The first time I met Pope Francis was about 2-3 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.
We walked in, I sat down and he said: I'm senior to you, and I thought, “Oh dear, he's going to be one of those…” And he said: “By three days!” Because he'd been enthroned three days before I was.
That start said so much to me about Pope Francis and my experience of him.
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.
The second thing is a remarkable moral imagination. He tries to look through problems with a different lens, in a different way. Perhaps it's the Jesuit background, I don't know: that's often the case with Jesuits, but the result is that he will approach a problem from a surprising angle.
You talk to him about many of the issues that confront the Church, he sees into the human heart, but he also finds ways of loving that can unlock the hard parts of the heart.
And the third thing I want to say for him, is that the simplicity that appears, is a genuine simplicity.
And those three things: 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.
Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb sends anniversary wishes to Pope Francis
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, has sent the following message to the Pope.
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,
Our world today is full of challenges, conflicts and difficulties on all moral, economic and social levels, which increases the suffering of many people; therefore, the responsibility of leaders and a consistent emblematic figure like yourself to alleviate the suffering of people and the oppressed becomes great.
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 fulfill 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 realize human fraternity so that security, tranquility, coexistence and stability may prevail in our world.
The people of God in Africa are “deeply grateful” to Pope Francis for his service to Global Catholicism in the last 10 years, the leadership of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) has said.
In a statement shared with ACI Africa Sunday, March 12, the eve of the 10th anniversary since Pope Francis was elected Pope, the President of SECAM acknowledges with appreciation the closeness of the Holy Father to the people of God in Africa and the Islands shown by his four pastoral visits “as a pilgrim of hope” among other gestures.
“On behalf of the Church in Africa and the Islands, I offer you my congratulations and best wishes for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of your Petrine mission,” Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo says.
Cardinal Ambongo adds, “Your Holiness, during these 10 years, Africa has had the joy of welcoming you on four occasions.”
“The Continent is deeply grateful to you for coming to us as a pilgrim of hope, and praying with us for peace, justice and reconciliation and helping us to raise our voices for our economic independence,” the Congolese Cardinal says in his two-page letter dated March 12.
In his “Congratulatory Message”, the President of SECAM says that the 10 years of Pope Francis’ Pontificate have been marked by his “special attention to the Lord Jesus' preferred ones: the poor, migrants, refugees and all those who live in geographical and existential peripheries.”
“And here you have touched with hand and heart the 1,340,598,147 inhabitants of Africa who live in these challenging situations,” the Local Ordinary of Kinshasa Archdiocese in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) further says.
He continues, “Revealing yourself as an apostle of divine mercy, you proclaimed the Extraordinary Jubilee, in the hope of seeing the face of a Church that rediscovers the bowels of mercy and goes out to meet the many wounded in need of listening, understanding and love (God is mercy, p.86).”
In the ten years of Pope Francis’ leadership, the Congolese member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (OFM Cap) says, “We have seen the development of a missionary option which, by transforming everything, makes customs, language and the whole ecclesial structure become a channel for evangelisation of the present world rather than a means of self-preservation (EG, n.27).”
“These are ten years of prophetic and servant leadership that goes beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church and dialogues with the whole world,” Cardinal Ambongo says in his “Congratulatory Message” addressed to the Holy Father.
Making reference to Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on human fraternity and social friendship, Fratelli Tutti, Cardinal Ambongo recalls the words of the Holy Father, saying, "If we want a more fraternal world, we must educate the new generations to recognize, value and love all people regardless of their physical proximity, regardless of the point on earth where each one was born or lives.”
He adds, “Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a principle that plays a central and unifying role in social ethics.”
The Catholic Church leader who had been serving as SECAM Vice-President and has succeeded the late Richard Kuuia Cardinal Baawobr who died in November 2022, months after he had been elected SECAM President, outlines activities on the continent to mark the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ Pontificate.
“During the period from 11 March 2023 to 19 March 2023, various liturgical and para-liturgical celebrations will be held in all corners of the African continent and its Islands in thanksgiving for the gift of your pontificate.”
The celebrations are “also as a way of renewing our adherence to the teachings of the Bishop of Rome and our affection for Pope Francis,” he says.
“Your Holiness, the Church in Africa prays for your health and your ministry,” the President of SECAM who was among Catholic Church leaders elevated to Cardinal by Pope Francis in October 2019 says in his March 12 Congratulatory Message.