I cannot let this year pass without posting something about the new pope. If you are my facebook friend then you know that I am a HUGE fan of Pope Francis. Yes, I am Catholic and yes I believe this new pope Jorge Mario Bergolio is the exactly the right leader my church needs to move forward.
1) He is teaching acceptance. He had only been pope for 2 weeks and he went and washed the feet of 12 prisoners on Holy Thursday, which also included 2 women during this religious rite. When asked a question on the Catholic Church’s attitude towards gays and lesbians throughout history, he responded by saying, ” “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” On the topic of atheists he also gave a very similar jaw dropping (and by that I mean it is not the answer you’d expect from his position), God forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith,” the pope responded, “Given that — and this is the key point — God’s mercy has no limits, if you go to him with a sincere and repentant heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.”(huffington post)
2) He has scaled back on the pomp and grandeur: Our new pope is one humble man. Right after being named pope, he tried to pay his bill at the hotel he was staying at. He has rejected the red shoes and has opted for more humble vestments. The cross he wears around his neck is iron and not the traditional gold. He isn’t living in the lavish papal apartments, but had chosen to stay in the more modest Vatican hotel. He has also has chosen to be driven in a simpler car a Ford Focus rather than the Mercedes we saw his predecessor drive around in. This to me is a huge statement. It shows that he practices what he preaches. I have always been bothered by all the excessive ostentation the Vatican has shown in the past, especially when there is so much poverty in the world.
3) He is approachable and kind: He has been known to make cold calls to people who have written him letters, because he is genuinely touched by people’s troubles (huffington post). He enjoys to visit with the crowds of faithful that visit him at St. Peter Square during the Sunday audiences, and we especially saw this during his trip to Rio de Janiero. He doesn’t pass up to kiss a baby, pray over the sick, or just give a smile. Who can ever forget how kind he was to that little boy who made his way up to the altar.
4) His commitment to the poor and sick: From the moment his papal name was announced as Francis, a saint that is well-known for his humble life and commitment to the poor, it was certain this pope was going to give importance to those less fortunate. Click here to read about St. Francis of Assisi. One of the pope’s early tweets was “The pope must serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable.” (huffington post). It has been rumored that he has disguised himself and goes out in the night giving food to the homeless. He has also invited homeless to come and dine at the Vatican. When a German Bishop was accused of using church funds on lavish spending for himself, he was suspended, and it is rumored his lavish residence will be turned into a soup kitchen. He has moved the world with his compassion for the sick. The images shown of him embracing the sick are just beautiful.
5) He is taking the Church back to the basics: He has instructed that pastors get out of their comfort zone and take their ministry away from the pulpit, but to the streets, “This is what I am asking you,” he said with emphasis, looking up from his prepared text, “be shepherds with the smell of sheep,” so that people can sense the priest is not just concerned with his own congregation, but is also a fisher of men.” (Catholic Telegraph) When asked what the Church needs today he responds by saying, “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. […] The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” (aletiea).
It is quite evident that this pope is very special. Not only is he kind and humble, but he isn’t afraid to shake things up. His presence will not only bring positive change to the Catholic Church, but to the entire world.