Of course, there are many things about the new Pope Francis that are making headlines; currently, his views on civil unions versus gay marriage (but tomorrow it may be something completely different). For a religious leader, his views seem to be appropriate on the “big social issues”, because they are conservative. The Bible does speak against homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Genesis 19:4-8, Matthew 19:1-8, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, just to name a few), so it would be the appropriate response to not agree with gay marriage. However, the Pope has supported civil unions when he was Cardinal. Civil unions still give the people in the relationship their rights, without naming the relationship something that, by definition, was instituted as a religious practice with a very specific meaning (of being between a male and a female). If the practice of marriage came from God, why decide it means something else? It would be like deciding that the novel Pride and Prejudice could be considered the Bible. Pride and Prejudice is a book, but it is not the Bible.
Besides his views on the “big social issues”, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope, and is known for his humility and his care for all people. He rides public transportation rather than taking a limo, even though he would be supplied with a limo if he wanted one. The night of his election, he joined the cardinals on the bus back to his hotel instead of riding in the papal car. He has also had a ministry spanning over 20 years in the poor areas of Buenos Aries. He recently rode a “Popemobile” and greeted people, kissed babies, and comforted people (not to mention his thumbs-up sign to the crowd) in St. Peter’s Square. His parents immigrated to Argentina from Italy, and he is the first Latin American Pope. His Jesuit beliefs are based on service; he is committed to serving others humbly, as opposed to using his power to be isolated and untouchable. He wants a return to the old social justice, simply helping the poor and caring about them. In fact, his choice of the name “Francis” is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who was also known for caring for the poor. This is making him very popular. It seems reminiscent of Les Miserables’ M. Myriel, The bishop of Digne, who is known for his care and service for others, above his own self. He lives with very little, giving the larger, nicer home meant for himself to be the hospital, and taking the smaller hospital for his home, as well as inviting in a convict and saving him from arrest after the convict (Jean Valjean) steals from him.
The new Pope also believes that God is always forgiving and merciful to all. Another encouraging stance he has is that of creativity in revitalizing the church and seeking new ways of evangelism, as opposed to thinking the church should stay inside, and wait for people to come who will not come near the church building. He talks about economic structures of inequality being “social sin.” He also calls out and condemns the modern slavery that is taking place in the sweatshops and with the homeless of Buenos Aries:
“In this city, slavery is the order of the day in various forms, in this city workers are exploited in sweatshops and, if immigrants, are deprived of the opportunity to get out. In this city, there are kids on the streets for years....... The city failed and continues to fail in the attempt to free them from this structural slavery that is homelessness.”
The theme of modern slavery is something to ponder as Passover begins next week; Passover talks about the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, and how God delivered them from their bondage into freedom. That is what Pope Francis wants to be a part of doing for the poor.
In Jesus’ last supper, which was the Passover, the disciples got into an argument:
“A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:24-30)
Jesus also washed the disciples’ feet at the last supper, showing through His humble actions that being the greatest is not something for which to strive.
Pope Francis said of his openness towards other religions:
“Dialogue is born from an attitude of respect for the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It assumes that there is room in the heart for the person’s point of view, opinion, and proposal. To dialogue entails a cordial reception, not a prior condemnation. In order to dialogue it is necessary to know how to lower the defenses, open the doors of the house, and offer human warmth.”
"The theme of rejecting 'spiritual worldliness', has been described as a 'leitmotif' of his teachings even before he became Pope. Understanding this worldliness as 'putting oneself at the center', he said that it is the 'greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church'." (from Wikipedia)
Of course, these are just a few examples of many of Pope Francis and all that he has done out of service for others and speaking the encouragement and light that are the Truth of Jesus Christ.
An encouraging quote from his speech to world leaders is, “Today, too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.” “Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives. We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness.”
Another quote: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service.”
Books to read about knowing God, the Passover, and servant leadership:
Upside-down Leadership by Taylor Field
Spring: Connecting With God By David, Chelsea, & Sarah Simon