If someone had to ask you who you most admired today in a religious and/or spiritual sense, who would you name?
Well, without doubt, I would name Pope Francis! He exemplifies what I think about when I think of true Christian principles. He is humble, and has spent all the time since his election trying to focus the Church (and Christians, for that matter) to think more about the true message of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
As a Mormon, you may ask why isn't Thomas Monson, President and Prophet of the Church, up there? Well, I do admire him greatly. I know he is a Godly man, an inspired man, and a man to live up to. But he is not in my top 5.
The problem is this: I believe in the Mormon gospel. But sometimes I don't quite accept teachings from individual present-day Mormons. I believe I can do this and still be a good Mormon.
To me, Pope Francis and Frank Schaeffer have been preaching more along the lines of the teachings of Jesus Christ of late.
Today, in fact, Jonathan Freedland published an op-ed in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian entitled: "Why Even Atheists Should Be Praying For Pope Francis." This reminded me why I not only admire the new Pope but love him more and more. I cannot think of one statement, one news item, anything that lessened my admiration of him, it just seems to increase it. In fact, more and more, I wish that not only atheists pay attention to him, but all Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Heck, EVERYONE needs to pay attention to him. The world would only be a better place if you followed his advice!
Number One Reason I love Pope Francis: his humility.
He doesn't live in the well-appointed (nigh, ostentatious) apartments normally reserved for the pope. No, he has been staying in the Casa Santa Marta, a Vatican residence which accommodates visiting clergy and lay people.
Pope Francis' bedroom at the Casa Santa Marta
He doesn't wear fancy red shoes. No, he asked his Buenos Aires cobbler to repair his old ones. He doesn't travel around in a limousine; no, he has a older Ford Focus to visit the Italian President in:
As the article states, you could condemn these as stunts, as gestures. But he is remarkably consistent. He is trying to send a message not just to his congregation, but also to the clergy of the Church and the wider world, this is part of Christ's message. Pay attention. To quote Mr. Freedland:
He is in the business of scraping away the trappings, the edifice of Vatican wealth accreted over centuries, and returning the church to its core purpose, one Jesus himself might have recognised. He says he wants to preside over "a poor church, for the poor". It's not the institution that counts, it's the mission.
This is an important message. One of the things I always liked about the LDS church is that the clergy are lay-people. They are not paid. They have their own jobs and income and their time working for the church is service to not just God, but their fellow brothers and sisters on this earth.
Additionally, it is a strong message to his clergy. In fact, when a scandal erupted in Germany regarding the "Bishop of Bling," Pope Francis did not try to excuse him or even ignore it. No, he made a strong statement by recalling him to Rome. In fact, as of November 1st, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is now living in a Benedictine monastery in Metten. There have even been calls for his $4.2 million residence to be turned into a soup kitchen for the homeless!
A wonderful message to the clergy: get with the message! Get with Christ's message!
Number Two Reason I Love Pope Francis: His Love and Tolerance
Early in his papacy, the Pope was quoted as saying "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" That stopped me in my tracks. There are a few individual churches that have been opening up to gays and lesbians, but who knew the Catholics would be one of them? Now, true, he hasn't changed the doctrine but he is changing the focus of the church.
If you listened to the recent General Conference put on by the Church last October, many of the talks focused on the dangers of gay marriage, of religious freedom, of liberalism. Things like this just make me cringe inside and want to scream out loud "Wait a Minute!" They are focusing too much on items like this. If they do mention income inequality, it is to condemn the dole. Groan.
But this Pope is focusing on the poor and the evils of income inequality. In fact, he has made a frontal attack against what he calls "unbridled capitalism" and the "throwaway attitude" of today's society.
In September, he said that church had become too "obsessed" with the topics of gay marriage, abortion, and contraception. They had focused on these while forgetting the central message of Christ. He criticized the church for "putting dogma before love" and "prioritizing moral doctrines over serving the poor and marginalized." What a wonderful message!
Look at how Christians in this country work so hard trying not to support anyone that disagrees with them on abortion, gay marriage, or contraception. They focus on these items so much that they support a party and a political ideology whose central goal is to help the wealthy and to cut social services that protect the poorest and most marginalized in society.
There have been quite a few instances where the Pope has made personal contact with these people. He has written e-mails and telephoned people, reaching out. He has even gotten the nickname "The Cold Call Pope." A pregnant woman, who is bearing a child out of wedlock, feared her baby would not be baptized due to its illegitimacy. The Pope wrote and offered to baptize the child himself. He called a young gay man that his "homosexuality doesn't matter...we are all children of God."
Are you paying attention evangelicals? Fellow Mormons? This is how you should do Christianity! No judging! No condemnation! Straight love and service.
My Third Reason to Love This Pope: Social Justice
Have you seen who dislikes the Pope? Sarah Palin! Well, if that wasn't an endorsement! The free-market Institute of Economic Affairs laments that he lacks the "sophisticated" approach of his predecessors. He has denounced the conditions that fashion workers in Bangladesh work in. He has said that God wants men and women to be at the heart of the world, yet we live in a world that worships "an idol called money." What a breath of fresh air!
Why don't I hear such topics spoken by my Church leadership? Instead, we have talks where about the supposed threat against marriage. The threat of a liberal ideology and a secular world. Even Brigham Young spoke out against income inequality:
The people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice… One of the great evils with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously… are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations…
If this evil should not be checked, and measures not taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin.Another Hope from the Pope: Eco-Theology
We are asked to be stewards of this earth. So, I have always been disgusted at other Christians who support the climate skeptics and continue to support policies that harm our planet, our home.
Recently the Pope was actually photographed with anti-fracking activists. Wow!! Now, that's a statement:
@Pontifex says no to fracking
It has even been revealed, according to Mr Freedland, that the Pope has been in contact with Leonardo Boff, an eco-theologian who was shunned by Rome and sentenced to "obsequious silence." It is even said that an encyclical on care for the planet is on the way.
Now, this is not to say that I think the Catholic church has cured itself of all its ills. It needs to work harder on curing the cancer that is the sexual abuse scandal. But the Pope is a wonderful sign of hopeful signs to come. He is also a great role model for other religious leaders out there. Christian or not. He is showing us the way not just back to Christ, but how Christ would have us act. I hope we pay attention.