I love the Catholic Church and, as a Jew, I offer my joyous blessings to the new pontiff, Pope Francis from Buenos Aires, with a full heart and hopeful thoughts.
My first hope is that the new pontiff will awaken every morning and read the Bible before he reads the newspapers. People who are not Catholic and not religious and not opposed to abortion are now offering advice to the new pope and the old Church: "Give up everything you believe and make Church teachings indistinguishable from what trendy secularists want the church to be."
Secularists may be right or they may be wrong, but it is not the sacred mission of the Church to replace things believed for the last 2,000 years with things that have been believed for the past week. So what I pray is that Pope Francis loves tradition not because it is old but because it is true. Old practices that are true but unpopular need to be preserved. Old practices that are just old and not true need to be let go. The only way to distinguish between them is to have a firm grasp of eternal truth. This is the hardest task. I hope he is a wise man.
I also hope that the new pontiff will be merciless in bringing to justice those priests who abused children. Some of this has been done, but it has not been done completely, and it was definitely done too late. This new beginning for the Church provides the perfect opportunity to begin again the work of building trust. I have defended the church during this dark time of shame by pointing to the good works of the vast majority of priests. I reminded people on many occasions that an accusation is not a conviction and that extreme care needed to be taken so as not to ruin good names with unfounded accusations. Still, I was more than deeply saddened by the nauseating revelations of child abuse; I was outraged. What I pray for most is that this new pontiff will make the Church clean once again.
This is at the heart of my prayers for the new pontiff. I pray that Pope Francis is a man who loves people as much as he loves God. It is easier to love God, but people need it more. I hope above all else that he is a loving man.
I pray that Pope Francis has dear friends who are not of his faith, not of his race and not of his gender. The only way to feel the pain of those who are not exactly like you is to love someone who is not exactly like you. Loving my dear friend Father Tom Hartman taught me this. There may be only one true way up the mountain to God, but there are many climbers, and they all need encouragement and support. I hope they have picked a climber who can see the other side of the mountain.
What I believe is that God's promise to Abraham to "Make your descendants like the stars of the sky and the sands on the shores of the sea" has come true. But only when you add in over a billion Catholics (in addition to an additional two billion Protestants and Muslims). That is a lot of stars and sand. What this means is that almost half of all the people on Earth believe in God's promise to Abraham. This is a promise answered in a rich fabric of spiritual blessings. The new Pope is more than the leader of the Catholic Church to me. He is the inheritor and custodian of God's blessing to Abraham.
So when Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran came to the balcony and shouted, "We have a Pope" in Latin (habemus papam), I was shouting, too. The first thing I learned was that he is a Jesuit, not a diocesan priest. The Jesuits, like all order priests, take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. They are the intellectuals of the Church. I then heard that he is a man of uncommon modesty and humility and rode the buses to get around in Buenos Aires. It is time, I think, for an intellectual who rides the bus to become pope and shepherd his flock into a world in need of healing and love.