An Ignatian Bishop of Rome

Like Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis—after the Poverello of Assisi rather than the Jesuit Francis Xavier—the phrase “presides in charity” and its evocation of “the other Ignatius” may turn out to be interpretive keys to the unpretentious Argentinian’s pontificate.

Pope Francis surrounded by St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Ignatius of Loyola

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S. J., stepped out onto the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013, and spoke for the first time as Pope Francis, he borrowed a phrase from St. Ignatius. That should hardly surprise anyone, since the new pope has been a member of the Society of Jesus for over half a century—except that it was not St. Ignatius of Loyola whom Francis quoted. In saying that the Church of Rome “presides in charity” over all other Churches, he echoed the salutation of an early second-century letter addressed to the Christians of the Eternal City by St. Ignatius of Antioch. 1 This quotation and its source are worth pausing over. Like Bergoglio’s choice of the name Francis—after the Poverello of Assisi rather than the Jesuit Francis Xavier—the phrase “presides in charity” and its evocation of “the other Ignatius” may turn out to be interpretive keys to the unpretentious Argentinian’s pontificate.

Presiding in Charity
Ignatius of Antioch (died circa AD 113) is an important figure in the early unfolding of the Church’s self-understanding. He is the first Christian author to speak of the “Catholic Church” and the first to use the adjective “apostolic.” 2 He is likewise the first to give explicit teaching about the monarchical episcopacy—the office and authority of the bishop as teacher, sanctifier, and ruler of the local Church—and about the three-tiered hierarchy of orders: episcopal, presbyteral, and diaconal. The fact that Ignatius of Antioch’s seven surviving letters are cited over a dozen times in the text and footnotes of Lumen Gentium is but one indication of the significant role they have played in more recent developments in ecclesiology as well. In particular, the Latin phrase praesidens caritati (rendering Ignatius’ Greek phrase, prokathēmenē tēs agapēs, which is usually translated “presiding in charity”) has come to serve as a kind of code name for modern reflection on the relationship between Roman primacy and episcopal collegiality.

Less than two days prior to Bergoglio’s election, Angelo Cardinal Sodano had explicitly cited this phrase and its second-century source in his homily during the Missa Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice. This circumstance casts considerable light on Pope Francis’s particular intention in quoting Ignatius. The central theme of Cardinal Sodano’s homily was the mission of love and mercy entrusted to the Church’s supreme pontiff. Commenting on the first reading, Isaiah 61, he noted that Jesus’ own messianic mission “to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the wounds of the broken hearted,” had been “entrusted by Christ to the pastors of his Church” and above all to the Bishop of Rome. Later in the homily, Sodano used Ignatius’ words to drive home the point that the “mission of charity that is proper to the Church” is “in a particular way … proper to the Church of Rome,” and he concluded with this earnest appeal: “My brothers, let us pray that the Lord will grant us a pontiff who will embrace this noble mission with a generous heart.” 3 Obviously, Francis wished to express in his first public appearance as pope that this was exactly what he had in mind.

Ignatius of Antioch composed his “Letter to the Romans” in the summer of AD 113, or thereabouts, during a stopover at Smyrna in southwest Asia Minor (modern Izmir, Turkey), where his famous contemporary, Polycarp, was then in the early years of his extraordinarily long episcopal tenure. Some weeks earlier, Ignatius had been arrested by imperial authorities in Antioch on the Orontes (modern Antakya, Turkey, near the Syrian border), whence he was led westward some 1,500 miles to the imperial capital, where ravenous lions awaited him in the Colosseum. He wrote six other letters during the same trip.

What exactly Ignatius meant by describing the Roman Church as prokathēmenē tēs agapēs is disputed by scholars. An analysis of the Greek syntax and semantics of the phrase and its epistolary context actually favors the rendering “preeminent in charity.” 4 Despite the confident assertions of some popular Catholic apologists, therefore, the passage in question does not provide anything like unambiguous historical evidence that Roman primacy was widely recognized in the early second century.

Be that as it may, on the evening of his election, Pope Francis was concerned neither with the historical exegesis of Ignatius’ words, nor with Catholic apologetics. By completing the Ignatian phrase “presides in charity” with the words “over all the churches,” the new pope made it clear that he was employing Ignatius’ words in a way that presupposes Roman and Petrine primacy. He was borrowing this phrase—in continuity with its use in Lumen Gentium (no. 13) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 834)—to indicate a certain understanding of how that primacy is to be exercised, and how he intends to exercise it. What exactly Francis envisions in this regard only time will tell. Given what we have seen thus far, however, we can safely assume that, whatever else the phrase “presides in charity” might mean for Francis, it no doubt indicates that he will lead the Church by example, specifically in the area of charitable works and evangelical simplicity.

It is likewise patent that in saying that the Church of Rome “presides in charity over all the Churches,” Francis wished to begin his exercise of the Petrine ministry by sounding a note of episcopal collegiality. A pope who presides in charity will presumably rule in a manner that is entirely respectful of the proper authority of each bishop to teach, sanctify, and govern the particular Church assigned to him, and of the authority that the college of bishops exercises over the universal Church (in hierarchical communion with their head, the Bishop of Rome, of course). Furthermore, the intricate relationship between Roman primacy and episcopal collegiality is germane to the issue of curial reform, which seemed to be on the minds of the cardinals heading into the conclave.

It is likewise no coincidence that the historical context for the theme of episcopal collegiality had been discussed at length by Pope Benedict XVI just a month prior to the conclave, in what might well be remembered as his final academic lecture. Addressing the parish priests and clergy of Rome during those strange, sad days immediately following the announcement of his impending abdication, Benedict took the opportunity to discuss the trajectory that ecclesiology has taken from Vatican I (1869-1870) to Vatican II (1962-1965) and down to the present day. The Fathers of Vatican I had intended to provide a complete ecclesiology, he explained, but due to the interruption of the council by the Franco-Prussian War, they had left the Church with a “fragment.” It remained for Vatican I’s forceful definition of Petrine primacy to be completed by a clear definition of the role of bishops as successors of the college of the Apostles. Likewise, the notion of the Church as juridical institution needed to be complemented by a vision of the Church as living organism. Benedict proceeded to sketch out the way Catholic ecclesiology, during the first half of the 20th century, joyfully rediscovered a more fully biblical understanding of the Church as “People of God” and “Mystical Body of Christ,” ultimately leading to Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi, and Vatican II’s dogmatic constitution, Lumen Gentium. 5 The latter document, followed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoes the Ignatian phrase, praesidens caritati, while explaining the relationship between particular Churches and the Chair of Peter.

Bishop of Rome
This brings us to a consideration of one of the more extraordinary aspects of the new pontiff’s self-presentation at the Apostolic Blessing, Urbi et Orbi, on the evening of his election, namely, the way he referred to himself repeatedly—five times, to be precise—as the Bishop of Rome. Not once on that occasion did Francis use the word, “pope”. He even referred to Benedict XVI as “our Bishop Emeritus”! Moreover, Francis made a point of addressing his remarks to “the diocesan community of Rome.” 6 His informal greeting (as distinct from the formal blessing that it prefaced) seemed to be all Urbi and no Orbi. At the time, one almost wondered whether the former Cardinal Bergoglio was fully cognizant of the fact that he had been elected Vicar of Jesus Christ and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. Granted, such a dramatic elevation in status might take more than an hour or two to sink in, but Francis spoke almost as if he had merely been transferred from one episcopal see to another, from Buenos Aires to Rome. Now that we are a little further into the pontificate, however, it is clear that Francis has chosen to accent his role as Vescovo di Roma (“Bishop of Rome”), quite consciously and purposefully. This has become his normal way of referring to himself.

Sandro Magister has reflected thoughtfully on Pope Francis’s preference for the title, Bishop of Rome, vis-à-vis his quotation of Ignatius of Antioch. Magister believes that the relationship between Petrine primacy and episcopal collegiality is indeed the relevant issue here (though he intimates that there are significant implications for ecumenism as well), but he is confident that those who hope that Francis’s election betokens “the reduction, if not the demolition, of papal primacy” will be sadly disappointed. The new pope neither will, nor can, do anything to diminish a power that has been authoritatively reaffirmed by Vatican II with such “completeness and precision.” Writing in late March, Magister predicted that we would soon see, not any real diminution of papal primacy, but innovations in “the forms in which the pope will exercise his powers in conjunction with the whole body of the bishops.” 7 The first such innovation was announced in mid-April, when Pope Francis appointed a board of eight cardinals from around the world “to advise him in the government of the universal Church,” and to assist in the reform of the Roman Curia. 8

The relationship between Petrine primacy and episcopal collegiality is not the whole story behind Francis’s preference for the title, Bishop of Rome, however. In all his words and gestures, Francis has been teaching us about something still more basic, something touching the very nature of pastoral ministry, of the priesthood, and of the Church. At the heart of Francis’ understanding of the Church—and of his vision for her renewal—is his conviction that the good priest is the one who “goes out” to his people by preaching and ministering in a way that touches their daily lives, reaching out to them with God’s mercy, and with authentic evangelical “unction.” Such a priest or bishop does not confine his ministry to those who attend Mass regularly but goes out to those who are on the margins of the Church and of society. In this way, pastoral ministry leads quite naturally into evangelism. As Francis explained to his fellow priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday morning, the true shepherd is the one who lives with “the odor of the sheep.” 9

This view of priestly ministry is thoroughly “Ignatian.” In his Letter to Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch counsels his younger fellow bishop to speak with each member of his flock individually, to “seek them all out by name,” to concern himself “both with the fleshly and the spiritual” dimensions of their lives, to deal patiently with those who are wayward or recalcitrant, and to be especially solicitous for widows. 10 This is precisely the sort of episcopal and presbyteral ministry that Pope Francis wishes to model for his fellow bishops and priests. Several years ago, he told an interviewer, “I am sincerely convinced that, at the present time, the fundamental choice that the Church must make is not that of diminishing or taking away precepts, of making this or that easier, but of going into the street in search of the people, of knowing persons by name.” 11

Accordingly, the newly elected pope wasted no time reaching out to the Catholics of the Diocese of Rome. From his opening “Buonasera!” Francis established a tone of remarkable intimacy with the locals, despite the fact that he must have noticed the flags of many nations, including Argentina, waving among the assembled throng. Joking that the cardinals had “gone to the ends of the earth” to find a new bishop for the Catholics of Rome, Francis intimated that any distance between himself and his new flock had already been overcome, and that he would, by no means, be an absentee shepherd. Then, he took the extraordinary step, not simply of asking for their prayers, but of having them pray over him, then and there, before he conferred his apostolic blessing upon them and upon the world. 12

This atmosphere of familiarity was again in evidence on the following Sunday when Francis celebrated mass at St. Anne Parish inside Vatican City, taking ample time afterwards to exchange warm greetings with exiting churchgoers. On that occasion, he looked, for all the world, like a newly ordained priest assigned to his first parish. A week and a half later, on Holy Thursday, the new pontiff raised eyebrows when he opened the supremely solemn Paschal Triduum by celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at a local juvenile prison. Just hours after having spoken about living with “the odor of the sheep,” Francis was washing the feet of convicts—male and female, Christian and non-Christian. Such solicitude for the flock placed immediately under his care sets a powerful example for any bishop or cardinal who might be tempted to view himself, first and foremost, as a national or international figure, while it also provides us with a good early indication of how this Bishop of Rome will lead by example and “preside in charity.”

Christian Authenticity
Arguably the most salient and edifying aspect of the new pontificate has been the series of gestures by which Pope Francis has demonstrated evangelical simplicity and humility. We have come to know him as the pope who wears old black shoes, rides the bus, pays his own hotel tab, and chooses to reside in Suite 201 of the Domus Sanctae Marthae rather than in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace. What makes these gestures so effective is their evident genuineness. There is nothing contrived about any of them. By all accounts, the new pope is simply continuing the lifestyle he lived for decades in Buenos Aires. A man who returns thirty rubber bands to his paperboy at the end of each month does not need to try to appear humble. 13 He possesses the habitus. There is a seamless continuity of life and character between Cardinal Bergoglio and Pope Francis.

In the first few seconds when Francis stepped out onto the loggia, he looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Instead of the jubilant smiles and exuberant open-armed gesturing that we saw from the previous three pontiffs on the same loggia, the new pope initially gave the waiting world only a faint smile, and the timid wave of a single hand. It was this first impression that prompted Simcha Fisher to quip that Francis might one day be invoked as “the patron saint of the socially awkward.” 14 That first impression quickly dissipated, however, giving way to the distinct sense that this is a man who, while he may not be especially fond of the limelight, is certainly comfortable in his own skin.

In hindsight, what those first few seconds showed us was that Francis had quite deliberately chosen to place nothing between himself and those who had waited with such anticipation to meet him. It was a pure ecce homo moment. Just as it would have been inauthentic for Wojtyła not to work the crowd, or for Ratzinger not to don the ermine-trimmed mozzetta, it would have been inauthentic for Bergoglio to appear in any other way than he did: in a simple white cassock and the bargain-basement iron pectoral cross that he had worn as a cardinal. Itt is by reflecting on Francis’ distinctive brand of authenticity that we may best perceive just how Ignatian our first Jesuit pope truly is.

One of the unifying themes in Ignatius of Antioch’s little corpus of seven letters is Christian authenticity, which is to say, the concrete and consistent living out of the gospel “in flesh and spirit” and “unto the end” of one’s life. It is not enough to be “called a Christian,” Ignatius reminds his readers. One must prove to be a disciple of Jesus through a sincere faith that is actualized in deeds of love. 15 Expanding on one of the Lord’s own sayings, Ignatius writes: “A tree is manifest by its fruit. Thus, those who profess to belong to Christ will be seen through what they practice.” 16

Ignatius’ principle of authenticity, like every aspect of his theology, is grounded in the mystery of the Incarnation. In all seven letters he stresses the true flesh-and-blood humanity of Jesus Christ, and the historical reality of his life, death, and resurrection. In Christ, Ignatius explains, “God was manifesting himself humanly” in order to make available “the newness of eternal life” to those who believe. 17 Bringing together what he has learned from the writings of the Apostles Paul and John, Ignatius teaches that the eternal Word came forth from the Father, and into the world, in order to live a life “pleasing in all things to the one who sent him,” being obedient unto death. In Christ, Ignatius sees not only divine self-revelation, but also a human life of total authenticity. Jesus is the “perfect man,” the “new man,” and the “one healer” of humanity. Those who would be his disciples must “be imitators of Jesus of Christ, even as he is of his Father.” 18

Ignatius sternly warns against the insidious teaching of the Docetists, who hold that Christ was “a bodiless phantasm” who merely “seemed” to suffer and die. According to Ignatius, it is the Docetists themselves who lack substance and merely “seem to be.” 19 He notes that they disregard the visible authority of the bishop, absent themselves from the Eucharistic assembly, and neglect the corporal works of mercy. 20 Their Christological Docetism, in other words, has led to what might be called moral Docetism, namely, the attitude that what the Christian does in the body is of little or no consequence. Ignatius is vehemently opposed to such a conception of Christianity, for it runs directly counter to the personal integrity and authenticity of life that is present in the Incarnate Word Jesus Christ.

Words, Deeds, and Silence
The institution of the papacy grants an authentic Christian such as Jorge Bergoglio a unique opportunity to imitate Jesus Christ and to give public witness to the gospel, especially in an age of mass media. The viral video that shows Francis, on the day of his inaugural Mass, spontaneously descending the popemobile to kiss and bless a severely disabled man, has had an effect on many viewers comparable to that of a pericope from one of the four Gospels. Scarcely a minute long, this video tells the story of an encounter “along the way” between the Vicar of Christ and a disfigured man cradled in the arms of family members, who no doubt sought a place along the pope’s route in the hope that “as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on them.” 21 When their faith and perseverance are rewarded beyond all expectation, their faces beam with joy and gratitude. The expression on Francis’ face shows that he, too, is deeply moved by the encounter. Over blaring music, we hear bystanders cry out, “Bravo! Bravo! Grazie, Santo Padre! Grazie!”

Anyone who views this video with even a mustard seed of faith can hardly help but see his or her own wounded humanity in the figure of the disabled man, and the merciful love of Jesus in the person of the pope. Human existence itself is suddenly bathed in a new light, and a desire to follow the pope’s example of charity wells up within the viewer’s heart. Commenting on this scene on her blog, “Reflections of a Paralytic,” Chelsea Zimmermann aptly observes that Pope Francis is “preaching the Gospel of Life without saying a word.” 22 While the pope obviously did exchange a few words with the disabled man and his loved ones, our inability to hear what was said on that occasion does not detract from our appreciation of the event and its significance. Sometimes actions really do speak louder, and more eloquently, than words.

This consideration, in turn, calls to mind the way moments of actual silence have played an important role in the early days of Francis’ pontificate. There was, for example, his surprising decision to give his apostolic blessing in complete silence to a gathering of media representatives, “respecting the conscience of each” of the non-Catholics and non-Christians in the room. 23 And who will ever forget the moment—at 8:28 p.m. local time on March 13—when Francis leaned against the railing of the loggia and bowed his head to receive the blessing of those gathered in St. Peter’s Square? “I have never heard Rome that quiet before in my life,” remarked John Moody on Fox News. Indeed, it seemed that for a few precious seconds a desperately needed spiritual silence had fallen upon our frenetic and distracted world. It has been rumored that technicians in the temporary ABC television studio above the Square actually thought that they had lost the sound feed. 24 Whether fact or fiction, that makes for a nice parable.

This brings us back to our ancient brother, Ignatius, who develops the theme of Christian authenticity in a particularly striking way by playing the concepts of “word” and “silence” off each other in paradoxical fashion. Here as elsewhere, Christology is foundational for Ignatius. Jesus Christ is the divine “Word,” who in the Incarnation has come forth from the eternal “silence” of the Trinitarian mystery in order to make God known. 25 He did this through his verbal teaching, of course, but also through “things done silently” that are equally “worthy of the Father.” 26 Among these events, Ignatius includes the Lord’s baptism in the Jordan and his being anointed with myrrh at Bethany, but Ignatius is concerned above all with Jesus’ conception and birth from the Virgin Mary and his death on the cross—events which he enigmatically refers to as “mysteries of a cry, wrought in the silence of God.” 27

The mysteries of the life of Christ are events that make manifest in the spatiotemporal realm that which is eternal and uncreated. Human words, to be sure, play an indispensable role in God’s self-revelation. But since the Trinitarian life is ineffable, it cannot be communicated in words alone. Ignatius apparently finds great significance in the fact that several of the central moments in the Lord’s earthly life are essentially nonverbal. It is also interesting to note that in each of the events mentioned by Ignatius in this regard, the Lord Jesus plays a somewhat passive or receptive role as he humbly submits to the Father’s will. These events “cry out” a truth that transcends human language, as they bring into the world, of time and space, the Mystery that has been hitherto hidden in eternal silence.

The dynamics of word and silence that are evident in the life of Christ must carry over into the life of the Christian. In the first place, this means that we must learn how to receive, through prayerful meditation, God’s self-revelation as it comes to us, not only in the words, but also in the deeds, of the Lord: “The one who has truly taken possession of Jesus’ word is also able to hear his silence.” Next, this revelation must be translated into action. The true disciple knows how to “put into practice what he speaks about,” being recognized as an authentic Christian “through what he does silently.” Because concrete acts of charity are indispensable, there is a hierarchy of values: “It is better to remain silent and be, than to speak and not be.” 28

Ignatius recommends silence as a relative, not absolute, value. The absolute value, which relativizes the value of speech, is “to be”—in other words, genuineness. The silence that Ignatius advocates is not antisocial, irrational, or even apophatic. On the contrary, he wishes the followers of Christ to lead lives that “bespeak” the gospel. The authentic Christian actually becomes “a word of God,” whereas one who merely speaks the Gospel, without living it out unto the end of his or her life, is, in the last analysis, not a true “word” but merely a hollow “sound.” 29 The Christian must present a rational and articulate witness to the world, but it is the whole life—the life in which faith is completed by love—that possesses this quality of being an authentic and effective “word of God.”

In a 2012 homily, then-Cardinal Bergoglio seemed to echo this Ignatian principle when he exhorted Argentina’s priests to“Become the word, in body as well as in spirit!” 30 Pope Francis sounded this theme again recently, in a Sunday homily at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls: “Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life. Those who listen to us, and observe us, must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God!” Then, he added somewhat ominously, “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.” 31

According to Ignatius of Antioch, the need for Christian authenticity takes on a special gravity in the life of one who is called to teach, and above all in the ministry of a bishop. “Teaching is good, if the one who speaks acts accordingly,” Ignatius observes in characteristically aphoristic style. 32 He extols the “silent bishop,” who “can do more while remaining silent than can those who speak vain things.” 33 The sort of “silence” Ignatius has in mind here is not at all the antithesis of “teaching” but represents rather an authentically Christ-like mode of teaching, that is, with few words and with actions that verify those words. Those who have known Jorge Bergoglio for many years describe his episcopal style in similar terms. “He’s a man who likes to listen,” reports former spokesman Guillermo Marco. “As a cardinal, many would ask to get an audience with him. They’d talk for forty-five minutes straight and he’d stay quiet. Then, he’d say three phrases.” 34

In his new role as pope, of course, Francis will be called on to speak and write a great deal. Early indications are, however, that he will keep his homilies and addresses relatively short, and it is a reasonable guess that any encyclicals that might come from his typewriter (sic!) will not approach the length of John Paul II’s major works in that genre. Meanwhile, Francis will communicate the essence of his teaching in brief, memorable statements (“How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!”), in works of charity, and in the overall manner of his life. 35 Impressed with Polybius, the bishop of Tralles in Asia Minor, Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “His very demeanor is a great lesson, and his meekness is his power.” 36 These words could just as well have been written about Francis, our Ignatian Bishop of Rome.


  1. Pope Francis, Apostolic Blessing “Urbi et Orbi,” March 13, 2013 (cf. Ignatius of Antioch, Romans, salutation).
  2. Smyrnaeans 8:2; Trallians, salutation. Translations of Ignatius’s words throughout this article are the author’s and are based on the Greek text in Michael Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, third edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007).
  3. Homily of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Missa Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice, March 12, 2013.
  4. The Greek phrase means literally, “presiding over charity,” that is, “holding first place in the realm of charity,” that is, “preeminent in charity.”
  5. Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the Parish Priests and the Clergy of the Rome Diocese, February 14, 2013.
  6. Pope Francis, Apostolic Blessing “Urbi et Orbi,” March 13, 2013.
  7. Sandro Magister, “He’s Pope But Doesn’t Want to Say So.”
  8. “Pope Francis Appoints Group of Cardinals to Advise Him.”
  9. Homily of Pope Francis, Chrism Mass, March 28, 2013.
  10. Polycarp 1:2–4:2.
  11. Sandro Magister, “Few Surprises: Francis Is Just That Way.”
  12. Pope Francis, Apostolic Blessing “Urbi et Orbi,” March 13, 2013.
  13. See “Pope Calls Argentine Kiosk Owner to Cancel Paper Delivery.”
  14. Simcha Fisher, “Papamoon!”
  15. Magnesians 4:1; Romans 3:2.
  16. Ephesians 14:2; cf. Matthew 12:33.
  17. Ephesians 19:3.
  18. Philadelphians 7:2.
  19. Smyrnaeans 2:1–3:2.
  20. Smyrnaeans 6:2–8:2.
  21. Cf. Acts 5:15.
  22. Chelsea Zimmerman, “Francis Leaves Popemobile to Bless Disabled Man” (includes video link).
  23. Pope Francis, Address to Representatives of the Communications Media, March 16, 2013.
  24. Kathryn Jean Lopez, “Do You Hear What I Hear? It’s a Call for Conversion.”
  25. Magnesians 8:2.
  26. Ephesians 15:1.
  27. Ephesians 17:1–19:1.
  28. Ephesians 15:1-2.
  29. Romans 2:1.
  30. “Pope Francis: Biography, Key Facts, Life in Latin America and Background.”
  31. Homily of Pope Francis, Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, April 14, 2013.
  32. Ephesians 15:1.
  33. Ephesians 6:1; Philadelphians 1:1.
  34. “Pope Francis Appreciates and Applauds Internet and Social Media Age.”
  35. Homily of Pope Francis, Mass for the Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome.
  36. Trallians 3:2.
Gregory Vall About Gregory Vall

Dr. Gregory Vall is Director of the PhD Program in Theology at Ave Maria University in Florida. His is the author of Learning Christ: Ignatius of Antioch and the Mystery of Redemption (Catholic University of America Press, 2013).


  1. Avatar bill bannon says:

    Very good piece though it avoids the Pope’s more unique pre papal comments like his view that the extensive papal lands of previous centuries were a “deformation of Christianity”. Nevertheless….very good connection is made to the early Ignatius who might agree from heaven with the land view himself.
    There’s a trail from the 16th century Jesuit Ignatius of Loyola’s “think with the Church” ( within the Spiritual Exercises) to Lumen Gentium’s “religious submission of mind and will” that is going to be unfortunate if Francis promotes it without nuance since our imprimatured, even conservative, moral theology tomes like Grisez’s ” Way of the Lord Jesus” even nuance it though in the latter case with the same regret Grisez showed in his sparse mention of epikeia. Why nuance it? Well when Ignatius wrote it, you were excommunicated latae sententiae if you believed with Luther that burning heretics was against the Holy Spirit. ( see Exsurge Domine, art.33 condemned…and see penalties at end).
    So “thinking with the Church” had Ignatius affirming something in 1548 that section 80 of “Splendor of the Truth” would later see as an intrinsic evil…”coercion of spirit”. Pope Francis seems to have dropped the matter so far after one mention but the total submission concept is repeated in the last paragraph of the Profession of Faith for Catholic leaders with even less nuance than LG 25 exhibits. We’ll see.

  2. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    Too much emphasis on Francis, Bishop of Rome, can be a counter sign. The focus, and I am sure this is what Francis himself wants, must be on Christ. The dialogue must be with all persons, from all perspectives, about the desire to be touched deeply by the total other.

  3. Excellent article, Very informative. Thanks

  4. Avatar martin drew says:

    Pope Francis knows and wants to have a contact with the People of God, bishops, priests, brothers and nuns and lay people and in Rome for this shows his acceptance as the Vicar of Christ and following Jesus’s actions.


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