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Pope Francis: 'Christ Is the Center, Not the Successor of Peter'
Newly Elected Pontiff Meets With Journalists in Paul VI Hall
By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY, March 18, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Almost 6,000 journalists gathered at the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican to attend an audience with Pope Francis on Saturday.
"I would like, then, to thank you in a special way for the professional coverage which you provided during these days," he said while reading his statement. The Holy Father then looked up at the journalists with a grin, saying "you really worked, didn't you," which was met with laughter and applause from those present.
The Holy Father expressed his gratefulness to the journalists present who covered the conclave and the election of the new Supreme Pontiff, especially to those who presented the events "in a way which was sensitive to the right context in which they need to be read, namely that of faith."
"Ecclesial events are certainly no more intricate than political or economic events! But they do have one particular underlying feature: they follow a pattern which does not readily correspond to the "worldly" categories which we are accustomed to use, and so it is not easy to interpret and communicate them to a wider and more varied public," the Pope said.
"The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, the Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church's life and activity."
Pope Francis emphasized that although Christ presence in history passes through human beings in choosing a new Pontiff, it is Christ, not the successor of Peter who is at the center.
"Without him, Peter and the Church would not exist or have reason to exist," the Pope said.
The Holy Father thanked the journalists again for their work while asking them to try to understand more fully the true nature of the Church, "as well as her journey in this world, with her virtues and her sins, and to know the spiritual concerns which guide her and are the most genuine way to understand her."
Addressing the journalists directly instead of reading from his prepared statements, Pope Francis recounted what occurred upon his election and in choosing his name.
"During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: "Don't forget the poor!", the Pope recounted.
"And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi."
Pope Francis went on to say that as a man of poverty and peace, St. Francis was one who loved creation, a saint with the spirit of a poor man. "How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!"
In a moment of levity, the Holy Father also stated that one cardinal suggested he should name himself Clement.
"But why?", the Pope remembered asking. "Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!", he said jokingly.
The Holy Father commended the journalists to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary while expressing cordial wishes to them and their families.
In imparting his blessing, the Holy Father stated that he would give his blessing silently out of respect for those who do not believe or are not members of the Church.
"Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!," the Holy Father said.
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