Pope Francis - A Pope Bringing Hope
Jesus and St. Peter
The Catholic Church
"We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen."
That is the ending of the Nicene Creed, a prayer said at Mass the world over in Catholic Churches. One of the things I was taught as a child is that the Catholic church is "catholic", a word meaning universal or as the early church knew it to mean, "can be found anywhere". So we were taught the Catholic Church is catholic, with a small "c". We were taught more than what is stated in the ending of this creed.
Jesus taught us "love one another as I have loved you". A tenet of the Catholic Church, always to love no matter what. Forgiveness and love.
Over the years, or maybe over the centuries, things and people have changed. The Church (Catholic Church) has changed as people have changed but the Catholic Church also teaches the Pope is the leader of the Church as told to us by Christ, "You are Peter and on this rock I build my Church." Following this scripture the Church believes each Pope is a descendant of Peter and therefore leader of the Church.
Lastly for my purpose here I introduce, or re-introduce, the term "ex-cathedra". This is the term the Church uses to define teachings that are infallible. In other words teachings directly from the Pope that are infallible and can never be questioned. Don't go shaking your head. Contrary to what I was taught as a child and according to the research I have done there are only two examples of ex-cathedra; one is that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was born without original sin and the other is that the body of Mary was assumed into heaven. This opens up a whole new can of worms for many I'm sure. Doctrine and Dogma adopted or put forth by the Church can be changed as taught and guided by the Church or Magisterium. Those doctrines can include things like fasting before Communion, or how old you must be to receive a sacrament. Mainly what I have found and always believed is they are Church doctrine and not the Law of Christ.
Now that I've opened that can of worms I would like to try to take your attention back to the Pope. He is the leader and head of the Catholic Church. He is also, however, a man. I do not say that as a derogatory statement but one of truth that has influenced the Papacy and not always favorably.
Some FAQs About Popes in History
- Pope Leo confronted Attila the Hun.
- Boniface gave all his money to the poor.
- Innocent IV approved the use of torture during the Inquisition to find out about heretics.
- Eugene tried unsuccessfully to reunite the Latin and Greek Churches.
- Callistus III declared Joan of Arc innocent of witchcraft.
- Clement VII refused a divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
- Gregory XIII adopted the Gregorian calendar.
- Paul V censured Galileo for saying the earth orbited the sun.
- Pius VI renounced the French Revolution.
If we look back in history, and I mean way back like 1048 to 1257 we see conflict between the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire, leaving us with an Eastern and Western Church. During this time there were also several claiming to be Pope.
During the Renaissance the Popes were patrons of the arts and got themselves involved in politics. A lot of pomp and circumstance at the Papacy and there were corrupt Popes who had mistresses and fathered children. Through the corruption and political intrigue the Papacy kept reorganizing and moving back to what Christ had intended it to be. In spite of the corruption and problems it faced, the Catholic Church and the Papacy have both survived.
The Church can trace the line of Popes from St. Peter to our current Francis, a list of 266 Popes! From builders, reformers, corrupt politicians, teachers, and more, there were Popes who advanced history and a few who held it back. There were Popes who lived and spread the Glory of God and there were those who definitely did not. These were the MEN not the Church!
You may or may not have known about several Popes in your lifetime. You may or may not have been aware of their accomplishments or shortcomings but your probably have been aware of the criticisms of the Catholic Church and the number of Catholics falling away from their religion. I am not saying all of this is due to the Pope but I am saying a Pope, like a good shepherd, leads his flock in the right direction and keeps them from straying. This is what I see in Pope Francis.
Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis was elected Pope on March 13 2013. A humble man, born of Italian parents in Buenos Aires. He was ordained a priest in 1969.
Here is a Pope who carries his own bag! Here is a Pope who lives in a simple apartment. Here is a Pope who cooks his own supper! These things are unheard of. He is a Prince of the Church, head of one of the largest Churches in the world, a Church referred to as a "pillar of Western Culture" and yet, he cooks his own supper!!
Did you know he washed and kissed the feet of a dozen young prisoners? Add to that two of them were girls and one was a Muslim. Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles before his crucifixion. This was considered the task of a lowly servant and by doing it, Jesus performed this supreme act of humility and as an example that we are to serve one another and take care of one another. While it is still done as a ritual on Holy Thursday in the Catholic ceremonies, have you heard of anyone else doing it? Pope Francis showed his extreme humility and showed us that we must still serve and take care of one another.
A further example of his humility and desire to help the Catholic Church is his appointment of a group of cardinals to rewrite the apostolic constitution which apportions power. He wants Vatican reform. He actually said the Catholic Church could "fall like a house of cards" if it didn't focus more on the "essentials" of preaching the Gospel and less on politics and bureaucracy.
If you aren't stunned yet, there is more. He has reached out to atheists and agnostics. He said, that God will "forgive" them as long as they behave morally and live according to their consciences. Some may take this as an insult, but stop and think about what he is saying. He is not saying if you're not Catholic you will burn in hell, he is not saying atheists and agnostics are doomed...he is saying you must live by your conscience! His exact words were, "God forgives those who obey their conscience." He is giving people a choice. He is saying you must live by what is in your heart and conscience. If you do, then you are doing right! Knowing the difference between good and evil is what separates you from sinners.
Pope Francis has said, "I am a sinner." Pope Francis admits he is a man. But he is a man with an extraordinary job right now. Leader of the Catholic Church.
A quote he gave in an interview particularly sticks with me, “Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent. The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return. But that takes audacity and courage.”
Pope Francis - St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis on The Church
A Pope Bringing Hope
I want to believe that Pope Francis will return the Church to what it should be and must be. Pope Francis said, “We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the pope."
The Catholic Church is a church of love and faith. It has swerved from its course and now it looks like Pope Francis will get it back on course. We need to return to our beliefs and humility. To love everyone not just those we like. It is time for us to live our faith, to actually be Catholics.
This Pope Francis brings hope back to the Catholic Church. Hope that we can return to our faith, hope that the Church will again be the beacon it once was, hope that the Church finds the new balance Pope Francis speaks about.
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