10 years with Pope Francis

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

A Pope who loves in the way of Jesus

On March 13, the Church celebrated 10 years of Pope Francis' pontificate. It is the first time in Church history that a Pope has been elected outside the galaxy of European Christianity. And rightly so, for the vitality of the evangelical message has taken root in the non-European cultures in which the numerical majority of Catholics live. We emphasize some characteristics of his pontificate.

The most important of these was the new atmosphere created within the worldwide Christian community. We came out of a winter, of the last Popes, and a spring was inaugurated. Doctrine no longer prevails, but the concrete life of faith. There is no longer fear and condemnation, but great freedom of expression and participation, especially for women in important positions within the Vatican.

Pope Francis embodied a new way of being Pope. He no longer lives in the papal palace, but in a guest house, Santa Marta. He refuses any privileges. He lives in his guest room. Another is reserved for receiving people. He joins the queue when helping himself to meals. With humor, thinking about facts from the past, he says, “that way it is more difficult for them to poison me”. He lives a Franciscan poverty, stripping himself of all symbols of power.

It opened a new perspective for the Church. If before it was a fortified castle against the errors of the world, now it is “a Church-field-hospital” that welcomes everyone, without asking their origin or their moral state. As he emphasizes: “it is a Church on the way out to the existential peripheries”, putting its ear to the cry of the sufferers of this world.

It gave centrality to the poor. He chose the name Francisco to rescue the figure of San Francisco, the poverello from Assisi. In his first appearance he clearly said: I want a Church of the poor and a Church with the poor. It matters little if the poor person is Christian or Muslim: wash their feet on Holy Thursday. His greatest inspiration is the historical Jesus, craftsman, storyteller, defender of all those who have less life, curing them of their illnesses, wiping their tears and even raising the dead.

call god Abba (dear dad) feeling like his beloved son. He loves everyone in the way of that God-Abba, well expressed in the Gospel of Saint John: “If anyone comes to me, I will not send him away” (John 6, 37). She could be an adulteress, an anguished theologian like Nicodemus who seeks him out at night, or a Syrian-Phoenician foreign woman, or a Roman official. He warmly welcomes everyone.

He made it clear many times that Jesus did not come to create a new religion, but came to teach us how to live: unconditional love, solidarity, compassion and forgiveness. The doctrines are there and there is no reason not to give importance to them. But only with them you can't reach the heart of the human being. It needs tenderness and love.

What convinces people and even fascinates them is his uninterrupted preaching about the importance of that tenderness that embraces the other and that also applies to politics, as he clearly says in his encyclical Fratelli tutti.

But for him, the culmination of his preaching is mercy. It is the personal characteristic of Jesus and is rooted in the essence of God himself. No one can put limits on the mercy of God that reaches even the worst of sinners. God cannot lose any son or daughter he created with love. He can never lose. Hence he asserts that condemnation is only for this world. All are destined, because of boundless mercy, to participate in the blessed Kingdom of the Trinity, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' message is not only good from the perspective of eternal life. But it must also be good for this life and for Mother Earth herself. His encyclical “How to care for our common home: Laudato Si (2015) places it, according to notable ecologists, at the forefront of global ecological reflection. This is not a green ecology, but an integral ecology: it encompasses the environmental, the political, the social, the cultural, everyday life and the life of the spirit.

This is not a technique for healing the wounds on Mother Earth's body, but the art of living in communion with her and all other creatures, embraced as sisters and brothers. He is so concerned about the future of life that he says sternly in his other encyclical Fratelli tutti (2020) “either we all save ourselves or nobody is saved”.

Despite the dark clouds that cover our future, it is hopeful. It trusts in hope as that principle or rather, that engine that always works within us, seeking better ways, projecting viable utopias and clearing up the obscurity of our history. She expresses herself in these words at the end of her encyclical “How to care for our common home”: “Let us walk singing, that our struggles and concern for this planet do not take away the joy of hope”.

Finally, we are before a figure of special human density, witness to an unshakable faith and hope that we will cross the present dark times towards a biocivilization in which we can become brothers among all, nature included, within the same great Common Home. , cared for and loved.

*Leonardo Boff He is a theologian and philosopher. Author, among other books, of Francis of Assisi-Francis of Rome: The Breaking of Spring (sea ​​of ​​ideas).


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