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Thoughts on a new Pope

March 14, 2013

Pope Francis I appears on the central balcony

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve been asked quite a bit what I think about the new Pope.

Honestly, I’ve been so busy with other things that writing these words are the first opportunity I’ve had to really process the election of Pope Francis.

So… what do I think?

On one level, I was surprised that the Cardinal Electors chose a Pope who is 78 years old.  Pope Emeritus Benedict, upon his retirement, said that the job was best suited for a younger man with more energy to tackle the issues facing the church.  I wondered if the electors would take that as a charge to elect a much younger man.

I was expecting the Cardinals to select a man who would be outspoken.  After all, it seems a critical moment in the life of the church and of human history for that matter.  Post modernism has done its work at eroding any sense of absolutes and, honestly, I think that many throughout the world are reeling from the disorientation that arises when you lose sight of “true north,” as it were.

However, this led me reflect on what I really expect in a Pope and, further, what God really expects of me as a Christian living my faith in the world.  Are we called to be vocal opponents of secularism and moral relativism?  Are we supposed to be on the front lines of philosophical and theological battles?  Can we wrestle this world into heaven with the weight of our arguments and the effectiveness of our speech?

In contemplating these questions I realized the genius of the pick.  A man who would choose the name Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, is making a statement about his own place in the world.  St. Francis was a man committed to poverty and service.  He was a man called by God to rebuild the church, and responded by doing so with his own hands, sweat, service and love.

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit Assisi.  As I think of St. Francis and now Pope Francis, my mind is fixed on the image of the tiny unassuming church Portincula, Francis’s church which stands in the heart of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.

At the heart of our own church now stands an unassuming servant ready to lead with humility and love.  Perhaps he’ll be an outspoken critic of the world, but I doubt it.  I suspect he’ll lead with the medicine of mercy and love that truly heals and transforms.  I only hope that we, as Christians, can follow his lead.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2013 11:08 am

    This is a beautiful image you bring to mind, Chris – the Portincula inside St. Mary of the Angels. I, too, have been there. I remember, before I went, people telling me about this tiny ancient church inside a huge Basilica. I couldn’t picture it. I couldn’t fathom the thought. I’d even seen pictures, but didn’t quite believe it was real. Until I was there. And it blew my mind. I think Pope Francis does the same thing for his Church today. Praise God!

    • Chris permalink*
      March 14, 2013 2:57 pm

      Thanks Lauren. It is a remarkable place and, I believe, we’re only beginning to discover how remarkable the man whom God called to lead our church is as well.

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