By Fr. Albert Cutié
Pope Francis is inspiring! Since his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s in the Vatican to the recent visit to Brazil, we have all been moved in countless ways by the new Bishop of Rome’s simplicity, directness and affable style. Almost every person or religious leader I have spoken with – from various faith traditions and denominations – shares these impressions. There is no doubt that the new Pope has won many hearts.
In a spiritual landscape filled with “Prosperity Gospel” preachers and theology, Pope Francis offers us an authentic Christian witness which is so needed today and echoes those popular prophetic words from the Hebrew Scriptures, “…to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). His demeanor and style very clearly proclaim that money and power are not gods.
In his welcoming statements in Brazil, this message of humility was reaffirmed when he said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but I bring with me the most precious gift: Jesus Christ!” It is apparent that his unassuming nature is not for public relations purposes and it is certainly not for show; it is the way he has always chosen to live as a follower of Jesus, a priest and bishop and now he has brought those personal attributes to the papacy. That is refreshing!
The challenge for Pope Francis will continue to be trying to reform an institution that does not always put as much emphasis on the core message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it does on its own norms, policies and procedures. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church in the last 25 years has also removed itself from the reforms of Vatican II (1962-65) which were intended to modernize the mission of the church in today’s world and has spent much more energy and time on unsuccessful crisis management. The Pope will also have to be very careful in choosing the “helpers” he needs in order to reform the bureaucracy and eliminate corruption in certain areas of the Church, because so far, unfortunately he has chosen some who have and will bring him even bigger problems than the ones he is trying to clean up. It is not an easy task, but I pray that with God’s help, he will accomplish it.
I believe that the countless non-biblical rules and norms that the most powerful decision makers have insisted on get in the way – and sometimes even damage – the very fabric of the Church. When good people are excluded from Holy Communion and other sacraments; when the institution and its norms become more important than the demonstration of true Christ-like compassion; when horrible crimes and corruption are covered up and not confronted in order to avoid the consequences of damage to the image of the institution; when married men and women are excluded from ordained ministry, it is the entire Body of Christ which suffers; even beyond the Roman Catholic Church.
Brazil and World Youth Day are like a big party: A true festival of faith and youthful enthusiasm. But, once the party’s over, the Pope will have to return to a full plate of issues to resolve. Personally, I just hope that his very apparent personal faith and commitment to the message of Jesus will sustain him and guide him in his enormous task. Let the inspiration and needed reforms continue!
Father Albert Cutié is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. He is Rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Biscayne Park, Fla., where he lives with his lovely wife, Ruhama, and their three children.