Catholic priest and CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Television Network Father Thomas Rosica visited UR last Thursday night, presenting a lecture at the Interfaith Chapel. Over one hundred people were in attendance, mostly adults from the surrounding community.

His talk, titled “Resignation and Revolution”, focused on the transition of the papacy from Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis. Father Brian Cool of the Newman Catholic Community introduced the world-renowned Father Rosica, who recently served as the English language spokesperson during the papal transition.
Father Rosica used his perspective as a Vatican insider to discuss his views about the Papacy and the Catholic Church as a whole.

He spoke of what was to him the  brave and humble resignation of Benedict who, despite being called “conservative”, actually began many of the reforms Francis is now overseeing, most notably dealing with the sex abuse scandals. Rosica said Francis appeals more to the public, but it is not necessary to compare the two.

Rosica spoke of the unprecedented excitement that electrified Rome during the Papal Conclave, and marveled at the diverse array of nations represented.

As a spokesperson, Rosica interacted with representatives from around the globe, and noted some interesting fascinations: the Mexicans with Benedict’s wearing of Mexican shoes, the Germans with the negative impacts of the air pollution from the Council’s smoke signals, and the French with complaints about…everything.

Rosica spoke of the crowd’s surprise at the Coronation when Jorge Mario Bergoglio, soon to become Pope Francis, appeared on the balcony and said simply, “Pray for me.”

He also spoke of the new Pope’s sense of humor.  According to Rosica, Francis consistently name-calls various types of Christians who he believes aren’t living up to their faith in one way or another: pickled, pepper-faced Christians, creed-reciting parrot Christians, watered-down faith Christians. A nun who does not inspire faith? According to Francis, she is simply an Old Maid.

Rosica commented on the new Pope’s dedication to simplicity and radical goals.

He said Francis is a simple Pope in that he turned down the Papal limo in favor of a bus after his election, and rejected the Papal mansion in favor of a small guest house where he still lives. Rosica described Francis as a radical Pope because of the direction he wants to take the Church.

Rosica said the new Pope does not believe that the Church should be contained in the stodgy halls of the Vatican, but thinks the church should “take to the streets,” reminding the rich and the poor alike of its presence. Francis is a doer, not a talker; he walks the neighborhoods of his city, embracing the disfigured and inviting the poor to dine with him. As he himself put it in one of his famous one-liners, “I want things messy and stirred up in the Church.”

Rosica discussed how Francis is exceedingly quotable — he has been referred to as a “Tweetable Pope”. Regarding gays’  involvement in the Church, Francis’ Tweet of “Who am I to judge?” shocked the world, in under 140 characters no less.

Sophomore Brendan Coli said, “I really like the comments he’s made towards atheists and how he doesn’t think they should be excluded from the love and the understanding of the Catholic community,” regarding Francis’ approach.

In a separate interview, Rosica spoke of his encounters with Pope Francis and how being a Priest has changed his view of the world.

“I feel very much at home in many parts of the world,” Rosica said. “The Catholic Church is really universal — there’s room for everybody in the Church.”

Rosica also said that the responsibilities of the Papacy have increased over the years.

“It’s adapting much more to meet the people where they are — it’s much more universal.  This is not just a Pope of Italy or a Pope of Europe, it’s a leader of the World Church, and 1.2 billion Catholics,” Rosica said.

Rosica has strong ties to Rochester despite his global experience. He was born and entered the Priesthood in the city, and hails St. John Fisher College as his alma mater.  He also claimed to always have had great respect for the RochesterNewman Community.

“It brings life, it’s an opportunity for discussion for faith and reason, it’s a home,” he said.
Former President of the student executive board of the Newman Community and KEY Scholar Conor McNamara commented on the talk.

“For me, the most successful thing about the event was the interesting viewpoints that Fr. Rosica brought to the topic,” McNamara said. “I’ve read many different articles and have heard many people talk about Pope Francis, but I have never heard the viewpoints from someone who was physically there during it all.”

Rosica predicted where the Church would be in North America in twenty years.

“We have so many things working against us [here],” he said. “We have all of the isms, you know. Materialism, moral relativism; we have a lot of selfishness. Where there’s a culture of superabundance like ours, there’s not a lot of room for God.”

Maryknoll Priest and Professor of Christianity at UR Curt Cadorette said regarding Pope Francis, “It’s quite encouraging — he’s energetic and grappling with administrative issues that have needed to be addressed for a long time, and his simplicity is quite appealing.”

McNamara discussed the planning that went into the event.

“Since this lecture series was to celebrate the 50th year of chaplaincy at the University of Rochester, we put a lot more time and energy into this event,” McNamara said.

This lecture was the second of three presented by the Newman Community as a celebration of their 50th year of Chaplaincy.  The third will take place on March 27 at 7:30pm in the Interfaith Chapel.

“It seems to me that the messages that Pope Francis is spreading are going far beyond the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world,” McNamara said. “He is becoming a true world leader whose voice and opinion is heard and makes a difference. It is because of [this] that I think it is important for students to become aware of the Pope and the Vatican.”

Rosica said he believes that Pope Francis will change things.

“He’s speaking to people, and people are listening.”

Freedman is a member of
the class of 2016.



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