The Pope who pulled the Church out of the palace
The most important development in the Church last year was the election of Pope Francis as the new Pope of the Catholic Church on 13 March 2013. Although a relatively unknown figure in the Vatican hierarchy, Pope Francis very quickly moved to put his stamp on the Church with his extraordinary concern for the poor and marginalised who were of late forgotten by the church. His election comes at a time when our Catholic Church was going through some very difficult times, leading to a real crisis of confidence among the world community. His simplicity, humility and down to earth attitude touched the hearts of millions around the world both in and outside the church.
Soon on being elected, Pope Francis refused a luxurious life in the Pope’s ‘residential palace’, the bulletproof Pope mobile and preferring instead to drive around himself in a second hand car. He dines with the poor man from streets, hugs and kisses the sick and disabled, forgives sinners saying “who am I to judge them?”, tells his priests and bishops to go down to the people especially the ‘rebels’ and sinners, personally calls those who write to him for help and visits the slums and illegal immigrant camps. When his countrymen from Argentina rushed to buy flight tickets to go to Rome for his installation as Pope, he discouraged them saying, “Do not fly to Rome to celebrate with me but rather donate to the poor the money you have raised for the airline ticket”.
His desire for peace in the world was displayed in his numerous passionate pleas for peace in the world, organising prayers and vigils for peace and promoting inter-faith dialogue and goodwill. On his first public appearance in 2014 he appealed for an end to violence in the world saying, “We are all children of one heavenly Father, we belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny.” Will his pleas make any difference to peace in the world remains to be seen?
These Christ-like revolutionary actions earned him the TIME’s Person of the Year Award for 2013.TIME described him as the pope who pulled the Church out of the palace and onto the streets.
As Christians we must not just write off these actions of the Holy Father as a one-off phenomenon that is personal to him. God has sent him for a purpose which we must all reflect upon. What message is God trying to convey to us through Pope Francis? His simplicity, his humility and his love for those in pain and suffering are all Christ-like deeds that should inspire us to adopt those virtues in our own lives.
At a time when the people are losing confidence in the Church for failing to uphold the principles of Jesus in a highly materialistic modern world that questions the very existence of God, Pope Francis is taking us and the Church into a new era, an era to restore its lost credibility. Will he succeed in such a hostile and sinful environment?
The year 2014 promises some exciting times ahead with Pope Francis leading the way carrying his new banner bearing the words – The Church must be poor. As we move into 2014, let us follow the leadership of our Holy Father in becoming more Christ-like in all we do and say. It is not enough to just to read and preach His Word but to live by the Word. As the Pope says the Church must be poor we too must be prepared to become a little poorer in wealth but richer in love.
Let us imitate the Pope’s simplicity, humility and love for the less fortunate in our own task of building God’s Kingdom in our midst. Let us reach out to those in need around us, believers and non-believers alike. Let us offer our hands of friendship to fellow Malaysians of different faiths in a spirit of goodwill, tolerance and peace.
In our parishes let us unite to build a Church that takes care of the needs of all the members, poor and rich alike, regardless of whether they are active, inactive or even lapsed as they are all children of God who need to be kept intact in His flock. Let us implore God to grant good heath to our Holy Father to continue to lead us in the right path of Christ and that God grant us the courage to follow him.