Sunday, 31 March 2013

Pope Francis Stirs the Religious Pot?

So it seems that the new pope is wasting no time stirring up the religious pot. Our local newspaper carried an article entitled, “Pope Angers Conservatives” (Lethbridge Herald, Saturday, March 30, 2013). How did he allegedly anger them? I underlined the following statements from the newspaper:

“ … simple style and focus on serving the world’s poorest … devastated traditionalist Catholics … ”

“ … washed the feet of two girls – a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic … The church’s liturgical law holds that only men can participate in the rite … ”

When he became pope he made his appearance “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.”

He received the cardinals “not from a chair on a pedestal as popes normally do but rather standing, on their same level.”

“Francis also raised traditional eyebrows when he refused the golden pectoral cross offered to him right after his election … ”

“ … no-nonsense vestments and easy off-the-cuff homilies.”

“ … none of those trappings on display … “

What do all these quotes point to?

In my way of thinking, they point to a servant leadership, not too dissimilar to the type Jesus portrayed. I find it strange that the conservatives would take exception to this. But then again, just as in Jesus’ day, people do like their kings, and they do like them decked out in all forms of pomp and regalia. Pope Francis seems to have other ideas, and I say kudos to him for taking this stand.

No, I am not a Roman Catholic, and so in reality, none of what this pope does makes any difference to me or my spiritual walk one way or another. Still, I am encouraged by what I have seen so far from this new pontiff. I only hope that he has the backbone to stay true to his convictions on these things and not fall victim to the institutional trappings that many in religious leadership, regardless of catholic or evangelical or charismatic denomination, often succumb to. I guess that remains to be seen.

Maybe there is even a lesson in his style for the rest of us when it comes to the care and concern of the poor and needy. Maybe it's time that you and I also washed a few feet, and perhaps even those that belong to people of other faiths. Maybe it's time for more leaders to climb down off their pedestals, lose some of their fancy vestments, and put themselves on the same level as everyone else. Maybe ...

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, 
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” 
(Proverbs 14:31; NIV)

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