Pope Francis I and the Church
I share in the initial enthusiasm of so many in the election of Pope Francis I. We remain hopeful that the initial assessment of this humble and spiritual leader, committed to serving the poor and the needy, will prove accurate as we experience the years of his papacy.
As I thought about this week’s blog, I wondered what I could add to the plethora of reports and stories about the Church and the new Pope since the announcement in February of Pope Benedict’s resignation. What follows are simply some isolated thoughts and reactions. I would be interested in hearing your impressions.
First, I think the defining moment of Pope Benedict’s papacy was his resignation. This is not a criticism. I genuinely believe that his decision to step down from the papacy was an extraordinary act of leadership. We will never know what precipitated this decision. But in my mind, it took great courage and serves as a powerful model for all leaders within and outside the Church.
Second, I have found the overwhelming media coverage over the past few weeks both exhilarating and distressing. Stories about the rich history and tradition of our Church served as powerful witness to the central values of our faith. But the constant focus on the problems of the Church, albeit real and troublesome, were a sad reminder of how far we have drifted from the Gospel message.
The election of Francis had personal meaning to me. I relate well to the life story of the son of an Italian immigrant from modest means who found vocation in a life of service to the Common Good. As someone educated by the Jesuits and profoundly influenced in so many positive ways by Jesuit priests, I am proud to have my Church led by the first Jesuit Pope.
Finally, last Wednesday evening’s announcement of Pope Francis I demonstrated two of the most important elements of our faith. First, we are a universal Church. To see people from all over the world gather together to greet an Argentinian Pope reflects well on the global nature of our faith. We are a worldwide community of faith, different in so many ways, but sharing a common bond and belief in the Gospel message.
We also witnessed the power of prayer. This too is our common bond as we pray for ourselves, our families, our country, our world and our Church … together we form a single voice of thanks and petition to a God who knows and loves each and every one of us.
The challenges within the institutional Church are great. Whether or not Pope Francis can bring about reform is unknown. But he has already reminded us that we are all people of faith on a pilgrim journey, trying to live the Gospel each and every day.
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)