The view from Rome: New Pope is impressive – and no pushover


‘When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.’

Note the inclusion of priests, bishops and even popes who may not be real disciples. A Church without the cross is like a ‘pious NGO’ – Official sources have told me the correct translation of the Italian ‘pietoso’ in this instance is not ‘compassionate’ nor ‘charitable’ but ‘pious’. His use of that term reveals the extent of his dissatisfaction with a Church when it has all the trappings of Christianity but none of the substance – a clashing symbol in the words of St Paul (1 Corinthians 13). This Pope has no time for grand gestures and overblown ceremonies.

As well as a profound holiness, I believe the cardinal-electors detected in the former Cardinal Bergoglio an iron resolve and determination. We’ve seen in his demeanour how the Gospel is going to be central to the way he leads the Church. Christ’s message is, of course, a tough one and the Catholic Church will have a leader who in the way he lives his life rejects materialism in all its forms. Perhaps the West in particular is ripe for this, especially in those countries that have suffered so much in the economic downturn. We may find that the New Evangelisation under his guidance has a new potency in Europe, bringing it more in line with the developing world, which has long been inured to suffering.

We have yet to learn so much from our new Pope but the process promises to be exciting – and I am quite certain – at times difficult.

Elena Curti is The Tablet‘s deputy editor