Saturday, March 23, 2013

Francis I cancels his daily paper delivery in Buenos Aires

Pope Francis I and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meeting today at Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome

The Brisbane Times (AU)and Catholic News Agency reported today that earlier this week Pope Francis personally called a newspaper kiosk near his modest apartment in Buenos Aires to cancel his longstanding order for home delivery of the morning paper.  From the Times and CNA:
Amid the pomp and ceremony of his installation as the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis still found time to phone a kiosk in Buenos Aires and cancel his daily newspaper order.
At first Daniel Del Regno thought it was a prank call, perhaps made by a friend trying to pull his leg.
''Seriously, it's Jorge Bergoglio. I'm calling you from Rome,'' he said during the call last week. The Pope - the first from the Americas and the first Jesuit pontiff - asked Mr Del Regno to cancel the delivery of his newspaper to his modest apartment because he would not be returning to Argentina any time soon.

''I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn't know what to say,'' Mr Del Regno told La Nacion, an Argentine daily. ''He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.''

The kiosk owner said that he had asked the then Cardinal Bergoglio, on the eve of his departure for Rome, how he rated his chances of being chosen as the successor to Benedict XVI. ''He answered me, 'See you in 20 days. Keep delivering the paper.'
Among the “thousands of anecdotes” the elder Del Regno remembers is one involving the rubber bands that he put around the newspapers to keep them from being blown away when they were delivered to the cardinal.
“At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me. All 30 of them!”
He said he gets goose bumps whenever he thinks about Pope Francis’ simplicity.
In another development, The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Francis I plans to open the Easter Triduum by celebrating Holy Thursday Mass at a youth prison in Rome, rather than in St. Peter's Basilica as expected.  He will wash the feet of twelve inmates of the prison during the mass.  Rocco Palmo, the author of the Whispers in the Loggia blog, points out the significance and background of the change:
While the Popes have predominantly washed the feet of 12 retired priests of their diocese at the liturgy over recent decades, laymen and even special-needs youth have occasionally been chosen as the group for the foot-washing. However, the Mass has always taken place in a papal basilica.
 In its release, the Vatican noted that the second Holy Thursday Mass "is characterized by the announcement of the Commandment of love and the act of the washing of the feet.
Along those lines, "in his ministry as archbishop of Buenos Aires, [then-]Cardinal Bergoglio would celebrate this Mass in a jail, a hospital or a home for the poor or marginalized people," the release said (prior instances above).
Over years past, the groups among which the now-Pope led the Lord's Supper liturgy included drug addicts and HIV/AIDS patients as a way of highlighting Christ's preference for the "least" in the eyes of the world at his table.
Francis has been Pope for only four days, but already the tone of a new papacy has been set.  As we watch the evolution of this new pope, one less academic and more pragmatic, casual and populist than Benedict, keep in mind the saying that has been traditionally attributed to Saint Francis (perhaps without substance):  
"Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words."
It seems clear that Francis I wants to lead by example as well as by words.  

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