(Photo: Reuters/Osservatore Romano)
Newly inaugurated Pope Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, is receiving high praise from believers and nonbelievers alike for his humble nature and modest lifestyle.
Pope Francis shook the hands of believers and kissed the heads of babies as he rode past in the open-air popemobile prior to addressing the thousands of faithful and foreign dignitaries who gathered to witness his inauguration at St. Peter's Square on Tuesday.
He assured his flock and those watching around the world that he would "…embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison."
The Rev. Douglas Deshotel, the Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, believes Pope Francis, who's known for being an advocate for the poor by both words and deeds, will maintain his reputation for humility and modesty that has reached the global masses.
"Pope Francis will always be modest and humble interiorly," said Deshotel, who, among his other duties, serves as the diocesan ecumenical liaison. "He is that by nature and also because he belongs to a religious order."
Last week, the pontiff told the media he chose the name Francis to symbolize the need for the church to be "of the poor, for the poor."
"Although he chose the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, who renounced worldly display, he is the first Pope from the Jesuit order," Deshotel explained. "Like most religious orders, the Dominicans and Franciscans, Jesuits take a vow of poverty, not owning personal property and sharing everything in common. This reflects the Gospel description of the early Christians who shared everything in common. It also reflects the life of Jesus who was poor."
Much has been made of Pope Francis' decision to wear a simple white cassock instead of the red papal cape when he appeared on the balcony above St. Peter's Square last week asking for prayers from those gathered below. Deshotel told The Christian Post that although the red papal cape is merely symbolic, red is a liturgical color that represents the blood of the martyrs who died professing their faith in Jesus Christ.
"Capes and crowns and other elaborate externals come from a time in the Church's 2,000-year history when it was important to portray strong authority and power to the likes of Attila the Hun and other unsavory kings and rulers that the pope represented a worldly power as well as spiritual authority," Deshotel said.
"After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church was the only social and civic structure remaining," he added. "Many of the duties that a government took care of fell to the Church: like building roads, ensuring safe passage for travelers, commerce and protection from raiding barbarians. Now that governments take care of those things, the Church no longer needs some of the worldly trappings that were part of its history."
Pope Francis might continue to shake things up a bit at the Vatican, but according to Deshotel, the pontiff will maintain the majority of the traditions that are an integral part of the faith's 2,000-year history.
"Externals, which are part of the office of pope, I'm sure he will humbly submit to," he said. "Also, besides being the leader of the Church, the pope is also a head of state. Certain protocols will still be observed when formal visits from heads of other countries call on him. This will be done out of respect for the countries these leaders represent.
"I'm sure he will decide which trappings that were picked up over the Church's 2,000-year history are still necessary and still satisfy the reason for them in the first place. If they no longer are necessary he may discard them."
According to Deshotel, after just a week, Pope Francis has indicated a path to simplicity and humility in spiritual authority. "The job of the Pope is to care for the flock of Christ and to point out Jesus Christ to the world and imitate Peter who declared, 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God.'"