Saturday, 23 March 2013

Early reflections on Pope Francis

The Holy Father seems to me to be embodying both continuity and change in his approach so far.

Continuity is essential of course: it is the role of the Holy Father to pass on what we have received from Our Lord and the Apostles.

Change is also essential, as we are a Church comprised of sinners and called to be saints, and thus to sanctify the world.

The continuity I see, for example, in his building upon Pope Emeritus Benedict’s fight with the tyranny of relativism, which he spoke of in his first address to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican. It seems that the political approach of the Holy See, which as the Holy Father points out, is to seek the good of every person upon this earth!’ is unchanged.

The change is in the types of gesture and sign that he uses: the greeting of the disabled man, the inviting of the gardeners and cleaning staff to Mass in his chapel.   Signs and gestures are eloquent and powerful language in our incarnational religion, and the Pope is re-calling us to our duty to see the face of Christ in everyone - particularly the poor, the overlooked, the neglected.  The message is as old as Christianity, of course, but he has a new and very personal way of presenting it afresh.

A photo montage I saw on Facebook  was good: Pope John Paul ll’s photo was captioned: This is what we believe (and one thinks of the Catechism, Veritatis Splendor etc).  Pope Benedict XVl’s photo was captioned: This is why we believe it (and one thinks of practically everything he said and wrote!); and Pope Francis l’s picture was captioned: Now go and do it.

That is the challenge for us all: to continue with the Year of Faith, and engage in the New Evangelisation, inspired by Francis' love of the poor, Benedict's wisdom and understanding, and John Paul's unflinching proclamation of the truth.  Those who try to set this pope against his predecessors are jumping the gun; and whether we agree or disagree with every or any aspect of his approach, our job is not to be his critics, but to obey Our Lord, and make disciples of all nations...

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