The Effect of Pope Francisco on the Hispanic World

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Pope Francis, March 2013

Pope Francis, March 2013

Words cannot begin to express the jubilation felt by my fellow Hispanics with the elevation of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to See of Peter as Pope Francis. This was quite evident last night while teaching a catechist formation class to a group of Hispanic catechists who were continually celebrating and cheering Cardinal Bergoglio’s election.

Comments ranged from, “he is one of us”, to “finally a Spanish speaking Pope” or the funniest one of all, hey, let’s call him “Papa Pancho” Pancho is short for Francisco in Mexico. Nevertheless, there is a definite air of excitement and enthusiasm from every Hispanic I’ve talked to thus far. Even my own mother immediately sensed a stronger connection with Pope Francisco because of his Latin background. If this is any indication of things to come, then we are in for a tremendous Pontificate.

Simplicity of Faith

What immediately struck me about Pope Francis is his living humility. His request to pray for him prior to bestowing his blessing to the faithful was one of the most significant gestures of faith anyone can offer. In essence, he catechized without saying one word. His act of faith resonates well with Hispanics as it is reveals a willingness to know and understand his people which is a central charism of Hispanic culture. It’s about “familia” and this was evident in his way of living.

Anti-Cultural Catholic

One of the challenges that Hispanic Catholics face on a daily basis is the root of culture when actively living the Catholic faith. Culture tends to drive the faith more than the faith driving culture. What I mean by this is the tendency to have local cultural customs or ideologies seep into Catholic doctrinal or liturgical practice rather than adhering to the Creed. An example of this is seeing rows of people who attend Mass on Sunday not receive Holy Communion because they have not gone to confession. Now, this may sound as if I’m advocating everyone to receive Holy Communion in an unworthy matter but this is not the case. What tends to happen in Hispanic communities is many congregants would rather not receive Holy Communion in order to avoid the sacrament reconciliation. The perception is that “as long as I’m at Mass I’ll receive all the graces I need whether I receive Holy Communion or go to confession or not.” Hence we have a conundrum with the Hispanic faithful with regard to sacramental practice. I firmly believe Pope Francis will offer a clear directive on how to live our faith appropriately. He’s already firmly and simply told us how we should pray.

Humility is a willful desire to life in Christ. Pope Francis reminded the faithful that we are called to live Christ Crucified.  St. Peter reminds us of this call in our daily living;

“. . . as obedient children, do not be conformed to the passion of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

   1 Pt 1:14-15

Hispanics will gravitate to Pope Francisco by the mere fact that he is already viewed as “one of us.”

Copyright 2013 Marlon De La Torre

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About Author

Marlon currently serves as the Director of Catechist Formation and Children’s Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. He is an adjunct professor of Catechetics for Holy Trinity Seminary serving the Diocese of
Dallas and Fort Worth and an adjunct professor of Catechetics for The Catholic Distance University. His published works include Screwtape Teaches the Faith. Learn more about Marlon’s work at his blog Knowing Is Doing.

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