Christian Author: Nancy W. Boyer

A New Pope and Perhaps a New Day for Christian Catholics

pope-conclave in Sistine ChapelEaster week is over and Christ has once again been the focus of the faithful…from the thousands waiting to hear the first Easter address from Pope Francis to the little country church in the mountains that could care little about what the Pope is doing.  A few thoughts came to my mind during Easter.

Jesus always took the low road…not the high and mighty.   That may be why through the years, it has been  hard to see the head of the Catholic church parade in such splendor….elequant trappings of every sort.  Where was the  simple Christ that each pope throughout the centuries was to represent?   Maybe there finally is one.  

All of Christ’s teachings have been to humble ourselves; to turn the other cheek; to not be puffed up or think more highly of ourselves than we should think.   This is not to judge the hearts of previous popes, but only to say that how a person…or an organization…or a church of millions  presents itself speaks volumes about belief.

NICOLE WINFIELD wrote recently the following about this new pope:  “Virtually everything he ( Pope Francis) has done since being elected pope, every gesture, every decision, has rankled traditionalists in one way or another.

The night he was chosen pope, March 13, Francis emerged from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica without the ermine-rimmed red velvet cape, or mozzetta, used by popes past for official duties, wearing instead the simple white cassock of the papacy. The cape has since come to symbolize his rejection of the trappings of the papacy and to some degree the pontificate of Benedict XVI, since the German pontiff relished in resurrecting many of the liturgical vestments of his predecessors.

Francis also received the cardinals’ pledges of obedience after his election not from a chair on a pedestal as popes normally do but rather standing, on their same level. For traditionalists who fondly recall the days when popes were carried on a sedan chair, that may have stung. In the days since, he has called for “intensified” dialogue with Islam — a gesture that rubs traditionalists the wrong way because they view such a heavy focus on interfaith dialogue as a sign of religious relativism.

Francis may have rubbed salt into the wounds with his comments at the Good Friday procession at Rome’s Colosseum, which re-enacts Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, praising “the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters” during a prayer ceremony that recalled the suffering of Christians in the Middle East.

Francis also raised traditional eyebrows when he refused the golden pectoral cross offered to him right after his election by Monsignor Guido Marini, the Vatican’s liturgy guru who under Benedict became the symbol of Benedict’s effort to restore the Gregorian chant and heavy silk brocaded vestments of the pre-Vatican II liturgy to papal Masses.

Marini has gamely stayed by Francis’ side as the new pope puts his own stamp on Vatican Masses with no-nonsense vestments and easy off-the-cuff homilies. But there is widespread expectation that Francis will soon name a new master of liturgical ceremonies more in line with his priorities of bringing the church and its message of love and service to ordinary people without the “high church” trappings of his predecessor.

There were certainly none of those trappings on display Thursday at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome, where the 76-year-old Francis got down on his knees to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates, two of them women. The rite re-enacts Jesus’ washing of the feet of his 12 apostles during the Last Supper before his crucifixion, a sign of his love and service to them.”

Well said,Nicole, and maybe there is truly something happening here.  During the Easter celebration, the Christians visiting Vatican City made the pilgrimage to Rome’s Colosseum to participate in  the Way of the Cross.  For those who may not be familiar with the Way of the Cross or the Stations of the Cross, this is when Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ. With torches lighting the way, the faithful carried the cross to different stations where meditations and prayers were read out recalling the final hours of Christ’s life.

With so much tension around the world over radical muslims and the possibility that the Christians of Syria may be in great danger.  This year, Pope Francis read out meditations that were composed by young Lebanese faithful.  These called for an end to “violent fundamentalism, terrorism and the wars and violence which in our days devastate various countries in the Middle East.”   To those who believe that the Muslim faith looks at anyone outside of the Muslim faith as infidels and should be destroyed, one would ask if Pope Francis’ olive branch to other faiths is an act of futility.   Perhaps he is trying to live out in his own life and an example to others what the Holy Scriptures, in Romans 12, has to say:

14Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

The Gospel of Christ is one of forgiveness and loving your enemy.   That is what Christ did as He came into the world…not to condemn the world, but that by His sacrifice of Himself for all sins, we might have life…now and in eternity.    It is a simple message and one that resonates down the centuries to all who will dare to put their trust in  Him.   It doesn’t have to be dressed up…only believed.

As time goes on, we will see if Pope Francis can stay true to his calling  of simplicity or if the pressures of this powerful political and spiritual church in Rome will defeat his intentions.   There are also many social issues that he will have to give his approval or disapproval or at least bring into discussion…such as women becoming priests and whether priests can marry, as they are allowed to do in other parts of Christendom.  The protection of children is a huge issue for the Roman church.  The needs of the poor and displaced by wars is another worldwide problem.    May Pope Francis have God’s wisdom in all matters. 

As a Christian, who worships in the Episcopal Church and whose husband is a priest in the Episcopal Church… and not in the Roman Catholic Church, I say these prayers and blessings with all sincerity.  One would hope that this will be a new day for all faithful Catholics…and for the Christian church around the world as we notice  with admiration  Pope Francis’ example.

 Pope Francis A new kind of Leadership   (If trouble opening, try Google Chrome)

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