A Sea Change in the Roman Catholic Church

Pope Francis is a wonderful change for the Roman Catholic Church and represents a sea change in Church history.  He is the first Jesuit Pope.  The Jesuit Order was founded by St. Ignatius Loyola as a post-Reformation reform movement within the Roman Church, the “shock troops” of the Counter Reformation.

He is the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere and the first Pope from the Western Hemisphere.  Since 40% of all Roman Catholics now live in Latin America, it is time that the Roman Church recognizes this new reality.  Instead of yet another European Pope from a continent where the church is dying, we now have a pope from a land in which the Church is thriving and growing.

The Roman Church is a global communion.  It must never again be just an Italian club, or even a European club.

The Roman Church can never be the “catholic” church until it comes to grips with the last six hundred years of history and admits that there are also Christians in the world who do not accept the Bishop of Rome as their Spiritual Sovereign.  The word “catholic,” means “according to the whole.”  The Roman Church is not the “whole” Church, but only its largest part of it.  Let us pray that Pope Francis will recognize that fact even if his predecessor did not.

And while many of us non-Roman Christians do not accept the Pope as our Spiritual Sovereign, that does not mean that we will not support and pray for him in the leadership of the Roman Church. We can work with him if he is willing to work with us.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, known to his friends and his flock as simply “Mario”, is a truly humble man.  In his former life as Archbishop of Buenos Aires he gave up his palace and occupied a small apartment.  He gave up his limousine and depended on the bus or subway to get around.  He had a profound sense of ministry to the poor, and is known for his saintly acts such as kissing the feet of AIDS patients.

The selection of the name of “Francis” is a stunner in its own right.  Let us hope and pray that St. Francis of Assisi will indeed be the guiding force of this new era in the Roman Church.

Francis of Assisi was a humble man of God.  He had no use for the church hierarchy and essentially managed to ignore them.  Francis was too busy loving Jesus to worry about rank or status or power.  Although highborn, Francis gave up all of his worldly goods so as not to be distracted in his spiritual pursuits.  He is the patron saint of the animals and of the ecosystem.  What a beautiful expression of God’s love as the world is presently in the worst extinction event in 65 million years.

May God bless and guide the new Pope.  May he have a long and productive reign.  And may he never turn from being a reformer of the Church, a servant of the poor, a genuine man of God, and a humble servant of the Lord.

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