Even so, everyone seems to be constantly surprised by this pope. No one is this surprising. No, the issue is less with Pope Francis than people who are expecting someone somewhere along a Liberal-Conservative axis. They will be constantly surprised. We have seen that in the blogosphere. One day conservatives are down in the dumps, the next they're ecstatic because Francis said the word "devil" in public.
The Bear has suggested Pope Francis seems to have Protestant sensibilities (as always the disclaimer: this is not saying he is a Protestant). This makes hims less surprising. But perhaps the key to Francis lies in Argentina's frustrated aspirations, and... but now the Bear must recognize he's entering a woods he does not know. Which is exactly the point. We will always misunderstand Francis until we learn about Argentina.
A good example was the recent iPhone chat with Pentecostal televangelist Kenneth Copeland and the eerily hypnotic "Bishop" Tony Palmer. (Seriously, if you haven't watched that whole video I put up a few days ago, you need to.) It is claimed that Pope Francis entered into some sort of "pact" with his "brother Bishop" (oh, brother) to bring about Christian unity. We have all seen the picture of Jorge Bergoglio kneeling to receive a blessing from a Protestant minister of some sort.
|Is Francis Kneeling For Blessing, or Did Protestant Slip One In On Him?|
What does it mean to be Pentecostal in South America, to speak in tongues, and get all excited? That holds all sorts of cultural associations in the United States, but what does it mean in Argentina? I bet it's very different. The Charismatic Catholic movement is pretty much dead in the U.S. after a brief burst of enthusiasm in the 70s. Or how about the ecumenical movement? Does it have more vitality in South America than the isolated (fortunately) gestures we see in the U.S.?
Let's say Cardinal Dolan had been elected pope. I suspect much of the world would have been scratching their heads at the first Yankee pontiff. Americans operate very differently from Italians, as any American who has had the opportunity to live there knows. Or maybe not. Americans are a known quantity worldwide. Italy we know. Poland we learned about, but it wasn't too different. The only mystery about our German pope was how un-German he turned out to be. (Guess he got all his crazy-German theologian thing out of his system in his youth.)
But Argentina? They've only got one kind of bear: the spectacled bear, considered hillbillies among bears. And that, Evita Peron, and the Falklands War of 1982 is all I know about Argentina. Terra Incognita. Kind of like Pope Francis.