Pope Francis: What’s in a Name? 3 Priorities for the Church

Pope Francis: What’s in a Name? 3 Priorities for the Church

In this touching video, Pope Francis explains to journalists the reasons he chose the name “Francis” for his papacy.  It is clear to me this was a Spirit-led moment in which he responded to what he felt were several of the most-pressing needs in our modern world.  Expressing his longing that the Church become poor and for the poor, he described the charism of Francis:  “the man of peace, the man of the poor, the man who loves and guards creation.”

What happened in those few minutes he describes as the final conclave votes were counted was that the Pope’s heart was moved by the suggestion of a friend to choose a name that represents exactly what the world needs most right now: peace, solidarity with the poor, and care for the environment.

This is not some retro-hippie flower-child leftist vision, but, in the end, is the agenda of Catholic social teaching. It represents not only the spirituality of Saint Francis, but the very teachings of God himself.


The vision of the reign of God from Old Testament times forward has included peace. Isaiah prophesies: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)  Jesus reinforced this when he came not as a mighty warrior to defeat the Romans, but instead called for peace, not a sword – and reminded us in the Beatitudes that “the peacemakers” are blessed. Pope Francis mentions that his thought-process included thinking about war (as something very present in the world, no doubt.)  For more on Catholic social teaching about peace and non-violence, see this excellent summary from the Archdiocese of Chicago or the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2302-2317 on “Safeguarding Peace”


From the Old Testament on, Scripture calls for attention to the poor, with numerous references in the Law as to how they are to be treated (Exodus 22-23, Leviticus and Deuteronomy) and Jesus preferred to associate himself with them rather than with men of wealth. Catholic social teaching has always emphasized standing with the poor. (See the USCCB document on solidarity with the poor  and the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2443-2449 on “Love for the Poor” for more background.) This becomes even more important in a consumer society where some are left out, as our new Pope has already demonstrated by his own actions and frequent mention of the poor. And, of course, in the beginning, God created the earth and said it was “good”, then gave humankind the earth as a gift – with responsibilities attached. The “land” is frequently referred to in scripture as our “inheritance” – a gift we hold in stewardship for future generations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church connects this imperative to the very theology of creation:

Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws. Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment. (339)

and even more pointedly, this:

The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. (2415)

Pope Francis will not be the first to preach the message of peace and respect for creation.  Pope John Paul II’s 1990 World Day of Peace statement, “Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation” noted that the ecological crisis is a moral crisis.

These then, are the apparent priorities of the man who has just stepped into the papal office at the call of the Holy Spirit to serve the Church in this time.  He has discerned the world and heard its pain. He dedicates himself with a father’s love to help people of faith work together to do what they can to transform that pain into promise. Long may he serve!


Posted by jdonliturgy at 9:41 AM

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Joliet, Illinois, United States
Welcome! This is a place where you might find something a little liturgical, a little catechetical, or both. I also am fascinated by the cultural implications of both. As Catechetical Associate in the Diocese of Joliet Religious Education Office, I support and resource leaders for Child, Intergenerational and Adult Catechesis, as well as Liturgical Catechesis, Catechumenate Formation, Special Needs, and more. Yep, I was an English major and it sometimes will show! I have an MA in English and a Masters in Pastoral Studies (Emphasis in Liturgy). I have served in diocesan and parish ministry since 1987 and volunteer in my parish in music, liturgy and catechesis.


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