Even as Pope Francis has just marked the fourth anniversary of his Pontificate this month, we can only marvel at the way the Holy Spirit has transformed the Church under his watch. It is the same Church as it was under Benedict XIV and John Paul II and Pope Paul VI or Pope John XIII or even Pope Pius XII.. But I think it is a changed church: where the fresh air of the Spirit that once filled musty sacristies and cobwebbed chanceries after the Second Vatican Council seems once again to be blowing – challenging the Catholic Church to wake up to the realities of contemporary man and woman.
As Pope, Francis has let in the Spirit.
He has done so by the power of his persona, the integrity of his person, the force of his personality so inextricably intermingled with the saving action today of the Father showing Compassion for humanity in Jesus.
In his Gaudium Evangelii he has invited us to return to a personal encounter with Jesus and recover the joy of sharing the Gospel with others, especially the marginalized and excluded.
In his Laudato Si he has invited us to serious care for our common home, inviting us to challenge our cruel economies of consumption and waste that marginalize and exclude the poor and destroy the environment oftentimes irreparably.
In Amoris Laetitia, the joy of loving, he has invited us to reflect on the quality of our loving as it is nurtured in our families and homes. He has invited us to compassion for those encountering difficulty in loving, inviting all to a deeper encounter with the love and mercy of Jesus.
In its Bergoglio Awards, UCEAC honors Francis before Pope Francis, the Argentinean Jorje Bergoglio born in Argentina on Dec 17, 1936 to a family of Italian immigrants.
Before he joined the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto he gradated as a chemical technician from a technical school.
In 1958 – almost 60 years ago, – he joined he Jesuits. He studied theology at the Colegio de San Jose and eared a doctoral degree in Freiburg in Germany.
In Feb 1998 he became the archbishop of Argentina.
He was known for his sober and austere simplicity, riding public transportation, carrying his own bags, and special concern for the poor and the marginalized, criticizing the wealthy for their extravagant banquets while there we so many poor on the streets, often castigating government in his homilies for not responding to the needs of the poor.
In recalling the Bergoglio that eventually became the Pope, UCEAC insists that you do not have to be a Pope to have the social sensitivity and commitment to the excluded of Bergoglio.
That being a Francis is not a matter of being a Pope or a Jesuit or a Franciscan or a priest or a religious or a Catholic or even believer, but is a matter of having a human heart for human beings – as Bergoglio did. God does the rest. He does so, restoring, renewing, uplifting joy, our common home, and love.
It is in this light that I congratulate Atty. Romeo Cabarde and the UCEAC for it new awards. With the UCEAC, in the name of the ADDU, I am privileged to honor:
The Initiatives for International Dialogue for excellence in Peacebuilding;
The Interface Development Interventions for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship;
The Talikala, Inc. for excellence in promoting Gender Equality;
And the Integrated Gender and Development Office of the Office of the City-Mayor of Davao (IGDO-CMO) for excellence in Good Governance for the reasons cited in this celebration.
In the context of these Bergoglio awards, with the UCEAC I also express my deep personal appreciation to all of our units, sub-units and co-laborers who have in fulfillment of our mission and vision contributed to promoting social justice and the common good.
In honoring Jorge Bergoglio as we honor you, let us beg for the grace have a human heart for human beings – as we return to the joy of God’s Good News, commit ourselves to the care of our common home, and return to the joy of loving in our families and communities!