Pope Francis: a modern representative of God?

In a recent interview with a Jesuit journal in Italy, Pope Francis declared that he wants to establish a “new balance” in the Catholic Church by encouraging more involvement from women in key decisions and a less perjorative focus on the LGBT community, divorce and abortion.

The Pope called for the Catholic Church (and wider Catholic community consisting of 1.2 billion people) to focus on the growing need for reform within the Catholic Church and the views that it needs to profess. His more liberal, open-minded approach is so far removed from his predecessor Benedict XVI, that many observers feel his leadership is changing the landscape of global Catholicism. He declared that “the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” if the hierarchy tries to resist the  modernisation required to reflect today’s progressive world.

The most obvious example of his tolerance was evident when he was asked about his reaction to divorced, remarried, and gay Catholics. He said that he has had prior correspondence “from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’…they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.”

He added, “…when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person … In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.” It is this equality of affection and support that separates Francis from his predecessors, and encourages liberals that the new face of Catholicism is a religious standard-bearer, leading by example.

Having been elected in March, Francis was portrayed by the world’s media outlets as potentially revolutionary for the Church, which was still recovering from paedophilia scandals and the reaction from Benedict’s shady Hitler Youth past . The shift that Francis represents is now starting to heal and move on from its infamous reputation.

“I have never been a right- winger,” Francis hastened to point out. He admits he had “an authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions” that led to “serious problems” when he was younger.

“Over time I learned many things.”

Later on in the interview, he was asked a simple, yet open-ended question: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”.  His Holiness replied, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

Although the pontiff did not tell of any specific examples of how the Church would change its social policy towards issues such as women entering the clergy or the church’s notably hard-line view on contraception, his words of acceptance and inclusiveness are signs of a radical change in approach, which might bring about substantial reforms.

On the issue of women, he said he was wary of “female machismo”, since “women have a different make-up from men”. He elaborated that he wanted to “investigate further the role of women in the church…feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions.” This unprecedented, open attitude is something that is new to the Church, and would constitute a massive step in the Church’s stance on gender equality.

He used an example of a divorced woman who has had an abortion, remarries, and has five children; this has in turn could bring her immense happiness. “That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life … We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible … We have to talk about them in a context.”

On gay Catholics, he added to the comments he made in July when he said he would not judge a gay person seeking God. In the latest interview, the Pope attached another thought onto it: “God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.”

It’s possible that this may be a sign of a papacy based on approachability and humility, spelling a new era for the Catholic chuch: the 21st century Catholic Church. Whether the Pope’s tolerant ideas become part of the Catholic manifesto is by no means a certainty, but what Francis has done is demonstrate that his views, and ergo the views of the Church, are set to change. As the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion people, he’s illustrated that there is a fighting chance Catholicism will distance itself from antediluvian sentiments based on strict dogma and exclusivity, and that he will lead Catholicism towards greener pastures based on liberal thinking and tolerance.

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Categories: International politics, Opinion

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