By Juan M.C. Oliver 

Juan Oliver

Juan Oliver

On March 13, as Cardinal Tauran named the new pope, I posted on Facebook, “It´s Bergoglio!” An old friend and wag immediately posted back, “Is that a wine or an olive oil?”

With everyone else I started trying to find out more about the new pope. Yet the image of wine and oil stayed with me since, for one thing, wine and oil are featured in the biblical story of the Good Samaritan — of how an outsider was the only one to care for a wounded man left on the street, pouring wine and oil on his wounds, not his priest, not his deacon, not his compatriots.

The Roman Catholic Church lies wounded by the side of the street. For too long its Curia, the Roman bureaucratic administration has passed by it and looked the other way, living in a culture of closets, secrecy and intrigue, sworn to omertá — the mafia’s code of silence. It’s a very sick puppy.

The outsiders who might come to the help of a wounded church are kept at bay systematically. In the last 30 years over 150 top notch theologians have been silenced, nuns are kept in their place, when not investigated, and Dignity, the association of Catholic LGBT people, can no longer meet in Catholic churches.

Can we expect the new pope to be the Samaritan? Will Francis be a bracing, cleansing wine, washing the filthy wounds? Will he be the oil that softens tissues and prevents scars? Read More…

By Bishop Joe Morris Doss

The Rev. Joe Morris Doss

The Rev. Joe Morris Doss

What if this Pope fulfills all of the hopes he is building with his concern for the poor, and his down to earth charm, and it makes no difference?

Imagine the most radical actions. What if the Pope were to take off all his medieval vestments (which are no longer appreciated as first century Roman attire), move out of the Vatican palace and into the city of his episcopacy, give the wealth of the church to the poor, wash the feet of street people every day, and issue powerful declarations calling for justice and peace in all their regards? What would that mean if what remains in place is a massive, monolithic, utterly centralized, juridical, clerically dominated Church subject to the dictates of scholastic medieval doctrine that has become abstract from actualities, absolutist in the face of valued relativities, and arrogant?

We all wish Pope Francis the very best, and he has made us hopeful. Nevertheless, that very glimpse of hope makes me, personally, realize how far the church has to go; this glimmer of light makes me see the surrounding darkness more clearly.
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By Mary E. Hunt

Mary E. Hunt, WATER

Mary E. Hunt, WATER

Now that the smoke has cleared from St. Peter’s Square, the future of the Roman Catholic Church is on the minds of many. Catholics are eternally hopeful, so the news of the papal election of an Argentine Jesuit, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a man of simple personal ways, engendered a certain enthusiasm.

My first official act in the new pontificate was to call a wise octogenarian friend in Buenos Aires, my favorite city in the world, to join in that country’s pride and get an initial assessment of the man. Her reaction was what I would have expected from a Catholic in Boston if Cardinal Bernard Law had been elected. Her one word that stood out was “scary.”

Progressive Catholics had low expectations of the conclave since only what went in would come out, only hand-picked conservative, toe-the-party-line types were electors. Moreover, the process was flawed on the face of it by the lack of women, young people, and lay people. It was flawed by a dearth of democracy. Not even the seagull that sat on the chimney awaiting the decision was enough to persuade that the Holy Spirit was really in charge. Read More…

By Imam Yahya Hendi

Imam Yahya Hendi

Imam Yahya Hendi

My catholic sisters and brothers,

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum,

Let me take this moment to congratulate you and the world, including that of Islam for Pope Francis I. It is a great moment in our history and I am sure the future is full of hope.

Watching him talking and praying as he appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, I was deeply touched by his self-effacing humility that our religions value highly. I was also profoundly moved by his great simplicity, amazing smile, telling a joke, and asking people to pray for him, all of which, spoke of his sense of hope, peacefulness and of deep-rooted faith in the Living God.

His remarkable choice of the name Francis, evoking the saint of Assisi and his commitment to the poor, is just an incredible message of hope for the faithful and those who believe that our religions main fight is that of social justice and to give a voice for the voiceless.

His selection as the Pope emerging from a Jesuit background is with no doubt, at least in my mind, an affirmation of the Church’s transformation and its commitment to catering for the soul and the mind of the whole person with interest in interfaith dialogue and peace building with other religions and nations. I pray for more dialogue between Muslims and Catholics, a dialogue that will help build more bridges and better relations.

Let me be honest and say that I love him more for the fact that he is known for his love of animals, including birds, and for asking people to pray for him.

May God bless those led by the Holy father, Georgetown University and the world at large.

My best prayers.

Imam Yahya Hendi

Imam Yahya Hendi is the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, where he teaches a popular course called Inter-religious Encounter. Imam Hendi is also a Public Policy Conflict Resolution Fellow of the Center for Dispute Resolution of the University of Maryland School of Law and the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office.