Friday, October 18, 2013

In Message to Manila, Francis Speaks English

For all the waves the 266th Bishop of Rome has made across the Anglophone world these last seven months, perhaps the most remarkable thing is that all of it's happened without Papa Bergoglio speaking a single word in English.

Then again, perhaps that's a modern nod to the effectiveness of the approach first espoused by the original Francis – "Preach the Gospel... if necessary, use words" – which the Pope who's taken his name has already taken to repeating.

After John Paul II, a wide linguistic fluency became broadly seen as a sine qua non of the papacy. While even most cardinals wouldn't disagree, such were the circumstances this time around that – not being able to engineer the "perfect candidate" from scratch – the Conclave's determined premium for an effective evangelist with the moxie to reform the Curia meant that, if the polyglot piece had to be given up in the trade-off, so be it.

Clearly, the judgment paid off even better than expected. And accordingly, since his election Francis has communicated almost entirely in Italian, usually leaving even his native Spanish aside. (The sole exception was Rio, when the pontiff talked in Portuguese for almost the entire week.) Even at the General Audiences, the summaries and greetings for non-Italian language-groups – long given by the Pope himself – are now handled entirely by aides. While the tack has the effect of not showing favorites beyond the faithful of his own diocese, it's likewise to avoid overplaying his hand in a skill-area where he falls short.

Given the shift, there's been a lot of curiosity over Francis' facility in English. Along those lines, one op who recently spent some days with the Pope said that, in conversation, "he's able to make out a few phrases" and not much else, while others have reported very fluid exchanges running several minutes. Being an admirer of Gerald Manley Hopkins – of course, a fellow Jesuit – however, he is able to read in the language. And now, the wide wondering was pretty much put to rest earlier today as the Vatican released Francis' first Anglophone message... but not to the Stateside church.

Taped at his "9-to-5" desk in the Pope's study of the Apostolic Palace (a format employed often by B16, whose white clip-on mic has returned to use), the message was shown this morning at the closing Mass of a national Conference on the New Evangelization organized by the 75 million-member church in the Philippines, starring the islands' Facebooking, YouTubing, singing, weeping "Golden Child," Cardinal Chito Tagle of Manila – with some 212,000 thumbs-up, by far the most-liked prelate on social media – who the newly-elected Bergoglio famously mistook for a seminarian on a bump-in at the Domus.

Here's the film, and the transcript as released:

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,

I greet all of you with the peace and joy of Our Lord. The first Philippine Conference on the New Evangelization is a worthy offering to the Year of Faith. For this I thank all of you, my brother Bishops, the priests, religious men and women, seminarians and the lay faithful who organized and are participating in the conference. I am happy to learn that you came to Manila from different parts of the Philippines and Asia. The Holy Spirit is actively at work in you. The Church of Christ is alive!

Through this conference, I hope you would experience again the loving presence of Jesus in your lives, that you would love the Church more and that you would share the Gospel to all people with humility and joy. Don’t get tired of bringing the mercy of the Father to the poor, the sick, the abandoned, the young people and families. Let Jesus be known in the world of politics, business, arts, science, technology and social media. Let the Holy Spirit renew the creation and bring forth justice and peace in the Philippines and in the great continent of Asia that is close to my heart.

Please pray for me, I need it. I promise to pray for you, especially to Our Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization.

Mabúhay ang Pilipínas! Mabúhay ang Asia! Pagpaláin kayó ng Dios! [Tagalog: Long live the Philippines! Long live Asia! God bless you!]

God bless you in the Name of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit.
On a related Anglophone note today, late this afternoon the Pope received the members and staff of ICEL – the body responsible for worldwide English liturgical translations – to mark the commission's 50th anniversary.

Returning to his usual habit, Francis gave his address in Italian.