When Pope Francis stepped out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time on the cool evening of March 13, 2013, the people in the square below and those watching around the world asked themselves: Who is this man? What does he believe? What will he do as the leader of the Church?
This issue of our magazine is a first attempt to give a beginning of an answer to those questions.
And one answer, of course, is that this new Pope is an imitator, a follower, of St. Francis of Assisi, whose name he chose to take as his own. So to understand this Pope it will be necessary to understand more deeply the life and mission of St. Francis.
A second answer is that this new Pope will be in continuity with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, in many ways, while also offering new emphases and new directions based on his own personality and the changed circumstances of there times. So it will be important to observe the new Pope’s words and actions to see the things that are in continuity with Benedict and also to see the things that are new.
Special thanks are due to two of my colleagues, Giuseppe Sabatelli, my graphic designer, and Micaela Biferali, the manager of our Rome office, because without them this issue could not have seen the ligth of day. They have prepared a splendid commemorative edition on the first days of the new pontificate, and they did it while I was occupied in a number of other pressing tasks, above all, the task of writing a book on the first days of the new Pope.
Since March 13, I have spent a month reseraching and writing a book on Pope Francis in order to provide a work which will help people to walk alongside Pope Francis as he takes on his new duties.
Entitled Pray for Me: The Life and Spiritual Vision of Pope Francis, First Pope from the Americas, the book is an eyewitness account of Francis’s first days as Pope.
I was in Rome for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, for the arrival of the cardinals for the Conclave, for the Conclave itself, and for the first days of Pope Francis: his initial meeting with journalists, his first Angelus, his first Wednesday audience, the March 19 Mass inaugurating his pontificate, the Palm Sunday Mass on March 24, the Easter Vigil Mass on March 30, and the Easter Sunday Mass on March 31, 2013. So, like this issue of our magazine, the book follows the events of those days, step by step, as the Church passed through the transition period from one Pope to another, from Benedict to Francis. The book also contains sections that introduce readers to the man, his life, and his spirit, based primarily on his own words and of those close to him.
First, a brief biography provides a context for understanding this man’s origins: from his childhood in Buenos Aires to his assuming the Chair of Peter at the age of seventy-six. This is followed by a look at the spiritual influences on the soul of this dedicated priest. Finally, I have compiled a collection of his words on various subjects, offering a glimpse of Pope Francis’s thoughts on fundamental philosophical and theological issues. Here is a window into his understanding of the ultimate questions of importance to the human soul: What is faith? What is hope? What is true joy?
I approached this material as a journalist, but also as a Catholic. While I have tried to present a clear journalistic approach to the material, my main goal was to offer readers a tool that can be used in many ways as a devotional. Written in the spirit of lectio divina, or a way of reading in a prayerful manner, you will certainly find ample information on the whos, whats, and wheres, of Pope Francis’s life. But Pray for Me is really geared for those who would like to accompany Pope Francis on his journey of faith in the months and years ahead. You may certainly read this book cover to cover, but I encourage you to use it as a tool for contemplation, one in which you can turn to any page and open a space for prayer and meditation on Pope Francis’s life — and yours as well.
So that is the central point of this book: It offers readers an opportunity to journey alongside this new Pope, not only by walking with him in the first days of his papacy, but also by allowing readers to experience the soul of this man, his strength, passion, and tenderness. I will be willing to sign copies for readers of this magazine who wish to buy the book.
In calling for prayers for himself, Pope Francis asks us as a community to care for the poor, for those treated unjustly, for the imprisoned and the suffering, for those who have lost hope, and also for him, that he may carry out his task with courage and humility. If this book, Pray for Me, will help to create such a com- munity, it will have served its purpose.
—Robert Moynihan, Rome, April 2, 2013