Saturday, March 23, 2013

A "To Do" List for Pope Francis

I am pretty sure that in the blitzkrieg of events that unfold within ninety minutes or so--from finding out he received 2/3 of the vote from his brother cardinals, to accepting the position, to the white smoke, to choosing a name, to being dressed in papal garb, to praying in the chapel for a few short moments-- that this was the moment, as he was being introduced to the world as Pope Francis (seen here), that the enormity of his responsibility must have hit him. 

It's always interesting to listen to people talk during these times of papal transition. We have a tendency to project our own hopes onto the "new guy". Some of my more conservative friends were thrilled when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict, believing that "God's Rottweiler" would clean the Church's house of all the so-called "liberals" in universities, seminaries and chanceries. Many commentators this time around have clearly been intrigued with Pope Francis' humility and seem hopeful that the pomp and circumstance that has developed over the last two thousand years around the papacy will melt away. I doubt it!  Pomp isn't itself wrong, except to the extent it becomes the "ends" and not the "means" of elevating the papacy to be a more effective instrument of Christ. 

I have my own "to do" list for Pope Francis, no doubt influenced by my own biases and hopes. Here they are: 

1) My greatest prayer is that he will lead the worldwide Church to build a deeper relationship with Christ, receive the sacraments more frequently, and participate more fully in the life of the Church.  

2) May he re-present the papacy as the gospels represent Christ, who lived simply, preached boldly and eschewed worldly wealth, fame or glory.

3) May Pope Francis take seriously God’s directive to St. Francis: “Go, rebuild my church” by reforming the Vatican curia from within.  The pettiness, careerism and backbiting is destructive to the Church’s witness and diminishes the papacy.  

4) May he speak boldly against all forms of abuse and direct bishops to deal strongly and swiftly with priests against whom credible accusations are made.

5) May he use his standing as the first pope from Latin America to travel extensively in these countries, so as to embolden the faithful to stand up against corruption, poverty, drug trafficking, and prostitution--much like JPII emboldened Poland to stand against communism.

That's a pretty daunting set of tasks, especially for a seventy-six year old man!   May God give him the strength, stamina and courage to do these things. 

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