Fr. Britto's Blog

A Pope for All

As I write this column, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is on his visit to Brazil. Hopefully this will be the first of many journeys that he will undertake to strengthen the faithful and give hope to the poor. While the eyes of many are focused on St. Mary’s Hospital in London from where the royal baby will emerge, many others are following the Pope’s voyage. In the four months that he has been the head of the Church, he has managed to electrify many Catholics and has captured the imagination of non-Catholics.

Secular media which are not known for their sympathy towards the Catholic Church are enamored of him. In its recent issue, TIME magazine dedicates six pages to him and to his Brazilian journey. Here are some glowing words from that article:

They [The Brazilians] know that Francis is the Pope of the poor. Did he not name himself for the son of the rich man from Assisi who gave up everything to walk barely shod, a saint in sackcloth? Has not this new Pope refused to live in his palace? And did he not say that the shepherd of the faithful must smell like his sheep? The astonished whispers are everywhere, not just Brazil… A Pope for the forgotten; a Pope for the godforsaken… A Pope for everyone?

A few days ago the Pontiff announced that soon he was going to canonize two of his predecessors: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Those two Popes could not be more different. Elected to the papacy in 1958, John XXIII was a compromise candidate because he was old and because as a diplomat he was expected not to change the Church in any way. On the other hand, Pope John Paul II was elected as a successor of Peter while the Church was still in shock at the sudden death of John Paul I, and he became the first non-Italian Pope in a long time. John XXIII opened the windows of the Church in order to bring her to dialogue with the world and his slogan was aggiornamento (updating). John Paul II came to Rome to steady the Church after the reforms of the Vatican Council – according to some – had emptied out seminaries and convents, and confused the faithful. John XXIII won the hearts of all as he was known as “Good Pope John.” John Paul II traveled to the farthest corners of the earth mobilizing young people and brought hope and enthusiasm to Catholics by his personal charm and clear teachings. Both these shepherds were servants of the Holy Spirit and they were placed at the right moment in the life of the Church to fulfill the specific needs of their time.

This gesture on the part of Pope Francis to canonize these two Popes, quite different in their approach and leadership – one hailed by liberals in the Church and the other claimed as their own by conservatives – is not a coincidence, but a deliberate decision on the part of a leader who understands the present need to unite the Church. Pope Francis is asserting that holiness belongs neither to the right nor to the left. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It does not depend on our political ideology or theological leanings. It ensues from our humble submission to the will of God. Instead of claiming that God is on our side, we must strive to be on God’s side. When we come to the end of our lives, we will be judged not so much by our doctrine but by our life, not by our words but by our actions. If the very election of Pope Francis is the explicit work of the Spirit, then the canonization of these two Popes is also the initiative of the same Spirit. Once again it reminds us that the Lord continues to guide the Church. As He said to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” As followers of Christ, we must lay less emphasis on our ideologies and expend more effort to hear and fulfill the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray that the Holy Father’s pilgrimage to Brazil will bear much fruit not only in that country but also in the entire continent. May God protect and strengthen our Pope!

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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