Friday, March 22, 2013

And now for some good news ...

Having expressed lots of doubt about whether Pope Francis really gets it, let me send you into Passion Sunday weekend with some very encouraging news. Francis made a speech to "the Diplomatic corps". That means the diplomats from various countries posted to the Vatican. There are two things in this speech that I find very encouraging.

Here is the first one:
As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.
Note the emphasized section. This is a huge improvement over the earlier reported remark of wanting a church that is poor and cares for the poor. That earlier remark was taken by the press as evidence that the church was going to start caring for the poor.

It's important to remember, and especially important for Pope Francis to remember, that the good college-educated liberals, which includes all journalists, believe that they, and only they, are the good people. It's crazy, I know. What has the New York Times ever done to help the poor? Or CNN? But that is how they see themselves.

The plain truth is that the Catholic church does a lot to help the poor and that needs to be hammered home. To not do so is naive; it is like handing the Church's most determined enemies a loaded gun.

Now onto the second, and even better part. Read the following and weep tears of joy:
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the "tyranny of relativism", which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

That, my friends, sounds like someone who really gets it. Let's pray for more of this. Much more because we need it.

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