Twenty-eighth Sunday October 13, 2013
Pope Francis has taken the world by storm. The press cannot seem to get enough of him.
Ever since he stepped out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s and uttered the words “buona sera” on the evening of his March 13 election, Pope Francis has been a source of fascination and speculation for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Last month i reported on the Pope’s journey to Rio de Janeiro in brazil for world youth day in July.
I mentioned then that his pilgrimage to brazil, from his press interview on the plane out of Rome to the final farewell to Rio, was a smashing success.
Wherever he goes the crowds are overflowing. He is being quoted everywhere. He has been called a superstar.
Pope Francis told journalists after his election that Christ remains the center—not the successor of peter. He says: Christ, Christ is the center.
The primary task of a Pope is to represent Christ on earth, and attract the world to the lord.
Each Pope has a different style of leadership. The papacy reflects the man who occupies it, with his strengths and weaknesses; his experiences and his gifts.
It is interesting that the last three Popes are not from Italy but from Poland, Germany and Argentina. By the grace of providence, all three brought to the papacy distinct qualities of leadership. Pope John Paul ii was seen as a prophet; Pope Benedict XVI a teacher; Pope Francis the servant leader.
These qualities of leadership are used by the Pope not to adapt the church to the modern world but to equip the church for mission to the modern world. The church should be able to speak the teaching of Christ in the language of the modern world without changing that teaching.
Sometimes members of the press mistake a change of style and personality for a change in substance and doctrinal teaching. This is a huge mistake and a source of confusion to many.
As the Vicar of Christ on earth the Pope cannot change the doctrinal and moral teaching of Jesus as found in the documents of the church and the catechism of the church. The Pope is charged with preserving, defending and handing down the teaching of Jesus.
It is true that each Pope presents the teaching with his own style.
For example: on one occasion, when asked about a specific moral issue the Pope answers this way: “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. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds; heal the wounds.”
Notice that he is acknowledging sin and immorality that is wounding people spiritually. He recognizes that there is a cultural battle going on. Meanwhile the church is a hospital healing the wounded. He presumes that everyone knows about the disease and where it came from. He is saying it is not necessary to talk about the disease while you are healing the wounds.
Sometimes members of the press want to pit one Pope against another as if the present Pope is going to cancel out the moral teachings of previous Popes. This is nonsense. That will never happen.
Two weeks ago in the post standard a journalist wrote an article analyzing an interview that a Jesuit priest had with Pope Francis. The journalist made this statement: “the era of Benedict is over. Faith as Francis defines it will transcend ideology. Teachings will change.”
Now anyone who has even a basic knowledge of Catholicism knows that no Pope is going to change the definitions and teachings in the catholic catechism. That will not happen. He may express the doctrine differently but he will not change the substance.
Pope Francis approved of the canonization of Pope john xxiii and Pope John Paul II. If he disagreed with their teachings he would not have approved of their canonization.
Pope Francis is well acquainted with the documents of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. They were scholars, philosophers, and theologians. Their gift was to clarify moral teachings in the documents that they produced.
Pope Francis called himself a son of the church who agrees with the church on the moral issues that the press is always asking about. He said in an interview: “the proposal of the gospel must be simpler, profound, and radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow; the proclamation of the saving love of god comes before moral and religious imperatives.”
He said that we need to proclaim moral truths in the full context of the church’s gospel message rather than in isolation. He said: “when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context”.
Pope Francis may not be called to write documents on moral issues. He may be called now to heal the wounds on a battlefield strewn with the human wreckage caused by false ideas of the human person, false ideas on marriage and false claims of what makes for happiness.
You cannot always trust the secular media when it is covering religious news. The media often accuses Catholics of spending too much time focusing on church teaching on sexuality and abortion. Yet in covering a 13 page interview with the Pope the American media focused almost exclusively on the one page related to abortion and contraception. The other 12 pages were mostly ignored.
Covering recent interviews with Pope Francis the press is giving the impression that Pope Francis is not interested in teaching about abortion, sexual morality and marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Pope is not separated from his people.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis left the Vatican to greet people in Rome’s march for life. He invited them to “keep the attention of everyone on the important issue of respect for human life from the moment of conception.”
Recently he encouraged the Knights of Columbus “to bear witness to the authentic nature of marriage and the family, the sanctity and inviolable dignity of human life, and the beauty and truth of human sexuality”
Neither statement was widely reported by the secular media.
Do not get caught up in the trivial pursuit of whether the Pope is liberal or conservative. These words have no real meaning when applied to the faith. Rather be concerned about fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to peter and the apostles.
Jesus promised that the magisterium of the church founded on peter and the apostles would always preserve the truth of his teaching.
I want to close with a quotation of Pope Francis on the homily:
‘the homily is the touchstone to measure the pastor’s proximity and ability to meet his people, because those who preach must recognize the heart of their community and must be able to see where the desire for god is lively and ardent. The message of the gospel, therefore, is not to be reduced to some aspects that, although relevant on their own, do not show the heart of the message of Jesus Christ.”