So what’s the deal with Pope Francis anyway? Since taking over as the head of the Roman Catholic Church 18 months ago it seems the new Pontiff is always saying or doing something that has many scratching their heads and wondering if he’s the real deal and if such a simple soul can truly lead the Catholic Church. The humble Francis is a true man of God who detests much of the pomp and pageantry associated with his papal role and has actually refused several of the privileges his title brings. He is definitely not a power monger, at least not yet, but simply a man who finds fulfillment in being God’s messenger rather than king of the Catholic clan.
By all appearances Frances is not your typical pope. Although a favorite of former Pope Benedict, there are no polished, red leather shoes or elaborate clothing for Francis, instead he prefers his old beat up black shoes and a much simpler wardrobe. He also refuses to live in the papal penthouse and resides in a one bedroom suite instead. Although Francis is entitled to a chauffeur driven limo he has declined that as well and prefers to travel in a smaller sedan. I tell you, this man is all about simplicity and simplicity is something the Vatican isn’t accustom to. Some Catholics find it hard to understand his decision to simplify things. They believe that all the pomp and pageantry is a part of the papal experience and adds royal substance to the pope’s role as leader of the Catholic Church and God’s Earthly representative. Others find his simplicity refreshing and are inspired by his refusal to buy into the grandeur of it all.
Pope Francis has spoken out on a variety of topics including the injustices of capitalism, the Vatican Bank, life and family issues, the Mafia, and even asking forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children. But the message he has spoken of most often, like the man himself, is a simple one, “love the poor they are the flesh of Christ.” That my friends is at the top of his agenda. The pope is asking all practicing Catholics to go out into the world, and share their faith “with enthusiasm and vitality,” and be “living examples of joy, love and charity.” He wants us to share our God given grace and good fortune with others by helping them, especially the poor homeless. Francis believes that rendering aid to the fallen is at the very heart of our faith. He has a genuine concern for the fallen. There are even rumors that Pope Francis somehow eludes the Vatican guard and sneaks out at night to secretly help the homeless on the backstreets of Rome. Now let’s see if he can get the church hierarchy to buy into his dream.
Thus far Pope Francis is doing a marvelous job of placating liberal Catholics with his progressive rhetoric and hints of reform. His comment on gays and lesbians caught many off guard. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” As did his statement about those who do good works, including atheists, are going to heaven. Both gained international attention. Statements like these are filling hearts with hope of a new, more relevant Church. But you can rest assured that as he’s filling hearts with hope, he’s also filling other hearts with darkness as he continues to upset many in the Vatican. He’s made several enemies among the far right wing conservatives in the Papal Hierarchy and elsewhere, who have serious doubts about his leadership abilities and his commitment to the true faith and morals of the Church.
Obviously those banner headlines of “Everyone Loves Francis” in the months following his election were a bit premature. Personally I’m still on the fence regarding Francis. I find some of what he says contradictory. For instance, on the one hand his “who am I to judge” statement can be seen as progressive and quite hopeful for the gay community, yet as a bishop Francis appeared to be adamantly against gay marriage and gay adoption and said it is “the work of the devil” and “a destructive attack on God’s plan.” So which is it Francis? I mean as pope he hasn’t come out and affirmed gay marriage. He’s said that the union need to be looked at and evaluated. That’s a far cry from Vatican approval. I believe it’s too early to tell just what kind of Pope he will become. Francis definitely has a way with words and is quite adept at skirting issues. We’ll have to wait and see just who this man really is. In the meantime I suggest he watch his back.