'Papa Pancho, Rebuild My Church'

“Papa Pancho,” that’s what his fellow Argentines are already calling Pope Francis. “Pancho” is the Spanish diminutive for Francis. Francis, of course, was originally a nickname of sorts too, meaning “Frenchie,” for Saint Francis’s father's trading contacts with the south of France and for Francis’s own love of the poetry and songs of Provence.

In dubbing Pope Francis “Poncho,” his fellow Latin Americans are showing their affection for the former cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, but also an appreciation for his humble, familiar style. In choosing Francis as his papal name, the new pope signaled a real change in papal leadership. Invoking St. Francis as his patron brought focus on the new pope’s simple living, his apartment living, use of public transportation and even cooking for himself, and for his vigorous defense of the poor.


Some found it odd for a Jesuit to choose the name of the Franciscan founder for his papal name, but it is not odd at all. St. Ignatius Loyola, our Jesuit founder, greatly admired Francis. During his convalescence and conversion, Inigo read the lives of the saints and aspired to great things for God, as Dominic and Francis had. He particularly admired Francis’s poverty, and for years he imitated Francis’s mendicancy, begging to support his own life as a scholar.

When I heard the name Francis, I thought of another aspect of Francis’s life, the re-evangelization of the 13th century church. A key moment in Francis’s own conversion was a call he heard from the crucifix at San Damiano calling, ”Francis, rebuild my church.” For some time, Francis went about Umbria rebuilding dilapidated and ruined churches, taking the call with his customary literalness. In time, he came to understand the call in a deeper way as a mission to recall the church to the gospel. (Link: www.wikipedia/wiki/SanDamianoCross)

According to the Franciscan legend, recorded by Giotto in one of the great frescoes at the Basilica of Saint Francis, the pope at the time, Innocent III, had a dream of a church collapsing and a small man in a rude robe holding it up at the corner. So, when Francis came to Rome to ask approval for his way of life and that of the “little brothers” who accompanied him, the pope gave his approval. There were many religious movements of poor men at that, but the Franciscans received approval. In their popular preaching, they gave new life to the church. The San Damiano crucifix now hangs in a side chapel of the Church of Saint Clare in Assisi. When I visit there, I used to pray beneath the cross for the good of the Church. I sincerely pray as Pope Francis begins his time as pope, he will hear the call of Francis, “Francis, rebuild my church.”





Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Gabriel Marcella
5 years 10 months ago
Padre Drew: Let's hope that the election of Pope Francis will be an inspiration for America and the Catholic media in the United States to improve its coverage of Latin America. With the exception of an infrequent article, Latin American themes are absent from the pages of America. Let's also note that we are the second largest Hispanic population in the world.
Gerald Gioglio
5 years 10 months ago
As a Secular Franciscan, I'm overjoyed, but also hoping Pope Francis goes beyond taking the name and also follows the footsteps of St. Francis. Those steps include: active peacemaking, caring for creatures and appreciating the wonders of creation, ecumenicalism and dialog while finding points of agreement with Muslim and other brothers and sisters. Then too, engaging societal outcasts (the 'lepers') of our church's time, loving and welcoming them and celebrating our common humanity and journey toward God. And what about Clare--a full participant in the Franciscan reform? Walking in Francis' footsteps means accepting women as full partners, and I humbly suggest, all that implies. Papa Pancho, time to walk the walk--take those steps and we will follow.
Bruce Snowden
5 years 10 months ago
Scripture assures that “signs and wonders” would accompany Believers (the Church) along the way. We saw one on the night Benedict XVI resigned when lightening struck St. Peter’s crackling for those with “ears to hear” the words maybe saying, “See what you’ve done!” Another one came for those with “eyes to see” at the election of Francis I, as a winged creature settled on the Papal chimney soon to send forth swirling white smoke as welcome to “Papa Pancho.” The “winged creature,” was it pigeon, sea gull, Holy Spirit? If pigeon it foreshadowed Pope Francis’s urban outreach, home to countless human “pigeons.” If sea gull, it foretold “Pancho’s” mission to the countless human “sea gulls” across and around the seas and waterways of the world. Whatever form it was, I think the “Spirit Dove “on the wing” particularly appropriate if it was a pigeon, as pigeon and dove are genetically related! Both Coo. I had hoped Peter Turkson would be a Victor as was his fellow African countryman Pope St. Victor I. Or was it to be Sean O’Malley, who as a son of Francis of Assisi who heard Jesus say “Rebuild my Church which is falling into ruin.” Would Sean as a Franciscan Pope “rebuild “ our Church of today which in some ways has fallen into ruin? But it wasn’t meant to be as the subtle humor of God chose a Jesuit named Jorge Bergoglio to become Pope, a subtle Divine humor that inspired Jorge to take the name “Francis” as heaven chuckled, mirthfully mindful that it was a Franciscan Pope who centuries before had suppressed the Jesuits! God’s humor is delicious! Now it’s the mission of Pope Francis I to help “rebuild” the Church of today, following Jesus’ words to Francis of Assisi in the 12th century. No doubt as a Jesuit Pope Francis I will also be inspired to New Evangelism current to our day by the great evangelistic ministry of his Jesuit confrere St. Francis Xavier. This is all so terrific! God bless “Papa Pancho!” Yes, “Habemus Papam!”


The latest from america

An extraordinary minister of the holy Eucharist distributes Communion during Mass at Transfiguration Church in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
According to a report released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University on Jan. 22, just 33 percent of bishops in the United States think the church “should” ordain women as deacons.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 22, 2019

When the poet Mary Oliver died last week at the age of 83, my social media feeds blossomed into a field of tributes.

Lisa AmplemanJanuary 22, 2019
Most of the undocumented immigrants who are in the United States have overstayed a visa and did not cross the border illegally, according to a new analysis from the Center of Migration Studies.
J.D. Long-GarcíaJanuary 22, 2019
The church is my home because my home was a domestic church.
Katie Prejean McGradyJanuary 22, 2019