One young monk’s hope for the new pope and the church they share

Anna Weggel
Public Insight Network

The world is getting to know a new pope, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who will be called Pope Francis I. He is notable because he is the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years, the first ever to come from the Americas and the first Jesuit to be elected pope. He is known for a lifetime of teaching and leading priests in Latin America, a humble personal style and modernizing the Latin American church while also clashing with leftist Argentine governments in recent years. 

Catholics in the Public Insight Network have been sending us their reaction to the new pope today, along with their hopes and prayers for the church. To read what dozens of other sources are saying about this important moment for the Catholic Church, visit our insights page. Among them is Brother Elijah Dawson, a young Missionary Benedictine monk from Schuyler, Neb. (who makes clear that his responses to our questions reflect his own views, not those of Christ the King Priory or the Order of Saint Benedict). Here’s what he told us: 

"This is a picture of my monastic community on the evening of my reception into the novitiate. It was taken on Sunday, 13 January 2013, in the chapel of our monastery, Christ the King Priory, Schuyler, NE. Pictured are (front row, left-right) Brother Andrew Fuller, Brother Elijah Dawson, Father Prior Mauritius Wilde; (back row, left-right) Father Volker Futter, Father Adam Patras, Brother Tobias Dammert."

Brother Elijah Dawson’s monastic community on the evening of his reception into the novitiate in January 2013, in the chapel of their monastery, Christ the King Priory, Schuyler, Neb. Pictured are (front row, left-right) Brother Andrew Fuller, Brother Elijah Dawson, Rev. Mauritius Wilde (prior), Brother Damian Cayetano; (back row, left-right) Rev. Volker Futter, Rev. Adam Patras, Brother Tobias Dammert. (Photo shared by Brother Elijah Dawson)

“As I listened to the ‘Habemus Papam’ announcement, the name ‘Francis’ really struck me. Bergoglio is known to be a man of humility and simplicity. Perhaps he will decide to lay aside some of the pomp and circumstance that the papacy has accrued over the centuries. Peter was a simple fisherman. If Pope Francis chooses to walk a similar path (and, by doing so, encourage others to follow his example), I would be overjoyed.

“As a 24-year-old, I hope that Pope Francis lends an ear to my generation. It is the responsibility of the Church to become ever-new. The message of Jesus Christ will never change, but the way that it is communicated to the world must constantly change. My generation, and those that follow, must be led to Christ with words and actions that they can comprehend.

“A good tree bends. It does not break. Likewise, a Church that remains rigid will sunder itself from those who need it most. Pope Francis has the responsibility to listen to those who are disenchanted with the present state of the Church.

“The election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio demonstrates the changing face of the Church. The future of the Church rests in the Global South, and the cardinal-electors have recognized this.

“All of the cardinal-electors were appointed by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. By that fact alone, those looking for drastic change were bound to be disappointed. Regardless of my hopes, I know that 10 years from now, the Roman Catholic Church will not have changed its teachings on abortion, gay marriage or the ordination of women.

“That said, 10 years from now, I hope to find a Church that engages the world. A Church…

  • … that is in dialogue with the world religions, particularly Islam.
  • … that allows priests the freedom to marry or to be celibate.
  • … that ordains women to the deaconate.
  • … that steps back and reflects on its teachings on sexuality.
  • … that seeks to repair its relationship with Protestants, Anglicans and the Orthodox.
  • … that continues to be a voice for the poor and for the environment.
  • … that respects the rights of the laity and encourages their active role in the Church.
  • … that permits local and national churches a greater degree of autonomy.”

>>  Share your thoughts: What are your hopes and prayers for the new pope and the Catholic Church?



Anna Weggel Analyst
Public Insight Network

Anna Weggel is a Public Insight Analyst, which means she spends her time crafting questions about upcoming story topics to send to sources in the Public Insight Network and then produces web, audio and video content featuring those sources.

Before finding her home at APM in 2008, Anna received her B.A. in journalism, was the editor in chief of The Minnesota Daily, and internship hopped through Mother Jones, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and the Downtown Journal. Anna's non-work life is held hostage by the stage -- where she performs improv comedy and shows with her lady bluegrass band.