Local News: First Presbyterian Church of Jackson's Women in the Church group will be sponsoring a WIC conference this Friday, March 22, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. For more information, read this past Sunday's church bulletin.
On March 13, the Roman Catholic Church selected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new Bishop of Rome. The new pontiff, who was inaugurated yesterday on March 19, has taken the name Pope Francis, in honor of the beloved Italian saint, Francis of Assisi.
Because the office of pope carries with it both religious and political responsibilities, political leaders from around the world began pouring in their words of welcome to Pope Francis shortly after his election. Vice-president Joe Biden and recent Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum, both of whom are Catholic, offered congratulations, as did President Barack Obama. The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, in an article titled “Obama sends prayers, warm wish to Pope Francis” quoted Obama as saying, “As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.”
Indeed, as Pope Francis is the first non-European pope elected in 1,000 years, coming in the wake of the first papal resignation in 600 years, his election is, to say the least, historic. What kind of pope will he be? Theologically, Pope Francis is considered to represent a conservative brand of Catholicism, at least more conservative than that of many of his colleagues in North America. Pope Francis is not expected to implement changes which so many more liberal Catholics are calling for, such as the ordination of women and the lifting of the requirement of clerical celibacy. Ideologically, people who liked Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are likely to approve of Pope Francis; people who didn’t, aren’t likely to.
Finally, the big question Jackson Presbyterian Examiner would like to explore is: how will his papacy effect Protestant/Catholic relations? In a blog posted the day of his election, Christianity Today quoted former Anglican Archbishop of the Southern Cone, which is based in Argentina. Venables had this to say of the new pontiff:
“[Bergoglio] is much more of a Christian, Christ centered and Spirit filled, than a mere churchman. He believes the Bible as it is written. I have been with him on many occasions and he always makes me sit next to him and invariably makes me take part and often do what he as Cardinal should have done. He is consistently humble and wise, outstandingly gifted yet a common man. He is no fool and speaks out very quietly yet clearly when necessary. He called me to have breakfast with him one morning and told me very clearly that the Ordinariate [created by the Catholic Church to accommodate alienated Anglicans] was quite unnecessary and that the church needs us as Anglicans. I consider this to be an inspired appointment not because he is a close and personal friend but because of who he is in Christ. Pray for him.”
If this former Protestant leader’s opinion is worth anything—and it is—then Protestants should be encouraged that Pope Francis thankfully appears to be someone who will work for unity, not against it. Venables is right—we ought to pray for him.
· To learn more about the newly elected pope, Jackson Presbyterian Examiner would recommend "Argentine Jorge Beroglio becomes Pope Francis", published in the Clarion-Ledger and "Pope Francis, the pontiff of firsts, breaks with tradition", published by CNN.