Pope Francis and Latin America

Martin Coria | March 14, 2013

I write from an Argentina still in shock after the election of Pope Bergoglio. I did my 12 years of primary and secondary (high school) education at the Jesuit school in Buenos Aires where I was born. Witnessing in the same day that the first Jesuit, Latin American, Argentinean, native from Buenos Aires is elected pope is a lot to absorb.

Others are speaking and will speak with authority in the hours and days to come about the enormous challenges the Catholic Church faces nowadays and that are waiting for Francis. I understand the skeptics and the hopeful. Time will tell.

As Latin American, I hope Pope Francis can find ways to accompany and re-energize Catholics who are serving others and awake and mobilize those who are not. As the most unequal region of the world, a young continent with some of the most violent cities and increasingly polarized and fragmented societies, Latin American Catholics – in humble partnership with others – have a lot of work to do.

With contradictions, imperfections, lights and shadows, the region is also undergoing profound social, political and cultural transformations, sometimes with the opposition of local Catholic bishops. Think that in less than a decade Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Argentina and Chile their first women presidents, Brazil a union leader and a woman, Uruguay a former guerrilla leader. And Cuba is leading a Cuban-designed transition and Colombians are maintaining peace talks. Children, as well as racial and sexual minorities are increasingly protected and recognized by progressive laws and policy initiatives. For the good of the majorities and minorities benefited by all these changes, I hope Francis will be fair and balanced when relating to Latin American governments.

As the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis was close to and very vocal on issues affecting migrant workers, street children, sex workers, single mothers. I hope he can bring a new sense of hope and comfort to our many Catholic partners working with youth and children in urban centers of Haiti, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Uruguay and Nicaragua and with indigenous peoples in remote and isolated parts of the Chaco region of South America. I think specially in Denise, Polycarpe, Silvia, Maria Isabel, Ponciano, Juan Luis, Markinhos, Lucia and Jorge.

Finally, I hope the memory and witness of many martyrs of the church in Argentina and Latin America accompany Pope Francis in his journey. Monsignor Romero, the Jesuits murdered in El Salvador, bishop Angelelli, father Carlos Mujica, the priests and seminarians murdered at St Patrick’s church massacre and many, many others. I hope Francis, my Pope, accepts, embraces and honors this heritage.

By Martin Coria, Latin America and Caribbean Regional Coordinator