Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

New pope brings hope for an era of outreach

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
People pray after learning of the newly elected Pope Francis at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 13. The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has made history as the first pontiff from Latin America. People pray after learning of the newly elected Pope Francis at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 13. The former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has made history as the first pontiff from Latin America.
HIDE CAPTION
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
The world reacts to new pope
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Donna Brazile: Pope Francis has already shown humility since being named
  • She says he can be seen as centrist: socially conservative, but champion for poor, afflicted
  • She says among reasons he was chosen was belief he can reform church after scandals
  • Brazile hopes he'll focus on inequality, set example of compassion

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

(CNN) -- "I hope you haven't made a mistake," Pope Francis told the cardinals at his celebratory dinner after he was chosen to lead the Catholic Church. He then urged the assembled hierarchy to nourish their bodies, and said with a grin, "May God forgive you for what you've done."

It brought down the house.

Pope Francis has already brought surprising changes. He broke with tradition by asking the crowd in St. Peter's Square to pray for him, and then bowed to receive it. This struck at least one young Catholic male, interviewed for the TV cameras, as "the most humble thing I've ever seen a pope do."

Pope Francis refused to mount the platform previous popes stood on to receive the cardinals, one by one. "I'll stay down here," he told Vatican staff. He shocked many cardinals by choosing the name "Francis," after St. Francis of Assisi, a young man born to wealth, but who lived his life in rags, sitting with lepers and the poor outside the Sistine Chapel. Saint Francis is the patron saint of animals as well as the poor. He is often depicted in art with birds on his shoulder or held in his hands.

Some saw it as a sign when a seagull landed on top of the chimney that vents the smoke from burning ballots. What the press began to call "The Holy See Gull" sat for 40 minutes on the tin top over the smokestack. It then flew off, but shortly a gull landed again in the same place. The next smoke was white, for Pope Francis.

Opinion: Pope Francis is no herald of big changes

Judging from the cardinals I saw interviewed, the new pope is widely considered to be a centrist. He is socially conservative, opposing same-gender marriage, free condoms and abortion, yet he is also known for his care for AIDS patients, washing and kissing their feet, and for baptizing the babies of unwed mothers who other clerics had turned down.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



He brings a number of "firsts." He is the first modern non-European pope. He is the first pope from Latin America (his father was an Italian immigrant) a continent that has 39% of the world's Catholics. He is the first pope who is a Jesuit, a Catholic order that focuses on teaching youth and social justice.

But while reporters focus on these firsts, there are other reasons that help explain why the cardinals, in Pope Francis' words, went "to the end of the Earth" to find the man to lead the Catholic world, with its 1.2 billion members.

Opinion: Pope Francis, open up the church

Diaz: 'The name ... is very significant'
Top 5 papal priorties for Los Angeles
Pope to cardinals: Pass wisdom to young

Four reasons repeatedly came up in interviews with Catholic clerics: They felt it was time to shift the church's geographic center, they like his pastoral centrism, they believe emphasis on ministering to the poor has been missing and they hold a strong conviction that Pope Francis is the man to reform and rebuild a church that has been beset by scandals.

That phrase, "rebuilding the church" was mentioned by him, according to reports of the pope's first homily. The phrase also comes from the story of St. Francis, who began his ministry by hearing a call to "rebuild my church." Pope Francis put his emphasis on the spirituality of the church as being first, lest the church be seen as little more than "a compassionate NGO" (non-governmental organization).

Navarrette: Pope pick a signal to Latino Catholics

As a practicing Catholic, my personal, fervent hope is that Pope Francis will revive an interest and compassion for the poor. "We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least," Pope Francis said in 2007. "The unjust distribution of goods persists," he said, "creating a situation of social sin that cries out to heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."

There are indications some cardinals hope this pope will be Christian-friendly to Islam and the developing world. Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan, heads a foundation to promote Muslim-Christian understanding, and looks after Afghanistan's only Catholic Church as if it were in his diocese. Slamet Effendy Yusuf, a Muslim and head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, told the Christian Science Monitor, "We believe this is a new chapter in the history of relations between Muslims and Catholics."

I noticed that many cardinals remarked with wonder over the news that Pope Francis, while he was in Buenos Aires, lived in an austere apartment, cooked his own food and took the trolley and subway by himself. That this is a matter of wonder to some who live in stone mansions and have chauffeured cars and chefs is a strong indication change has already arrived—brought by example.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT