I recently read a magazine article that claimed Pope Francis was becoming a very unpopular pope because of some of the positions that he espoused. The piece singled out his immigration stance and views on divorced Catholics.
The article claimed that Pope Francis wants all countries to welcome immigrants and refugees and that he wants to soften the Church’s rules about the reception of the Eucharist by divorced Catholics.
My own feeling is that this Holy Father remains exceedingly popular. His writings and preaching are nuanced and sometimes can be misunderstood.
The other evening I was at a meeting in a Brooklyn parish and the people were talking about an article in The Tablet about a group wedding held in a Queens church. The article was about couples who were already civilly married and wanted the Church to sacramentally bless their unions.
There was a time not too long ago when many Catholics would have been scandalized by such a ceremony. The focus would have been on the fact that people had been married without the benefit of a church ceremony. Today – and this is in keeping with the spirit of Francis – the emphasis is on the desire of the people to have their marriage recognized by the Church. It’s a beautiful thing and a pastorally astute notion.
The people in the parish where I was could not have agreed more. They were speaking about how wonderful this type of church ceremony is. Even the pastor of the parish applauded the couples’ desire to be married in the Church and become one with the other members of the Church community. These were folks who needed to be encouraged and applauded for their efforts.
The conversation was all in keeping with the mind of Francis. For me, this was one more example of how wildly popular Pope Francis continues to be.
Everywhere I go there is great interest in this pope, even among non-Catholics and Catholics who have fallen away from regular practice. He has captured the imagination of the world in ways that have been unheard of.
There is no doubt that he has ruffled some feathers, especially in the upper ranks of the Vatican. The changing of high-ranking officials there is no accident. They are indications that this pope moves in different ways than other popes. He does not contradict any of their teachings but he puts the emphasis in different places.
Those who don’t like his style say that the pope has broken with the past and has defied the Church’s consistent teaching. The truth is that he proclaims the same truths by exploring different paths to reach that truth.
Those who claim they prefer more reserved popes and more conservative customs need to be reminded of St. Paul’s admonition that there is no Church of Peter or Church of James. There is only the one Church of Jesus.
In the same way that the Church is one body, sometimes there needs to be more emphasis on the healing of an arm or leg or head.
Let us not resort to splitting the Church into factions, according to popes. Let us come together in worship of the one God as one Church. Let us take care of all God’s people, remembering that we all speak different languages, but we proclaim the same Lord.