A lesson here for political leaders, urban planners and people everywhere: Before he was chosen as pope, assuming the name of Francis, Jorge Bergoglio had opted for public transport in his native Argentina.
Bergoglio’s life has been characterised by simplicity and outreach to the poor. He gave up the trappings of power – the archbishop’s palace and a chauffeur-driven limousine – and opted for a simple apartment and the use of public transport.
His preference for public transport stands in sharp contrast to the Penang state government’s great rush to take us down the route of greater dependence on private motor vehicles (via a road-based tunnel and highways), and all the adverse consequences that will bring. Not much different from what the BN has done all these years.
Bergoglio’s choice of name (Francis) is highly significant for our times, in this era of climate change and global warming. In my latest article for The Herald (out this weekend), written before the selection of the new pope, I touched on how important it was for the church to return to its spiritual heritage of simplicity and gospel values. I noted: “One of the most relevant saints for our times would have to be Francis of Assisi, who lived the Gospel values and rejected the wealth of his family. Well ahead of his time, he recognised the interdependence of all of Creation and lived harmoniously with the natural environment.”
I never thought the new pope would choose the name Francis! If he can put into practice the Gospel values that Francis cherished in his leadership of the church, then the church could begin to steer itself in the right direction.