Second Hundred Days

by Juan L. Mercado

“I  can’t  wait to see how the rest of this story turns out,“ John Carr of Georgetown University wrote. Late June,  Francis completed 100 days as 256th pope after Peter. He shunned robes, red handcrafted shoes and offered a chair and sandwich to a tired — and startled — Swiss guard.  “There’s enough room for 300 here,” Francis said of the Papal Apartments, then lodged at the spartan Vatican hostel.  “Here’s a pope who knows how to pope,” wrote a Protestant.

From day one, Francis  began changing Vatican, not the other way around. “(He)  is adapting customs of the papacy to his pastoral manner” from washing feet of prisoners to naming  a “gang of eight”: a council of  cardinals from all regions  who’d recast an bureaucracy in the Curia.  “In a sacramental church, symbols are substance.”  He’s Our Francis, Too” says the evangelical publication “Christianity Today.” His call isn’t heard  in Myanmar. There, a  Buddhist extremist movement ravages minority Muslims, notes the Times of India.


“Marking  the first 100 days is an arbitrary measure” wrote Alessandro Speciale. The Catholic Church is “a 2,000-year-old institution that thinks in centuries”.  But this most unconventional of popes lifted the gloom clamped  by scandals. Francis grappled with a scandal  at the start of his  second 100 days.

“Monsignor Cinquecento” was how his home town of  Salermo dubbed Nunzio Scarano, the Economist reported.  A banker turned priest, he doled out  500 euro notes by the fistful.  The Vatican suspended him early June, saying he laundered donations. Scarano served in the  Institute for the Works of Religion. Founded  in 1942 by Pope Pius XII, IOR manages assets for religious or charitable works and  Vatican employees’ pension system.  It doesn’t perform key banking activities, like loans.

“Neither St. Peter nor St. Paul had any bank accounts”, Pope Francis said in his June 11 homily . “When St. Peter had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to the sea to catch fish and find the money in the fish, to pay.”  Few took special notice until two weeks later.  Francis then set up a commission, with carte blanche powers, to  probe  the IOR. By then Italian police had arrested  Scarano and two conspirators: a carabinieri officer and  a broker. They were zapped for trying to smuggle 20 million euros,  from the family of Neapolitan ship owners, to duck taxes.

“Pope Francis’s new attempt this week to impose transparency and clarity on the Vatican’s financial dealings could not be more timely,” BBC noted. “Though awkward for the Vatican, the latest case will strengthen Pope Francis’s arm as he sets about trying to reform one of the darkest corners of his domain”, the Economist added

“Creation of the commission suggests Francis has not been completely “reassured” by financial watchdogs that  Benedict XVI installed, Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli wrote. The assignment means Francis is saying “trust with reluctance but verify deeply.” What if the five-man commission recommends padlocking the bank?

Would  the principle of tantum quantuim by St. Igantius of Loyola then kick in?. “Whatever brings you to God, use it”, the founder of the Jesuits taught.   “Whatever leads you away, avoid,” If  this Jesuit  pope  concluded, after perusing the commission’s report,  that the IOR compromised the Church, will he shut down the carnival?  Our take is he would.

Beyond the Vatican Bank, two encyclicals  are on the way. Francis is completing Benedict’s encyclical  on faith. And he’s writing one his own that focuses on the poor and challenges the silence on poverty in public life.  He also flies to Latin America for World Youth Day.   Would Pope Francis  reveal, in this home-continent that the beatification cause for Archbishop Oscar Romero will proceed? The bishop of El Salvador denounced government death squads  was shot saying Mass in March 1980. 

That’d ripple to the Philippines.  Para-military goons in North Cotabato, cut down 59-year old Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, October 2011.  For over  33  years  Fr.  “Pops” shepherded his lumads with the sacraments and programs from child immunization to adult literacy.  The murderer hasn’t been nailed.

Personnel is policy: Who Francis  chooses to lead key Vatican offices is decisive. Some  focus on the next Secretary of State. More crucial is who will be named bishops around the world. Give me names of pastors who will shepherd, not princes who demand to be served, Francis told a meeting of papal nuncios. That resonates here where some bishops lost  in a partisan campaign against Reproductive Health bill supporters.  We “were not pleased,” Lipa archbishop Arguelles  told Inquirer.  Isn’t  this the “self-referential” syndrome Francis  denounced?

‘Sisters matter”. How Francis deals with Leadership Conferences of Women Religious is crucial. This tension is not limited to the US. “In a battle between the religious and Curia,, most lay Catholics come down with “the sisters.” The signs are mixed.  This matter has taken on symbolic meaning for many on how the church treats all women.

Who will  Francis  look to actually lead the church?  Synods became” frustrating forums for endless five-minute speeches, in the past. There’s little genuine listening and discussion on issues from clerical sexual abuse to poverty. Who is accountable to their  flocks?  Local churches or Vatican structures?

“Look  at the peacock;’  Francis suggested.  “It’s beautiful if you look at it from the front. But if you look at it from behind, you discover the truth.”

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