The handwriting is tiny, barely legible and written in the author’s native Spanish. But the ideas are so familiar by now that they are easily understood.
They are the handwritten notes of the speech Jorge Mario Bergoglio delivered to his fellow cardinals on the eve of his election as Pope.
They make for fascinating reading now, a preview to a papacy that has been marked by Bergoglio’s wish for a church that isn’t consumed with “theological narcissism” or “spiritual worldliness” but instead goes to the “peripheries” to find wounded souls.
The man who is now Pope Francis celebrated the fourth anniversary of his March 13, 2013, election this week amid a stream of commentary about what he has and hasn’t achieved as the 266th pontiff.
What isn’t up for debate is that his 2013 speech, delivered during the closed-door “general congregations” that precede a conclave, was so inspiring to the princes of the Catholic Church that they elected him Pope a few days later.
“The church is called to go outside of itself and go to the peripheries, not just geographic but also the existential peripheries,” he said. “Those of the mystery of sin, of pain, injustice, ignorance, spiritual privation, thoughts and complete misery.”
He denounced what he called the “self-referential” tendency of the church to remain closed-in on itself, unwilling to open its doors and go out to find those who most need God’s comfort. “The evil that can afflict church institutions over time has its root in this self-referential nature, a sort of theological narcissism.”
He said the future pope should be a man who, contemplating Jesus, “helps the church go to the existential peripheries and helps it to be a fertile mother who lives from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelising.”
Havana’s then-archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, was so taken by Bergoglio’s speech that he asked for a copy.
Bergoglio didn’t have one — he often speaks off-the-cuff — but he put some notes down on paper as best as he could remember and handed them over.
Ortega asked if he could publish the text, and asked again after Bergoglio was elected Pope, knowing well the historic value of what amounted to the winning stump speech by history’s first Latin American pope.
The answer was yes.
The notes, divided into four bullet-point sections with a few key terms underlined, are kept in the Havana archdiocese.
The archdiocesan magazine “Palabra Nueva” published them originally.