Ten years have passed since 13 March 2013, the day Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected to the See of Peter. Pope Francis’ pontificate has been marked by a passion for evangelisation and a constant journey to reform the Church to make it more missionary. A decade during which new processes have been initiated, and the Church has been enriched in thought and heart. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the first Jesuit Pope, the first native of Latin America, the first to choose the name Francis and, in modern times, to be elected after his predecessor’s resignation.
Now, Pope Francis begins the eleventh year of his pontificate, and he does so accompanied by hope:
“… he who hopes will never be disappointed,” says the Pope, “because hope has the face of the Risen Lord.”
Some Messages celebrating the 10th Anniversary
Over the past few days, congratulations from religious leaders, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, have been pouring in from all over the world. It is rather special to read some of these messages shared over the past few days, recognising, valuing and celebrating this very particular decade in the life of Pope Francis and the life of the Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
To mark the 10th anniversary of his pontificate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby reflects on Pope Francis’ pastoral style:
“There is a depth in him, which is a blessing to the whole Church, not just to the Roman Catholic Church.”
“The first time I met Pope Francis was about 2 to 3 months after I started my role, and I was very nervous. I had never met a pope before, I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know what he was like.
I was just talking to him a few minutes ago, and my experiences of this extraordinarily deep humanity, that does not compromise on the truth but regards each human being as of infinite value. Lots of people say that – I say that – but in him, I see it lived out.
[ … ] his remarkable strength of intellect and character; his remarkable deep heart; and his simplicity, make it possible for him to reach those outside the Church in an extraordinary way, as Saint John Paul II did. There is a depth there, which is a blessing to the whole Church, not just to the Roman Catholic Church”.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a long-time friend of the Pope
Less than a year after his papal election, he issued the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. It was a wide-ranging overview of the state of the Catholic Church and of the world as he began his pontificate. Its section on interreligious relations authoritatively summed up developments since the 1965 Second Vatican Council declaration Nostra Aetate. Urging, as he always does, that dialogue among peoples and religious traditions must be a priority, he expressed important insights about the Church’s relations to the Jewish people.
These include the memorable sentences that “Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples” and that “God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word.” This explains why dialogue between Catholics and Jews is so important to Pope Francis: we can encounter together God’s wisdom in our sacred texts in ways that are not paralleled in conversations between any other religious traditions.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a long-time friend of the Pope and a co-author with him of the book “On Heaven and Earth”, shares his thoughts and well-wishes for the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ papacy.
” … perhaps the most important feature of Pope Francis’ interactions with the Jewish community is the unquestionably sincere affection for Jews that he constantly demonstrates. It seems to me that most Jews feel the same way about him. May that mutual fondness be the model of Catholic and Jewish interactions for all generations to come!”
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb
As Pope Francis celebrates the 10th anniversary of his election to the papacy, on 13 March, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, in a message to Pope Francis wrote:
Dear friend and brother Pope Francis, a warm greeting.
I am pleased to send my warmest congratulations to Your Holiness on the tenth anniversary of your tenure as Pope and Head of the Catholic Church.
I proudly appreciate your illustrious journey over the past ten years, during which you have sought to build bridges of love and fraternity among all human beings, and your tireless efforts to promote the values of human fraternity and to establish dialogue among the followers of religions as a basis for achieving the peace for which we all yearn.
My brother Pope Francis,
[ … ] I pray to God to bless your efforts in the pursuit of peace and to help us, together with you and all people of goodwill, to fulfil our religious and moral duty to promote peace and consolidate mutual knowledge and solidarity.
May you – my dear brother – be blessed with good health, well-being and happiness, and may Almighty God bless you always. I gladly welcome every initiative to work together to realise human fraternity so that security, tranquillity, coexistence and stability may prevail in our world.
His focus on the ‘Web of Life’
Six months before Pope Francis issued his landmark encyclical on creation, he found himself on the front lines of climate change, in the crosshairs of a storm heading toward Tacloban City in the Philippines.
Two years earlier, in November 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest-recorded typhoon to make landfall, had decimated the central Philippine city on the island of Leyte. Into that aftermath, in January 2015, stepped the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, donning a translucent yellow poncho over his white papal vestments, standing at an outdoor altar as yet another major storm bore down on the beleaguered city.
“When I witnessed this disaster from Rome, I felt that I had to be here,” Francis said in his homily as rain poured down. “That is when I decided to come here. I wanted to come to be with you.”
Francis’ decade as pope has been “both fundamental and disruptive,” said Salesian Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, primarily in his call for universal solidarity — across generations and with people and communities most vulnerable to a changing climate and ecological destruction — and in framing social and environmental crises as not separate but interconnected.
With Laudato Si’, Francis compiled the compendium of church teaching on ecology and explicitly linked it with the socioeconomic turmoil facing a world of climate change and rapid deterioration of ecosystems. His message has transcended the Catholic Church, melded the realms of faith and science, centered the most vulnerable, reimagined humanity’s relationship with the rest of nature, and positioned him as a world leader on the many environmental challenges facing the globe.
“There is no doubt that the pope’s voice is one of the strongest in the world, if not the strongest,” said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and architect of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
“He really has focused very much on the overlap, or the interdependence, of all life on Earth. … Not on ecology over here and humanity over there. His focus on the web of life, the richness of the web of life, is to me the legacy of those 10 years.”
Three days after his election, in an audience with media representatives, Francis, a Jesuit, explained why he selected the name of the 13th-century saint and composer of “The Canticle of the Creatures.”
“For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?” the new pope said.
From that starting point, Francis has pressed forward.
“[Laudato Si’] remains the most important document of the millennium on the climate crisis, and indeed among the best critiques ever issued on capitalism, consumerism, and our strained and unequal modernity,” wrote longtime climate activist Bill McKibben in a February 2023 essay in The New Yorker, repeating a claim he has made since its release.
The challenge we have is to put it into practice!
Jorge Mario Bergoglio has no doubts about what to ask of the world as a gift for this important anniversary: “Peace, we need peace”. Hence, three words for the Pope’s “three dreams” for the Church, for the world and for those who govern the world, for humanity
Here are some further wonderful links: