Pope Francis met with professional communicators on Saturday, receiving them in audience in the Paul VI Hall, the lobby of which had been converted into a media center serving the more than 5 thousand journalists accredited with the Press Office of the Holy See during the Papal transition. One of the principal highlights of the audience was Pope Francis’ account of how he came to choose his reign name.
Addressing the media as “dear friends”, Pope Francis spoke of how the role of mass media continues to grow and how it is indispensable for telling the stories of contemporary society. The Pope thanked the media for the service they have rendered over these past days, jokingly remarking on how hard the media has been working. He spoke about the complexity of recounting historical events like the election of a pope and of how important it is to present such an event in the light of Faith. “The Church” – he said – “does not respond to an earthly logic” and can be difficult to communicate effectively because “the nature of the Church is spiritual, not political”. This is the only perspective in which the work of the Church can be presented, said Pope Francis.
“Christ”, he continued, “is the centre, not the Successor of Peter…Christ is the reference point at the heart of the Church, without Him, Peter and the Church would not exist”. The protagonist of all these events, said the Pope, is the Holy Spirit: “it was He who inspired the decision of Benedict XVI for the good of the Church, it was He who inspired the choice of the Cardinals”. It is important to keep this in mind, he added, as we try to interpret the events of the past few days.
Pope Francis then reflected on what he called the “trinity of communication: Truth, Goodness and Beauty”. “We are not called to communicate ourselves, but this trinity…the Church exists to communicate Truth, Goodness and Beauty”.
The Pope then departed from his prepared speech to recount why he chose the name “Francis”. Some people, he said, still don’t understand whether he named himself after Francis Xavier or Francis De Sales or St Francis of Assisi. He described what happened during the conclave: “In the election, I had [sitting] next to me, the Archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo and the Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes – a great friend – a great friend,” said Pope Francis, arousing enthusiastic applause. “When the matter became dangerous” – said Pope Francis – “he comforted me”. And when the votes were being counted and it was clear the Pope had been elected, the Cardinals began to applaud and Cardinal Hummes “embraced me and kissed me and said: ‘Don’t forget the poor’…and that struck me…the poor…Immediately I thought of St Francis of Assisi…Francis was a man of peace, a man of poverty, a man who loved and protected creation.” That, said Pope Francis, is how the name came to mind. “How I would love a Church that is poor and for the poor” – he added.
The Pope then continued his account of the name choice by saying how some had suggested he take the name Pope Adrian, because of his association with reforming the Church. And in reference to the fact that he is a Jesuit, the Pope added how others said he should call himself Clement XV to get back at Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus in 1773…
Pope Francis concluded his encounter with representatives of mass media from all round the world by extending his best wishes to them, their work and their families. He imparted his apostolic blessing, however, in silence – out of respect, he said, for the fact that “not everyone present belongs to the Catholic faith and others do not believe.” “I respect the conscience of each one of you”, he said, “knowing that each one of you is a Child of God.
May God bless you”.