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The people and the bishop together

The relationship between the bishop and the people was at the heart of the simple, solemn installation of the Successor of Peter in the Roman Cathedral of the Lateran. It is an important rite that has been preserved down the centuries and which, even in the changing times and despite the periods of its eclipse, has always intended to express the papacy's most authentic dimension: the pastoral dimension indissolubly bound to the Diocese of Rome and rooted in the threefold command that Christ addressed to the first of the Apostles.

From the very first moments of his pontificate Pope Francis, in continuity with his Predecessors and with simple gestures and words, has known how to express and communicate this dimension with an instantaneous and new effect, stirring interest and sympathy among believers and non-believers alike. These gestures and words are in the personal history of the Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio and in his episcopate, as he himself has said on several occasions and as appears from his unusual motto: miserando et eligendo .

Taken from St Bede's comment on the episode of the choosing and calling of the publican Matthew, later both Apostle and Evangelist, the Latin words aim to express Jesus' approach: his mercy and the invitation to follow him, namely, the essentials of the Christian faith – as the Bishop of the people of Rome explained to them, talking about God's patience in consistence and continuity with the daily homily that Pope Francis preaches at his morning Mass.

Jesus' gaze of merciful tenderness ( miserando ), shows this patience of God which – in accordance with an ancient insight expressed in our day by Romano Guardini and mentioned by the Pope – is his response to human weakness. The merciful father waiting for his son behaves in this way, and in this way the Risen Christ gives the Apostle Thomas a week to recover from his unbelief, just as he had waited for Peter's tears and his threefold answer which balances his threefold denial.

It therefore means waiting, but at the same time it is a call ( et eligendo ), it is the patience of the Father who awaits his son's return. “We hear many offers from the world around us”, Pope Francis remarked, gently inviting people to let themselves be grasped by God's offer, “for his is a caress of love”; a love expressed by the life and sacrifice of Jesus, hence by his wounds, invoked in the rhythmic sequence of the medieval prayer, Anima Christi, which recurs several times in Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises and has been disseminated once again, thanks to the very beautiful melody it was set to by Taizé.

And the Bishop of Rome recalled vividly his personal experience to remind his people that they too can find “the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus”. Thereby encountering his mercy in the sacraments, “we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love”.

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St. Peter’s Square

Aug. 26, 2019

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