POPE FRANCIS IN THE EYES OF HIS CO-BROTHER
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Fr. Gulliermo Ortiz SJ, a director of the Spanish-Polish section of the Vatican Radio
On Saturday 9 March Fr. Gulliermo Ortiz was seeing off cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio to Vatican – he met him in the street della Conciliazone when he was going on foot to the Auditorium of Paul VI. Talking together, they got to the St. Peter’s Square where Fr. Gulliermo said goodbye to the Cardinal. At that time he cannot have predicted that next time he would see his co-brother Jesuit in a white cassock of the Bishop of Rome on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
They had met over 30 years ago – young Gulliermo had decided to join the Jesuits Order just before the graduation from the secondary school in 1977. Fr. Bergoglio was a master of novitiate, rector of Colegio Maximo San Jose in San Miguel, and also a parish priest of a parish in a poor, peripheral district of Buenos Aires, numbering to over 30 thousand parishioners. This fact had a high significance for the formation of clerics, because during their studies they were supposed to help in pastoral ministry in the direct contact with ordinary people from the district. The rector was encouraging them to come out to people, pray in their families, visit the ill, teach children catechism. They always had pictures of Our Lady and the Holiest Jesus’ Heart with them, in order to give them out to people. When Fr. Gulliermo graduated from his studies, they roads diverged – fr. Bergoglio left for his studies to Germany at first, after his return he worked in Cordobie, in 1992 he became an auxiliary bishop in Buenos Aires, later Brother Bishop, and in 1998 he became archbishop of the capital of Argentina; John Paul II exalted him to cardinal’s honour in 2001, whereas superiors sent Fr. Ortiza to work for the Vatican Radio in Rome.
I met with Fr. Ortiz in the General House of the Jesuits in the Borgo district, near St. Peter’s Square, in order to talk about their co-brother who had become Pope.
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - How does priest interpret the first gestures of Pope Francis?
Fr. GULLIUERMO ORTIZ: - What we saw on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, is a real picture of Pope Francis. He appeared without the red cloak and maintained his ordinary cardinal’s cross. Just in the beginning he wanted to pray for the retired Bishop of Rome and before giving his blessing he had asked people gathered on the square for a pray to God, so that He would bless him. As Pope he did what he had used to do in Buenos Aires – he used to come closer to people, without any barriers, in the gesture of brotherhood, in order to pray with them and in this way to bring them closer to Jesus. Another thing which surprises is his cheerfulness. Only a real God’s man can maintain such an inner serenity even when such a hard burden is going to be on his shoulders, like presiding over the Church, even in the face of false accusations and attacks whose subject he is.
– Where does he have this serenity from?
– The source of this serenity is his lively relationship with God. He completely entrusted himself to God. He gets up very early and prays, because he lives with a prayer – in this way he is similar to John Paul II.
– Just after the election Pope wanted to go to the Basilica of Our Lady the Greater, in order to pray in front of the icon of Madonna ‘Salus Populi Romani’ (‘Salvation of the Roman people) worshipped in Rome, so that he could entrust his nearly begun pontificate to God’s Mother. Is Pope Francis going to be ‘Pope of Maryja’, like John Paul II?
– When he was the bishop of Buenos Aires, he used to leave his home everyday in order to say the Rosary prayer while walking along streets. Very few people know that he wears an ordinary plastic rosary on his neck, which somebody might have given to him. He is a great worshipper of Madonna, therefore on the first day of his pontificate he took flowers to Our Lady and prayed in front of Her.
– It seems to me that Pope Francis has a mind of a Jesuit and heart of the Francis’ Order. Does Priest agree with this opinion?
– When St. Ignacy was injured and was lying in bed, he studied the lives of the saints, including St. Francis of Asisi and he was fascinated with his ordinary, humble and modest person, away from fame and luxury.
– The Jesuits have always been ‘soldiers’ of Popes for the most difficult missions; they vowed him their obedience. Before Francis no Jesuit had held the post of the Cathedral of St. Peter. What is the election for the Society of Jesus?
– It seems to me that Pope Francis will consider his mission as a continuation of his Jesuit ministry for the Church.