THE PROGRESSIVE POPE By Benjamin Seo / Gavel Media Staff “What does the church need most at this historic moment? Do we need reforms? What are your wishes for the church in the coming years? What kind of church do you dream of?” These were the questions that reporter Antonio Spadaro, SJ, posed to Pope Francis in an interview released for America Magazine on Sept. 19. The response to these inquiries provides insight into Pope Francis’s defining vision of the future of the Catholic Church. Through this vision, he may just be the first truly progressive pope. Pope Francis has a clear plan in mind for the direction of the Catholic Church, and it involves unity through the repair of past inflictions. “I see clearly, that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity,” he said. “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.” Fr. James Bretzke, SJ, a professor of moral theology in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College, helped break down the pope’s metaphor. “I think he is saying implicitly that there has been a bit too much cholesterol testing in the Church up to the present and that isn’t relevant to people.” Instead of getting caught up in dogmatic teachings, Pope Francis emphasizes the mercy and compassion found in the central tenet of the Church, the Gospel. “The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with
the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant,” the pope told American Magazine. A true leader, Pope Francis has done his best to live in tune with the values of the Gospel. Whether answering phone calls to comfort the distraught or washing the feet of prisoners, the pope has done his best to heal the wounds of those that have long been condemned by the Church: homosexuals, divorcees and atheists. Fr. Bretzke admits that many disapprove of the pope reaching out to these socially wounded groups. “[Pope Francis] acknowledges that people have reprimanded him and criticized him for this approach… for not speaking out explicitly about contraception, abortion and the rest of that stuff,” he said. “He acknowledges that he has heard these things and he is saying, ‘I’m not going to do it anyway.’ He says we need a balance and we need to be a church of mercy.” The mercy about which Pope Francis speaks has been obvious from the beginning. The night he was announced to be the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, he bowed before the masses and asked the world to pray to God on his behalf. It was at that moment that Pope Francis began the process of building the field hospital over St. Peter’s Basilica. With him comes the rebirth of a more relational church, a nod to the truth that human beings are social and a return to the Gospel full of truly unconditional mercy and compassion.
With him comes a rebirth of a more relational church, a nod to the truth that human beings are social and a return to the Gospel full of truly unconditional mercy and compassion.
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