francis; he won't be able to study when playing host to his chatty successor."

Wow...I was not aware we had someone from the outside who is made privy to such observations and/or conversations. I had a good chuckle over the above all-knowing comment.

Far be it for me to make assumptions, assertions, or speculations, but I'd like to think these two holy "viejitos" enjoy each other's company, pray together, talk things over, hope the best for the Church and for us poor sinners. Each one according to God's holy will, does what he can and that thought gives me much comfort.

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 3:33 PM

22. Caesar wrote:
I hope Pope Francis will Consecrate Russia to the Imaculaye heart of mary and speak openly about it on Twitter

Fri, July 12, 2013 @ 4:05 PM

23. Michael Randolph wrote:
On November 18, l995, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published its reply (or Responsum) to the question whether the teaching presented in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Ordinafio Sacerdotalis (May 1994) is to be understood as “belonging to the deposit of faith” (RD, p. 401; ut pertinens ad fidei depositum [AAS, 1114]; see list of sources for abbreviations of the texts cited here and hereafter). Its reply was affirmative. Thus, according to the Congregation, the teaching that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women requires the definitive assent of the faithful, since it is “founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning [it has been] constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, [and] it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium” (RD, p. 401).

Sat, July 13, 2013 @ 3:19 PM

24. T Paplum wrote:
It is generally accepted that there have been only two Papal pronouncements considered infallible, i.e. the concept itself in the First Vatican Council in 1870 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin in 1950. Not everyone accepts the view that the 1994 Apostolic Letter stating that only males should become priests is an infallible statement (not taught ex cathedra). Moreover, does the statement really rise to one of "faith and morals?"

Christ died for all. He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to spread the Good News of his forgiveness to everyone. In this day and age, does restricting the priesthood to only unmarried males contribute to fulfilling his command?

Sun, July 14, 2013 @ 10:23 PM

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