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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Regular contributor Michael O'Connor reflects
on the style and substance of Pope Francis.
His intro to the world was simple. "Good
evening." A genial looking older man in
simple white clerical cassock wishing for
those gathered in St Peter's Square that
their evening be a good one; a man who
has come to be seen as a simple good man
in what he does , what he says, and how
he says it.
He thanked the people of Rome for their
welcome. He asked them to pray with
him for Pope Benedict. Then, proceeding
towards the tr aditional blessing a
new Pope bestows, he asked first for
The people gathered below and the whole
world watching knew this was a different
style of pope.
We have witnessed this new style opening
out since that moment.
Fir stly, his gestur es of love. It is impossible
to see any sign of contrivance in his
washing of the feet of delinquents, his hugs
for the little and the repulsive, his warm
embr acing smile for...well...everyone ! (a
smile not felt perhaps by those exploiting
There's his style of simplicity and
pover ty: non-palatial accommodation
in the company of regular people; his
spontaneous homilies of graceful simplicity
at mor ning 'home Masses'; his ar rival
at functions of state in his Ford Focus.
These are the things that have attr acted
the interest and approval of just about
ever yone. This is more like his inspiration
from Assisi, or -- most profoundly of all --
his inspir ation from Galilee.
Then there are his words. They sound
different from tr aditional papal utter ance.
Not a difference of content if analysed
closely. But cer tainly a difference of
tone and emphasis which is immediately
striking when they reach the ear. And they
go to the hear t so readily, unlike many
utterances which get there only after
lengthy incubation in the mind.
There is in his utterance -- for me at least
-- that simple, mesmerising wisdom of
Jesus' words which challenge and enthral
the hear t prior to, during, and long after
countless applications of the grey matter.
I think of such gems as pastor s in the
Church being "shepherds who have
the smell of their sheep"; the Church as
a "field hospital" for the injured in need
of Christ; his thousand times preference
for "an injured Church rather than a sick
Church" which suffocates on introspection.
It seems almost daily that he adds to
And all the time these are the doings
and sayings of "a tr ue son of the Church"
who -- while championing resolutely the
rights of the poor -- does not shy, for
example, from denouncing abortion
as "hor rific". Consistently he sees none
poorer to champion than unbor n human
persons. Who is surprised that he
welcomes mother s breast-feeding in the
"Who am I to judge? " These are five
powerful words from Pope Fr ancis
concerning homosexuals. They highlight
a vital and profound aspect of Francis'
stamp on the Church. I believe he is
loyally following Jesus who said, "Do not
judge and you will not be judged" (Matt
7:1). I have no doubt that he will be
consistent in not judging actual per sons
(their motivations, their mor al capabilities,
the state of their souls before God)
while safeguarding and developing the
traditions of the Church in mor al issues.
As teacher and shepherd he will, as he
has done, make authoritative judgements
and pronouncements on human
mor al behaviour s -- without judging or
condemning any one per son.
The October Synod on 'Marriage and
Family' will no doubt display the pastoral
rather than dogmatic orientation of Fr ancis'
papacy. While upholding and safeguarding
the sacred in marriage and family, Bishop
Fr ancis and his brother bishops will be
seeking pastor ally to bring the joy of the
Good News to mar riages and families in all
circumstances. It will be an exciting time of
Spiritual movement for the Church.
Fr ancis is for me about substance and style.
As a true son of the Church he is deeply
grounded in, and a champion of, Catholic
Christianity. He is wonder fully catholic in
that he possesses a whole and wholesome
vision of Christianity and life. His view of
the whole is responsible for, I believe, his
controversial statement, "We cannot
insist only on issues related to abor tion,
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
FIRST LENTEN MESSAGE
AN INVITATION TO POVERTY
gay marriage and the use of contr aceptive
methods...it is not necessar y to talk about
these issues all the time."
"We cannot insist...all the time" is key.
We cannot expect always to convince
about par ts of the whole until we have
proclaimed and convinced concerning the
joyful good news in its entirety. We cannot
insist on acceptance of "hard bits" while
neglecting to proclaim the joyful whole
which makes the hard bits palatable and, in
fact, ultimately truly joyful.
Hence, I believe, Fr ancis' enthusiasm for
the new evangelisation, the proclamation
of the kingdom, the fulfilment of human
beings , which propelled Christ.
This same Christ, this same fullness,
grasped by all of us in less-than-full
ways, was also the motivation of Fr ancis'
predecessors . What has made this man
"Per son of the Year" and pope to gar ner
widespread acceptance and following, is a
special, timely charism.
Fr ancis is blessed with the charism to
appeal readily through humble, Christ-like,
godly humanness to the simple humanness
that we all share through God's grace.
The season of Lent within the Catholic
Church commences on Ash Wednesday,
5 March, and is a time to prepare for the
great celebr ation of Easter.
Pope Fr ancis released his first Lenten
message at a Vatican news conference
with themes of "pover ty" and "generosity".
The over riding message of his address is
inspired by the words of St Paul "For you
know the gr ace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sake
he became poor, so that by his pover ty
you might become rich." St Paul was
appealing to the Corinthian community to
be generous to those in Jerusalem who
were in need. In a similar way, but many
centuries later, Pope Francis is challenging
each of us to reach out to those in need
and to live lives of action. Jesus chose
pover ty and in tur n enriched the lives of
so many other s in need by offering them
comfor t and compassion. This is not
only an example to each of us but also a
Pope Fr ancis also spoke of how we can
bear witness to this message. What does it
mean for us today? He asks us to "confront
the pover ty of our brother s and sister s,
to touch it, to make it our own and take
pr actical steps to alleviate it". We see God
at work in the world when we reach out
to other s. He goes on to speak of the
three types of destitution : material, moral
Material destitution occurs when people
are denied ba sic rights and needs such as
food, water, hygiene and oppor tunities to
thrive. Mor al destitution is evident when
people lose hope, often the r esult of
injustices in the world. Spiritual destitution
is felt by those who have tur ned away
from God or think they no longer need
God in their lives. Pope Fr ancis has been
seen to reach out to other s and live out
this message. His fir st official visit outside
Rome was to visit asylum seeker s at
Lampedusa. On Holy Thur sday last year
he washed the feet of young offenders in
a juvenile gaol. When travelling in Bra zil
he visited the slums. He lives modestly,
catches the bus and even sold a donated
Harley Davidson motorcycle and gave
the money to charity. Quite simply, Pope
Fr ancis is "practising what he preaches".
So as he approaches his fir st papal
anniversary, Pope Fr ancis urges all not to
judge other s in their circumstances but
to help them. He asks us to imitate Jesus
and seek out the needy "as a shepherd
lovingly seeks his lost sheep" -- within our
families, our workplaces, our schools and
communities. This is the kind of Church --
and world -- Pope Fr ancis wants for us.
To read the text in full, please visit
ww w.vatican.va .
Why not continue the conversation
at "Aurora Magazine" ?
Joshua Sam is a Year 4 student
at Corpus Christi PS, Waratah.
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