A newly-begun journey, an already-written script, and the “unexpected”
By Gianni Valente
La Stampa / Vatican Insider
January 15, 2018
|Pope Francis about to board his flight to Chile|
The chaos of the Latin American scenarios alone is enough to make the framework - that reads Bergoglio’s international projections with the same formulas used in the reading of Karol Wojtyla’s pontificate - appear misleading. The icon of “Superstar Pope “ is now used by those who want to polarize attention on him, by separating him from the Church, to then rattle off his “failures”. It wouldn’t take much, however to get rid of this pre-established “script”
On the eve of Pope Francis’ journey to Chile and Peru, tensions, discontents and even violent acts unleash on the umpteenth apostolic visit of the Bishop of Rome to his home continent. As the media is warming up its engines to present the Latin American trip as a kind of “gripping test” of Bergoglio’s pontificate.
Burning parishes in the name of alleged indigenous causes, and a beat-down Church after years of sexual abuse perpetrated by religious, priests, and high-profile exponents from the local clergy are awaiting the Pope in Chile. While in Peru, a Society of Apostolic Life of Peruvian origin, which in the past had enjoyed good ties within the Vatican, was just put under the administration of an external commissioner by the Holy See, following some serious accusations of sexual abuses involving their leadership.
Furthermore, Francis’ next landings in Chile and Peru have stirred up controversy in his own country of origin. On the Argentinean social media, there are those posting a flurry of resentful comments on the “traitor Pope”, who, almost five years after his pontifical election, has avoided returning to his homeland despite having visited almost all the great countries of South America. And while tens of thousands of compatriots travel to Santiago to see Bergoglio, the Argentine bishops implicitly confirm the excessive conflict surrounding their illustrious compatriot, by spreading a letter in which they remind that: “No one spoke or can speak on behalf of the Pope” and that” his contribution to the reality of our country must be found in his abundant teaching and his attitudes as pastor, not in tendentious and partial interpretations that only widen the division between Argentineans”.
The Bishop’s message reveals also that in Argentina, around the figure of the Pope unloads the clutter of political and social tensions of a troubled country, with the coming-back of clashes in public squares and the burning of motorways: a country worn out by power conflicts, the disappearance of the middle classes and the absence of a proper ruling classes. Yet it seems this “malaise” is a “systemic” crisis common to a good part of Latin America: from Venezuela to Brazil, from Honduras to Colombia. Fragmentation and economic stagnation characterize the final phase of Latin America’s “going left” phase, which began 15 years ago and started to be in crisis during the years of the Argentinian papacy.
The short memory of the pro- 1989
Argentinian discontents and Chilean polemics - including those on the economic costs of the papal visit - alone are enough to suggest how inappropriate and misleading it is to apply to Pope Bergoglio’s international apostolic journeys, the same interpretative formulas used for Karol Wojtyla’s pontificate, the “globe-trotter Pope”. The same Latin-American turmoil, coinciding with the years of the Argentinian Pope, seems unmatchable to the exceptional sequence of “successes” that many in the West attributed to the Polish Pope’s geopolitical flair in the 1980s and 1990s. Several news articles, continues to put the fall of the Berlin Wall in Saint John Paul II’s name. The 1989 epic is still alive through slogans such as: “God has won in the East”, sung by western neo-con theologians who at that time, greeted what was a worldly passage in the history of the world powers, as if it were the dawn of a new era for faith and for the Church. In those years, even official ecclesial documents paid homage to the 1989 saga, the year in which we saw the beginning of a providential turning point in the history of humanity, with the impending universal triumph of democracy, freedom and the unquenchable thirst for God that atheist regimes had tried in vain to suffocate.
Then it was the time of the massacres among “Christian” People in former Yugoslavia, of the east-European migrants fleeing hunger and wars and flowing into the West, and of an unstoppable de-Christianization process growing in the lives of peoples, both in the East and West, under the rhetoric of spiritual rebirth.
In the last years of his pontificate, Saint John Paul II got himself even more detached from those who attributed hints of geopolitical palingenesis to his pontificate: “After 1989”, we read for example in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente of 1994, “there arose new dangers and threats. In the countries of the former Eastern bloc, after the fall of Communism, there appeared the serious threat of exaggerated nationalism, as is evident from events in the Balkans and other neighboring areas”. Words that are even more prophetic today, faced with the political leaders of Eastern Europe who try to reduce Christian references to an “identity ideology” in order to justify their anti-immigrant policies.
Something unforeseen is our only hope
The reading codes imposed by liberal and neo-conservative circles are now pressing and besieging the current pontificate. What remains of Wojtyla’s years, is that lazy habit of the media and clerical circuit to confer to papal visits miraculous effects for the countries and local Churches involved. “So many people hope that during the two/three days of the papal visit there will be a radical change in the Chilean Church and in the country. And this is naive at the very least” Chilean Jesuit Fernando Montes, former Rector of the University Alberto Hurtado and fellow student of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, told Vatican Insider.
The newly begun papal journey is bound to lay itself open to those who, after having built the icon of the “Superstar Pope”, are getting ready to whip the inadequacies shown by the Pope in fulfilling the agenda shaped for him by liberal and neo-con media and socialist circuits. The implicit and implicit comparison to the “splendor” of the Wojtyla-era can also be useful to this purpose.
The global information centres have already set up their agenda on two/three themes – at the top of the list, clerical sexual abuse, followed by some hints to the “viri probati” issue- topics on which they intend to measure the papal journey to Chile and Peru, leaving room to fill with perplexity and open-questions concerning the “failed promises”, along with the pending deluge of Bergoglio’s first five years of pontificate.
The Latin-American trip offers itself to those who aim at increasing even more the polarizing attention on the Pope - separating him from the rest of the Church, and from the journey of the people of God - to then reproach him with real or alleged failures in the chaos of the Latin-American scenarios, now that even the undeniable “successes” of the Vatican’s diplomatic work - such as the contribution to the thaw between Cuba and USA - appear to be questioned by the changing flow of events and leadership. The media conformism’ conditioning aims at increasing - first - the pressure on the sexual abuse scandals, to play with the cliché of a Church intimidated and put at the corner, jammed by performance anxiety, in sum of a church that “can’t manage” to get rid of evil by standardizing self-control and self-regulation measures, as any good company that is able to enforce its “code of ethics” internal rules, does.
The script seems to have already been written, with the apparatus ready to relaunch the declarations of “zero tolerance” policies. But often - as Eugenio Montale wrote - when you leave for a journey, after having it carefully prepared for a long time, “something unexpected is the only hope”.