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A progressive pope?

March 14, 2013

Pope Francis
I received an email early yesterday morning from a friend who said she’d be thinking about me these days because of the papal election. She wondered if she’d see a progressive pope in her lifetime.

In a way, I guess, Pope Francis is not going to be a “progressive” pope. He is not going to ordain women, agree with the re-definition of marriage, nor will he say that abortion is OK under certain circumstances. He’s Catholic and that means he’s a liberal when it comes to social issues and a conservative when it comes to moral issues. Besides, these terms, “liberal” and “conservative” don’t really apply to Catholicism. They are political terms.

But, is he progressive? Let’s back up a bit: Pope Benedict XVI decided that he needed to serve the Church in a new capacity and that it was OK for the pope to retire. That’s progressive.
Then the Cardinals elect a man who is known for his humility, the fact that he lives in a small apartment and not in a huge bishop’s residence, does not have a driver nor his own car, cooks his own meals and is known for living the Church’s preferential option for the poor, for social justice and charity. He is an Argentinian, not a member of the Curia and a Jesuit. That’s progressive.

And we have this man, Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name Francesco – after St. Francis, Assisi , a man who was called to “rebuild my Church” and who rejected his family’s riches and status. He lived among the poor, ministered to lepers and was never ordained to the priesthood. St. Francis was a deacon. Just his choice of name alone is progressive.

They say that he greeted each Cardinal after his election, from his seat at the Sistine chapel and not from the throne. If that’s true, that’s progressive.

But what does he do first? He does not have wise words of teaching or inspiration. He refers to his predecessor as the “Bishop Emeritus” and asks us to pray for him. He refers to himself as “Bishop” and not as pope. He says that “now begins a journey of Church, with Bishop and people.” He, then leads the people in praying the Lord’s Prayer, a Hail Mary and a Glory Be, before asking them to pray a blessing over him. That’s progressive!

And finally, his blessing to the people includes an indulgence, extended to everyone watching, including those watching on TV and on social media. He then uses the long form of the blessing, which forgives all our sins. I didn’t even know that this form of blessing existed. We begin with our sins forgiven, clean slate. That’s progressive.

After the Conclave, when they left the Sistine Chapel to go back to the residence, he refused to travel in the pope’s car, the Mercedes. He said “I came with the Cardinals on the bus, and I will go back with them on the bus.” And he went on the bus. Progressive?

And reports say that he told Argentinians who may be considering going to Rome for the installation Mass, not to go but to give the money to the poor instead.

Day one of Pope Francis: He goes to pray to Mary at the Basilica of St. Mary Major. He does not travel with a full papal motorcade, instead he goes in a regular car and takes only a few guards from Vatican City. At the press briefing they said that, “security is at the service of the Pope, not the other way around.” Good for him!

Has the papacy changed in the last 100 years? It has. And in the life of the Church that is a short time. Change has been coming much quicker since the Second Vatican Council and slowly, but surely, change has been coming with each pope, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They each were more and more shepherds and less and less monarchs.

Is Pope Francis progressive? I don’t know, but what I have seen so far is the kind of shepherd that will continue taking the Church in the direction that she needs to go.

From → English, Opinion

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