By Nicholas Elbers
On the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ pontificate, bishops from across B.C. and Canada offered reflections on the Pope’s significance and the gifts he has given to the Church.
Victoria Bishop Gary Gordon touched on a commonly recognized theme, saying he appreciates Pope Francis’ concern for the poor and marginalized.
“I have been touched by his ministry,” he wrote to The B.C. Catholic. “By his actions of visiting prisoners on many of his apostolic journeys he has invited the Church to see the face of Christ in those on the margins.”
Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen was ordained a bishop in the first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate and told The B.C. Catholic that he was “quickly inspired by Pope Francis’ spiritual and pastoral leadership,” which has been influential in his own ministry.
In particular, Francis has built on his predecessors’ emphasis on the “New Evangelization,” he said.
“He has expanded the discussion and reflections about the New Evangelization to be practical and focussed,” Bishop Hagemoen wrote, especially in terms of emphasis on marginalized people, the global relationship between different peoples and cultures, and creation as a whole.
“He has invited and challenged the Church to embrace the fullness of her teaching,” said the bishop, who appreciates Francis’ “reformer’s heart, as he works to always align the Church’s structures and bureaucracy with the Gospel.”
Whitehorse Bishop Hector Felipe Vila said, “Pope Francis has been our rock and leader in all efforts of peace, love, and reconciliation.” The Pontiff has “tirelessly pointed the Church towards serving the peripheries and raising awareness to the ones most in need of consolation and of the healing power of the Word of God.”
Bishop Vila said Pope Francis is calling the faithful to heed voices that have been “historically muffled.”
“He directs our hands to minister without dither to everyone in our communities, encouraging us to announce the Gospel to all of God’s people,” especially to “the poor, the broken-hearted, and to the extremities of our world.”
Kamloops Bishop Joseph Nguyen, who was named a bishop by Pope Francis seven years ago, said he deeply admires the Pope’s humility and courage.
“When I encounter a situation that is not favourable for myself or the Church, I often think of all the criticism Pope Francis receives,” said Bishop Nguyen.“He humbly accepts it and has the great courage to face it repeatedly.”
Reflecting on the words of Pope Francis in 2021 – “I personally deserve the attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve [the criticism]” – Bishop Nguyen said, “I have learned to have the courage to face many challenges I have encountered and to have the humility to accept them.”
He also appreciates the contribution Pope Francis has made through his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, calling it “a great work for our world to embrace.”