Revolutionary path of Pope Francis: his challenge to the church!
There is, therefore, not a lot that is new about Pope Francis, except that he walks the talk. He wants a Church for the poor, is outspoken, lives a modest life and drives in a vehicle that reflects the image that he is attempting to project. He is even shedding the Church of some of its ostentatious symbols. The positions he has been taking should not be surprising, because they seem to come out of the Liberation Theology that was very common in Latin America in the late 1960s and 70s. Liberation Theology, which grew out of a method of training lay workers, was influenced by the work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and selective parts of Marxism. The term was actually coined by the Peruvian Gustava Gutierrez whose book, The Theology of Liberation, was published in 1971.
Pope Francis is shaking up the Catholic Church not by what he says, but by what he does. His influence and impact will depend a lot on how the laity of the Church responds to his message. A very good example of this was seen recently in the United States of America, where parishioners confronted the Catholic Archbishop of Atlanta and convinced him to sell his US$2.2 million house to follow the example set by the Pope. Archbishop Wilton Gregory apologised to the parishioners and intends to move out shortly from the residence that he had only been occupying for the last three months. The sale of the house will go toward meeting the needs of the Catholic community.
His message, his lifestyle and commitment have attracted not only Catholics, but even persons who are not Christians or not religious. His Apostolic Exhortation âEvangeli Gaudium of the Holy Father Francisâ that was dedicated to the hierarchy of the Church and to lay persons was geared to provide an understanding of the proclamation of the Gospel “in todayâs world.â They are “guidelines that can encourage and guide the whole church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality.â
Clearly there is a lot wrong within his Church that the Pope needs to deal with. He feels, however, that “structural and organizational forms are secondary,â since critical to his project must be a reform of attitude. A challenge is thus thrown out to the Church, one that calls for the inclusion of the poor and sees the poor as central to the Gospel. His is a call to action. The response to his message is based on the reality of a world that has gone astray, with its throwaway culture where anything that does not serve globalisation is discarded. This includes the elderly, children and youth.
He regards it as dangerous “to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric; …realities are greater than ideas.â He targets, particularly… those Christians whose lives “seem like Lent without Easter.â Does any of this have significance for SVG? Should his message not have a special appeal to us?
Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.