There is an old saying; God gives the Church the Pope she needs for the time she is in. It may not be a very popular saying, but it is a true one. It is a saying that expresses a deep truth and an article of faith as fundamental to Christianity as the Resurrection itself. That the Church is divinely established, and the true head of the Church is Christ himself. This saying is true of Pope Francis as it has been for his predecessors.
To understand what this means we really need to understand the scope of the Papacy. We often hear of the great power the Pope must have to sway world leaders, or we ask questions like, “Why doesn’t the Pope do this or that.” We limit our thinking to that of political power and tend to see the Pope strictly in these terms. While the Pope’s thoughts on worldly affairs are certainly worth listening to (he is a very educated and deliberate man), these thoughts are not fundamental to his office. The Papacy only has the promise of infallibility with regards to teachings of Faith and Morals. In this regard, Francis has certainly spoken directly to the spirit of our times.
Looking at all his released documents, we see him call the faithful and any who will listen, to rediscover our shared identity in Christ – that which makes us brothers and sisters. This is fundamentally a call to move past the tribalism that breeds conflict. A simple glance around the world today will readily reveal that in a world more and more connected by technology, we as a people are more and more divided. This is not a respect for the individual that brought about the era of human rights. This is an attack on the sense of community which individuals depend on to become more fully human. Pope Francis speaks clearly to this.
Pope Francis also writes on ecology, about the need to work together to be better stewards of the planet.
Not in the same vein as the green movement, which often identifies humanity as the problem which must be reduced or eradicated for the sake of the planet. Rather Pope Francis identifies the excesses of human greed and indulgence, our haste in acting on new technologies as the root cause of ecological harm. His call is always for us to become more thoughtful and reflective people, growing past base desires and living in harmony, not discord with our natural world.
Pope Francis has continually called the world, at least any who will listen, to the Gospel message.
These are not political statements, nor are they meant to be. His body of writing speaks more to the faith and morals which he as Supreme Pontiff is obliged to speak on. He calls each of us to the Gospel, to living authentic lives in Christ, and to becoming as much as Christ as is possible for us. He is not a perfect man, and historians will do their work dissecting his papacy once it is over. Yet all of that notwithstanding, his message remains true and compelling. He remains the Pope we need for the time we are in.
Frade Conrad Fernandes/MS