COMMENTARY | Time magazine this month made the perfect selection of Pope Francis for Person of the Year.
The current Pope’s emphasis is all about being a true Christian by loving the least among us. He is not about judging or being an authoritarian, but about Christian values of helping others and choosing reconciliation over argument. In the short time he has been Pope, Francis has spoken out for the poor, prisoners, gay people, peace, and social justice generally.
Just recently, on the Day of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, during the start of the Christmas shopping season, the Pope went to Via Condotti in Rome, specifically stopped at a street lined with extravagant stores like Prada, Armani, Cartier, Gucci, and Dior, and stated out loud in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary: “never be left indifferent to the cries of the poor.”
Also extremely notable this year, the Pope criticized Catholics for being “obsessed” with criticizing gays, abortion, and birth control. He believes, it seems, not so much in judging and criticizing others, but instead being inclusive and accepting of everyone. He has described a Church that is “a home for all” rather than somehow stating that one is loved more by God by following all the Church’s rules and regulations.
“I see the church as a field hospital after battle,” Francis said. “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about his level of blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we talk about everything else.”
Instead of the tradition of washing the feet of twelve priests during a solemn Mass, the Pope washed the feet of youths of a Roman prison, including two women convicts, which came under fire from Catholic traditionalists.
The Pope has also spoken out for economic justice around the world.
“Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities,” he said.
He has also asked, ” How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
Most recently, in a speech titled “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace” he criticized the “widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs.” Francis also criticized injustice, human trafficking, organized crime, and the weapons trade as obstacles to peace.
Furthermore, this Pope has reached out to other religious leaders and non-believers, including atheists, agnostics, the Jewish community, and our “Muslim brothers.”
In short, this Pope has made me proud to call myself Catholic and Christian again. When I was a youngster in Catholic school, one of my favorite songs was “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” Pope Francis is a true Christian because of his love. Contrary to some criticism, he is not a disciple of Karl Marx, but instead models himself after Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!