Bernardo M. Villegas
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Eager to Meet the Pope

             As Catholics pray in their parishes every day after Holy Communion, we are “eager to meet the Pope.”  As January 15, 2015 approaches, our anxiety increases and our prayers intensify.  This eagerness extends even to our friends and colleagues who are non-Catholic or non-Christians.    Those of us who are Catholics, however, should make sure that   we are able  to distinguish  between the Pope and some rock star.  Although the Pope has a personality that  endears him to  people of all walks of life, it would be unfortunate if we  do not  know the real significance of the Pope visiting his   flock in the Philippines.  He is first and foremost the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Successor of St. Peter.

      As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (par 880 to 883), “When Christ instituted the Twelve, ‘he constituted (them) in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.’  Just as ‘by the lord’s institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor and the bishops, the successors of the  apostles, are related with and united to one another.”  Pope Francis is a “rock” star in a very different way from celebrities.  As par. 881 of the Catechism states:  “The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the ‘rock’ of his Church, and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock.’   True, we have to listen to our Bishops as they give us doctrinal and moral guidance in the ordinary exercise of their office.  “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to the head.  This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the  Church’s very foundation and is constituted by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.”

          We are eager to listen to the Pope because it is the voice of Christ Himself we are going to hear.  The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.”  These are words of Lumen Gentium, one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  We will all try our best to be at least in one of the places (in Tacloban, Palo or Manila) where we can listen in person to what he has to say about God and eternal life.  By reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church, Pope Francis has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.  We know that “the college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.”  This college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church, but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”


          Pope Francis will surely remind us about the obligation to be compassionate to the poor and the needy.  He will exhort us to be instruments of peace and justice.  He will tell us to frequent the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance.  He will appeal to both government officials and business people to reject the “absolute autonomy of the market.”  Above all, however, he will in one way or another repeat his introductory words to the Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”:  “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.  No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’.  The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.  Now is the time to say to Jesus:  ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’ “What a wonderful welcome we would give Pope Francis if we take to heart this advice even before he is physically present with us.  For comments, my email address is