Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

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Priorities for the New Pope: What Does the Church Today Need Most?

A panel Discussion on the Papal Election and the priorities for the New Pope

sede vacante papal conclave

Pope Francis I Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday March 20, 2013


Manchester Auditorium

This event is free and open to the public.

‘Habemus Papam!’ The Church has a new pope – Francis I, the Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, whom the cardinals elected on the fifth ballot on Wednesday evening, Rome time. Although a surprise in many ways though some tipped him, he may be seen by many as a caretaker Pope given his age but the last time there was a definite caretaker-pope chosen it was John XXIII who shocked the world by calling the second Vatican Council. Media outlets in Spanish are already asking if Francis will be ‘the new Roncalli’ after Pope John XXIII (whose name was Angelo Roncalli). The whole world watches to see if this turns out to be true.

What do we know about the new pope? He is truly humble, concerned for the poor, studied in Germany (as well as in Argentina) and is a theologian who is also very pastorally oriented. He has published numerous books of spiritual reflections. He knows the Vatican well and, above all else, the choice of his name is hugely significant – Francis, after Saint Francis of Assisi signals humility, dedication to the poor, to the church getting back to the gospel principles in all aspects of its life (and moving away from power and prestige toward simplicity). Saint Francis had a vision from God to rebuild the church. The choice of name also signals dialogue - within and without the church and concern for all creation. It will be a demanding name and vision for the church to live up to.

Pope Francis greeted the waiting crowds before taking the papal stole and began with prayers as well as asking for the blessing of the people. He made clear first and foremost he is the bishop of Rome and one among other bishops - Vatican II’s collegiality coming to the fore in his earliest words as pope. Choosing the name of Francis, points to the aspiration that he will be a listener and a 'channel of peace' and so, as the pope is supposed to be, that true bridge builder, as the title ‘pontiff’ (Latin pontifex) literally means. It is also hugely significant that he is the first Jesuit pope. He’s also the child of migrants so will speak from further experience there. It goes without saying that it is hugely significant that he comes from Latin America.

The new pope is known for his simplicity of life, and dedication to the poor in practice. Social justice will be at the very top of his agenda as he seeks to help the Catholic faith be truly transformative throughout the 21st century world – a hope he also expressed in his prayers shortly after appearing on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Contrary to TV reports, he is not the first non-European since St Peter – there have been a number of non-European popes previously although none since the Syrian, Gregory III, who was Pope from 731 to 741. The church and world awaits the vision and spiritual leadership of Francis I!

Join us next Wednesday we bring together an expert panel to consider and discuss "Priorities for the New Pope":


  • Todd Salzman, PhD, Professor of Ethics at Creighton University and USD Alumnus

    Todd Salzman is a Professor in the Department of Theology and a Faculty Associate in the Center for Health Policy and Ethics at Creighton University.  He earned his PhD in Theology from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.  He taught at the University of San Diego from 1995-1997, and has been teaching at Creighton since 1997. His primary areas of interest include Fundamental Moral Theology (Ethical Method, Natural Law, Conscience, Virtue Ethics, Spirituality and Moral Theology), Biomedical Ethics, Sexual Ethics, International Humanitarian Law and Catholicism and Politics.

  • Susie Paulik Babka, PhD, Theology and Religious Studies, USD

    Susie Paulik Babka is an Assistant Professor in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. She earned her MTS from Duke University Divinity School and an MA and PhD from Notre Dame. Professor Babka’s teaching interests include Christology, the doctrine of God (Trinity), the problem of catastrophic suffering, theological aesthetics and the connection between art and the sacred, feminist and liberation theologies. In addition to articles and book chapters, she is working on a book, Suffering, Kenosis, Presence: Exploring the Doctrine of the Incarnation in Visual Art, which argues that visual art is a resource for interpreting the meaning of the incarnation of God in Christ.

  • Andrew McMillin, MTS, Associate University Minister, University Ministry, USD

    Andrew McMillin is an Associate University Minister at the University of San Diego. He is an alum of the university and earned his B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies. After graduating from USD, Andrew taught high school as an Augustinian Volunteer in Lawrence, MA. After that year of service, he earned his Masters in Theological Studies from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He currently ministers to graduate and law students, helps coordinate the Tijuana immersion programs, as well as facilitates the RCIA and Confirmation faith formation programs.

  • Bernard Kelly, CSSp, PhD, Spiritan priest and former missionary

    Father Bernard Kelly is an Irish Spiritan based in Toronto.  He earned a Doctorate in Spiritual Theology, from the Institut Catholique in Paris, France. His main apostolate has been in formation and education and has worked as master of novices in Haiti and Mauritius. He served as First Assistant of the Spiritans in Rome, Italy from 1992-1998 and was recently Interim Director of the Center for Spiritan Studies at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh from 2009-2012.

  • Elizabeth Loomis, SHCJ, Sister in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus

    In her 60 years of ministry in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, Sr. Elizabeth has traveled from the East to the West Coast of the United States, as well as to Europe and Africa.  She has worked as a teacher, principal and formation director in New York City, Philadelphia, Shreveport, Rome, Nigeria and now, San Diego.  Since earning her master’s degree in theology from the Jesuit Weston School of Theology, Sr. Elizabeth has focused primarily on adult theological education and spiritual ministry.

  • Tom Reifer, PhD, Associate Professor, Sociology  and Affiliated Faculty, Ethnic Studies, USD

    Tom Reifer serves on the Gender Studies Advisory Committee and is an Associate Fellow at the Transnational Institute, a worldwide fellowship of committed scholar-activists; formerly worked at Focus on the Global South in Asia and was Associate Director of the Institute for Research on World-Systems (IROWS) and the Program on Global Studies at UC Riverside. He is also currently a Research Associate at the Fernand Braudel Center for the Study of Economies, Historical Systems & Civilizations at Binghamton University - where he received his MA & PhD - and IROWS. His specialty is the study of large-scale, long-term social change and world-systems analysis.