Experts Explain ‘Francis: Pastor and Theologian’

Book Is Presented with Lectures Given at the International Congress Held in Barcelona in 2019

Francis: Pastor and Theologian
The presentation of Tornielli. At the table, from the left, Msgr. Garcia, Cardinal Omella and Don Puig (C) Acali / Exaudi

The Marconi Room of Vatican Radio was the venue for the presentation of the book “Francis: Pastor and Theologian,” translated into Italian, published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV) and edited by Daniel Palau Valero, Director of the Chair “Archbishop Josep Ponti Gol” of Pastoral Theology, of Tarragona, Spain.

The volume brings together the interventions of the lecturers in the International Congress, dedicated to the study of the “Contribution of Pope Francis to the Theology and Pastoral Care of the Church,” which took place in November of 2009 at the Sant Pacià University Athenaeum of Barcelona. Five Cardinals and experts from around the world attended the Conference.

Taking part in the meeting were the Archbishop of the Catalan capital and President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Joan Josep Omella; the Rector of the Athenaeum, Armand Puig i Tàrrech, and the Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Monsignor Aurelio García.

Come Out of Polarization

 The Editorial Director of the Dicastery for Communication, Andrea Tornielli, introduced the event, pointing out that, in the Holy Father, “Theology cannot be detached from his condition of Pastor.” “I believe that the book’s live contributions help us to understand that Pope Francis’ magisterium is inserted in the Tradition including with its novelties,” he continued, adding that “I believe that it helps to move away from the polarization of a debate reduced to ready-made phrases and slogans in the style of the social networks,” which “do no good to the spread of the Faith.” “The right and the left are political categories, not ecclesial,” he concluded.

Faith and Life

 Father Valero, editor of the volume, compared it to “a symphonic work” and stressed that “Theology can’t be incorporeal,” even though “each one of the interventions is developed from different human realities and theological specialties: anthropological, dogmatic, moral, ecumenical, inter-religious.” Emerging in the talks are “the different perspectives that Theology offers,” but in all of them there is an “intrinsic relationship.” “Theology and Pastoral <Care>, namely, faith and life, seek one another continually and meet,” he concluded.

Not Desk Theology

It was for Monsignor García to explain briefly the book’s content, confessing that he approached it with the conviction that it was another “boring publication” on the subject. Instead, his attention was caught “by the reflection on the different projections of pastoral care and the Pope’s magisterium,” by the “balance in the depth of the analysis and reflection proposed.” A Theology that is not of the desk, but that is attentive to people’s life.”

Monsignor pointed out five words that summarize the volume’s content and, ultimately, Francis’ magisterium as Pastor and theologian. The first is the people. “The Pope considers the Church as People of God,” a “centrality that arises from Evangelii Gaudium.” But a “Theology of the people far from any populism.” “The expression of popular piety is the theological place of the diffusion of the faith.”


 Then there is the mission: “All the People of God are protagonists of the mission and have the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel.” A “missionary Church in opposition to any form of clericalism,” which is able to “go out to encounter each person, beyond herself, reducing the distances, addressing the historical reality communicating the face of God.”

Mercy, The Pontificate’s Hermeneutic Principle

 The third word is mercy: “it is the hermeneutic principle of the pontificate,” the “essence of the life of the Church, that must be an expert in mercy.” And she must be poor again, “another of the central categories in the life and thought of the Pope,” “a fundamental key of the theological and pastoral discourse.” Francis “proposes a shift in Theology to the peripheries,” also to the “social and intellectual poor, present on the margins of the metropolis as well as in the center.”


 Finally, dialogue. “The Church going forth is involved in the world, she is the Church that goes out to open herself to dialogue with the other. The Pope gives a prophetic testimony of the culture of dialogue” in the confrontation with the whole world,” “from political leaders to pilgrims and the homeless,” passing through the culture and religions.” “He has not developed a Systematic Theology on the inter-religious dialogue, but his ultimate objective is to work for the common good and he fosters it with a particular inter-personal focus,” with his “powerful example” as Pastor.

Speaking of the culture of encounter advocated by the Pontiff, Father Armand Puig stressed that he “is not a social leader, but a Pastor who looks at the world with the compassion with which Jesus looks at the lost masses in their problematic existence.”  He has put compassion in the center of his words and gestures. It’s a pontificate in which one cannot remain blind, deaf, or dumb to humanity’s wounds. Behind it, there is no mere emotion, but a sentiment. Mercy is an option of life.”

Reconciled Humanity

Father Puig pointed out that to “unite Theology and Pastoral <Care> is a necessity. Every Pastor is a theologian seeking the mystery of God who loves us to the point of becoming incarnate. I believe that this is very close to the Pope’s dream of a reconciled humanity.” In this perspective, “for the Pope, the flock has no borders and extends to all men and women of goodwill.”

A “people without borders that also includes persons of other religions.” He doesn’t limit himself to respect; he goes beyond, speaking of fraternity, a category that governs in Fratelli Tutti. For the Pope, “the Church extends the horizons beyond the Catholic Confession and the Christian religion.”

Cardinal Omella: The Pope Knows How to Listen

 The conclusions were entrusted to Cardinal Omella, promoter of the study days. “Pastoral care makes sense when it is supported by a well-structured Theology. Our Conference has reinforced the certainty that the Pope is a great observer, who knows how to listen, looks at everything and at everyone and has a very fine capacity to read the reality.”

Recover God’s Centrality

 “In Francis we discover a language that is very much his own, which is penetrating our conversations, strongly influencing our existential themes. He stimulates in us the desire to orient ourselves to the goal of a new stage of evangelization in the Church, at a time marked by change: joy, periphery, mercy, holy People of God, synodality, popular piety, Mary,” are categories that “help us to overcome fear and the evil tendency to self-referential closure, an invitation to live with more conviction the intuition already present in the Council. Outside the rigorous interpretations, we are called to come out of our comfort zone, of that <attitude> ‘everything has always been done like this,’ which is a very real phrase.”

We need to “overcome the mistrust in the world and recover the centrality of God; to be missionary disciples capable of opening processes of evangelization.”


 According to the Cardinal, the Pope helps us to “grow in communion, in participation and the mission as a true expression of a profound and sincere synodal process.” If pastoral care is not only an applied discipline but has a theological dimension, the synodal process requires a work that must be an exercise of attentive listening, of precise observation, and of a concrete proposal, which is far from any theorization, to reach a synthesis of real implementation in which the reform of the Church is not seen in media decisions but in the consolidation of a new sensibility geared to permeating the whole ecclesial body.” And joy “is the essential perspective to understand this theological-pastoral synthesis.”

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester