Op-ed: Pope Francis strikes the perfect balance and does it in a very Hispanic way
by Grazie Pozo Christie, The Catholic Association Advisory Board Member
5:44 pm on 03/15/2013
I know he belongs to all of us. Not only to all 1.2 billion Catholics, but also to all non-Catholics and even non-Christians who look to the Catholic Church for temporal or moral help. But he seems, to us Hispanics, OURS. It was a wonderful scene, here at home, at the moment of the announcement.
Gathered around my TV was a random sampling of Hispanics (random for South Florida, that is): first, second and third generation Cuban-Americans, Honduran, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Mexican, all with one leg in each culture, to some degree or another. There were professionals amongst us, as well as undocumented housekeepers. My third son ran in at the last-minute, coming from his Jesuit high school, a school moved to the United States when Castro threw out the priests who taught him in the original high school in Havana. All of us were equally amazed when his name was announced. ”El cardenal Argentino!”
What a moment. In one way, a moment of pure pride in our culture and our traditions, which could produce a man so learned and wise as to become the Pope. In another way, a moment of pure humility caused by that perfect gesture he made when he asked us all to pray for him. His gentle smile, warm tones, his evident affection for all of us seemed very recognizable to us, very Latin. We all recognized in him immediately the wise Abuelo who exists in each Hispanic family, the one whose devotion can always be counted on.
Then the emails started flying, all of us trying to ask, and answer, who is he exactly? And we rejoiced at everything we read. He strikes the perfect balance, you see.
For Hispanic Americans, whose experiences straddle the first world/third world divide, the fact that he has been considered always, in Argentina, as the voice of conscience when it comes to poverty and the position of the poor in society is of paramount importance. Pope Francis said during a gathering of Latin American bishops in 2007, “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.” These words strike a deep chord with those of us who know what real poverty is, the kind that goes hungry and barefoot, the kind that produces little children begging at night outside fancy restaurants. The kind of man who could really care about the poor would feel compelled to ride the bus with them, and to cook his own meals. He would not like to be divided from them, in a palace.
And yet, it seems in the United States that whenever one is hearing about the evils of social and economic inequality, one also hears condemnation for traditional sexual mores, gender roles, and the traditional family. This is where Pope Francis strikes the perfect balance: he is able to affirm both social and economic equality as well as the traditional moral structures within which life begins and flourishes.
Hispanics know from painful personal experience that a strong family can carry an individual through almost any trauma, and that without the family society cannot flourish. And Pope Francis is a strong promoter of life from conception to natural death. He opposes abortion. It never makes sense to us, when we hear someone supporting the right to adequate health care, housing, and pay on the basis of the inherent dignity of each person, also supporting “reproductive rights” which deny that dignity to the vulnerable and voiceless in the womb. Isn’t the first inherent human right the right to life itself?
So it seems to us that he strikes the perfect balance and does it in a very Hispanic way. Maybe this is our possessive pride talking though. We ARE fiercely proud and tremendously enthusiastic, you see. To be alive to see this, the first Latin American pope, is thrilling.
Grazie Pozo Christie, The Catholic Association Advisory Board Member