Pope Francis – where's the surprise?

Pope Francis

Let’s start the year with a good news story! Since he was elected in March, Pope Francis has been making waves and charming friend and foe alike. It’s worth reviewing.

19 things that blew one reporter away

Distractify reporter Mark Pygas found 19 things Pope Francis did in 2013 that blew him away, including:

  • He ordered a German bishop to explain how he had spent $3 million on a marble courtyard.
  • He invited a boy with Down’s Syndrome for a ride in the Popemobile.
  • He urged the protection of the Amazon Rainforest.
  • He snuck out of the Vatican to feed the homeless.
  • He invited homeless men to his birthday meal.
  • He spoke out against the Church’s ‘obsession’ with abortion, gay marriage and contraception.
  • He has taken active steps to fight sexual abuse by clergy.

And many more radical, fun or prophetic things.

Pope Francis wins people over

Francis seems to have a way of winning people over …

  • He won the Time Magazine “person of the Year” award.
  • A gay rights magazine named Francis the “single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people” because of his more empathetic attitude to LGBT people.
  • ‘Ordinary people’ seem to love him and relate to him, though some conservative Catholics are not so comfortable.
  • Catholic churches in Ireland have reported significant increases in attendance, seen to be a response to the new Pope.
  • Photos show he seems to enjoy himself hugely when he interacts with people, and they mostly respond.

Why are we surprised?

It seems surprising that a senior Catholic clergyman could enjoy himself, relate to people in a loving way, go out of his way to make friends with the poor and marginalised, and speak out against injustice in the world and the tyranny of the rich.

But why?

Does this remind you of anyone?

Jesus is recorded as having done the same sorts of things. Pope Francis got the ideas from Jesus. Why are we surprised?

We are surprised because so few church leaders behave in this Jesus-like way.

Whether it is career Catholic churchmen, academic Anglican bishops, fundamentalist rabble-rousers or Pentecostal televangelists in white suits asking for more money, so many church leaders are not servant leaders like Jesus was, and like he taught us to be. (Of course there are some in each category who do serve rather than impose themselves, but they are unfortunately less visible.)

Many are preachers but not so many are doers. We need leaders who ‘walk the talk’. And I need to walk the talk too!

When will we ever learn?

If we christians want to be effective in carrying out our mission in this postmodern world, Pope Francis is showing us an old way we have almost forgotten how to walk. I will return to this theme some more.

Photo Credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Compfight cc

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  1. Pope Francis is living out truths that others seem only to give lip service to. He’s fascinating people in a very good way, though it’s a shame, as you say in the post, that this is so foreign to people’s experience with the church and Christians that this is so surprising and refreshing.

  2. I truly admire Pope Francis. He is a challenge to me as a Mennonite Pastor who talks a lot about discipleship and following Jesus. Pope Francis is putting talk into action. He is truly like Jesus. I pray for him because we know what happened to Jesus. And it could happen to this man. May God be with him and us all.

  3. Hi Dennis, thanks for sharing that. I think it speaks volumes about Pope Francis, and about you, that you can so admire someone who one might expect might be very far removed from you theologically. I think we will start to pray for him too. Thanks for that thought.

  4. A lot of my neighbors have been very happy to see the different “attitude” that Pope Francis has been bringing to Catholicism. I agree. I thought it was so cool to hear the stories related to the homeless and have been pleased to hear a more tolerant tone in general.

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