Pope Francis

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013The Catholic Church has a new pope.  As a Protestant Christian there is lots of theology that I have in common with the Catholic Church, as well as some significant differences.

The essential similarity is a commitment to the theology outlined in the three main creeds – the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.  Those creeds cover a wide survey of doctrine but they major one is ‘who Jesus is’ and the other ‘the Trinity’. On those major theological issues evangelical Protestants have much more in common with Catholics than with liberal Protestants.  (In other words for an Australian such as myself I will find more to agree with in a Catholic mass than in many Uniting Church services).

The essential difference is that I believe in the bible – and that the theology it contains is authoritative.  I believe that when ‘church teaching and practice’ conflicts with the bible then the bible prevails and the church needs to get in line with scripture.  I also believe that the bishop of Rome has no special authority beyond his congregation in Rome.  The rock that Jesus builds his church (see Mt 16:18) on is not the person of Peter, it is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ.

Meanwhile Pope Francis was elected by his fellow cardinals a few days ago, and in the days after he gave his first homily (as far as I can tell “homily” means “mini sermon”).  It was very short, and delivered in Italian.  Such are the wonders of the internet that within a few days I was reading an English translation online.  Here are some of the best bits:

…we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail.  We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ…

The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross.  This has nothing to do with it.”  He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.”  When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord.  We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord…

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

I must admit to being stunned at how heartily I was finding myself saying “Amen” to those comments.

The other thing that gives me some confidence that Pope Francis will move the Catholic Church in a direction that a Pentecostal Protestant such as myself would be happy about is the fact that he is from Argentina.  Over the last 40 years – the duration of Pope Francis’ ministry – he has lived in a country that has seen Pentecostals grow from being a negligible movement to one incorporating fully 10% of the population.  In addition there is a huge charismatic movement within the Catholic Church in Argentina.  Pope Francis would be very aware of the impact that Pentecostalism is having.  He would see in it some things that he likes and some that he dislikes.  But he would be in no doubt about the impact that Pentecostal churches have had.  He would understand them far better than any other pope ever has.

Any church that proclaims “Christ Crucified” as Pope Francis is planning to is going to do some good things.


One Comment to “Pope Francis”

  1. Amen to that. There has always been a strong evangelical population in the RC Church. Stereotypes have blinded people to that. Perhaps Pope Francis will deal with that. Funny, too, because as a Jesuit he is what Catholics call liberal, again a label. Jesuits just feel free to ask, study, and work with people on the ground. I wonder what God might be going here. Bringing the Church together…?

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