BY MAGGIE MCCONNAHA
Why a Pope who cares about the poor should be the norm, not the exception
Just over two years ago, Pope Francis rocked the world by choosing to be named after St. Francis of Assisi, the first pope to ever do so. He chose it after a cardinal reminded him to “not forget the poor.” He took this message to heart and, ever since becoming pope, he has gone viral at least once a week with how he is either changing the papacy or making the world a better place for everyone—not just Catholics.
He started this “revolution” on Holy Thursday of 2013. Instead of following tradition, he upset a lot of Catholics by washing the feet of normal people instead of priests,including ] one Muslim woman. Later, he gave up living in the papal palace, rejected the normal glittery robes and chose to walk in the crowds instead of ride in the “Pope-mobile.” Since that awesome beginning, Pope Francis has continued to impress humanitarians all over the world with his compassion and mercy toward the poor and marginalized. He’s created public showers for the homeless and regularly visits prisons. He even excommunicated the Mafia from the Church.
These are wonderful and amazing things. His determination to actually live out the Gospel and serve the world the way Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi did is inspiring and uplifting when the news is constantly depressing. But why is this a radical thing? Why are people so flabbergasted that finally there is a leader of the Catholic Church that is acting out what Jesus said to do?
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a list of eight “new commands” that instruct people to be humble, peaceful, merciful and pure. There is no better living example of a person following those commands than Pope Francis right now.
Before Pope Francis, many people were cynical and desensitized to the Church. The popes were people separate from the rest of the church, living in splendor and wearing fancy vestments. to connect with the people or to become a living example of how to live as a Christian. Coupled with the little or too-light action on priests in child molestation cases and the grandeur of the papal life, it’s no wonder that so many people were disparaging about Catholicism in general.
Hopefully this kind of servant leadership will continue to be a characteristic of the Vatican after Pope Francis’s papacy. With these kinds of examples becoming more common in the Catholic Church, maybe more people will want to stay in the Church or be more than just “Christian in name.”
More than just being a servant pope in order to call people back to the church and make them excited to be Catholic again, a pope should be a servant leader because of the political position he (or she in the future, please!) is in. Pope Francis has already met with President Barack Obama and other world leaders about social problems like the environment, the poor and building peace between nations and groups. A pope is in a special position in that he is not the leader of a nation but is connected to people across the globe. By working to serve the poor and marginalized as Pope Francis does, the pope offers a selfless voice to people not usually represented in politics. Because he does not have a political/monetary stake in the outcome of a country’s decisions, political leaders are more likely to listen to his advice.
Pope Francis has the potential right now to make a lasting impact on the world; he already has won over the hearts of millions of Catholics. Now, he just needs to continue acting as an example for lay persons and future popes to come. Hopefully, he has started a new generation of popes who really act like Jesus.