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The future Pope Francis: additional interviews and writings

Catholic World News - March 14, 2013

Over the past dozen years, magazines associated with the Communion and Liberation movement have on several occasions published remarks by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

In a 2009 interview (“We are not owners of the gifts of the Lord”), the cardinal emphasized that the children of unmarried couple should not be denied baptism as a matter of policy. On the contrary, he said, the baptism of the child, when accompanied by catechesis, can lead the parents to seek marriage in the Church.

“The supreme law is the salvation of souls,” he said, noting he was following the relevant provisions of the Code of Canon Law. “To us here that would be like closing the doors of the Church. The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents. And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for parents … [The sacraments] are not performances, or the conquests of priests or bishops.”

“Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter,” Cardinal Bergoglio said in a 2001 tribute to a book by Father Luigi Giussani, the founder of Communion and Liberation. “An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like all men and yet different. The first ones, John, Andrew, and Simon, felt themselves to be looked at into their very depths, read in their innermost being, and in them sprang forth a surprise, a wonder that instantly made them feel bound to Him, made them feel different.”

At times quoting Giussani in the second paragraph below, the cardinal added:

Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like all men and yet different. The first ones, John, Andrew, and Simon, felt themselves to be looked at into their very depths, read in their innermost being, and in them sprang forth a surprise, a wonder that instantly made them feel bound to Him, made them feel different.

When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?”, “his ‘Yes’ was not the result of an effort of will, it was not the fruit of a ‘decision’ made by the young man Simon: it was the emergence, the coming to the surface of an entire vein of tenderness and adherence that made sense because of the esteem he had for Him–therefore an act of reason”; it was a reasonable act, “which is why he couldn’t not say ‘Yes.’”

We cannot understand this dynamic of encounter which brings forth wonder and adherence if it has not been triggered–forgive me the use of this word–by mercy. Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord. I beg the theologians who are present not to turn me in to the Sant’Uffizio or to the Inquisition; however, forcing things a bit, I dare to say that the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin.

In front of this merciful embrace–and I continue along the lines of Giussani’s thought–we feel a real desire to respond, to change, to correspond; a new morality arises. We posit the ethical problem, an ethics which is born of the encounter, of this encounter which we have described up to now. Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, the effort of someone who decides to be consistent and succeeds, a solitary challenge in the face of the world. No. Christian morality is simply a response.

It is the heartfelt response to a surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy (I shall return to this adjective). The surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy, using purely human criteria, of one who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, and expects from me. This is why the Christian conception of morality is a revolution; it is not a ‘never falling down’ but an ‘always getting up again.’

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