At the special Mass celebrated for the beginning of his new pontificate, Pope Francis focused his homily on the protection of the weak, the poor, and the environment. Some passages from the homily make it possible to understand what Pope Francis has in mind when he speaks of a renovated way of understanding the nature of power and its use.
In the homily, Pope Francis stated, “I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” And he added: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service … . Only those who serve with love are able to protect.”
The election of Pope Francis comes at a time of profound changes in the Church and also in the wider society. The invitation I have quoted from his homily probably should be read as an appeal to both realities. The changes in the governance of the Church will be an important issue on the new Pope’s agenda and Francis probably wanted to signal the necessity of understanding and making use of power in a reinvigorated way. In this regard, it is noteworthy that he will hold Mass on Holy Thursday at Casal del Marmo Detention Center in Rome and will wash the feet of the young inmates detained there.
The coherence between words and actions seems to be what Pope Francis is asking of the Church and society’s leaders, political and non-political.
The full text of the homily is available here.