26 February 2014

Reconsidering Pope Francis: A picture worth a thousand words?

Over the last several days much has been made about the nineteen men whom Pope Francis created Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church this past Sunday. For example, John L. Allen, Jr., among others, sees in the Holy Father's choices an emphasis on the poor. Sandro Magister, however, has a more sober impression of the Holy Father's choices and what he means by them:
In the first consistory of his pontificate, Jorge Mario Bergoglio has not been tender with the caste of the cardinals.

At the opening of the assembly, he charged them with "rivalry, envy, factions." And in the closing homily, with "intrigues, gossip, cliques, favoritism, preferential treatment."

And yet it is to this hardly esteemed college of cardinals that Francis has entrusted the first important high-level discussion on the topic of the upcoming synod of bishops, the family, at a time like the present - the pope said - in which it "is despised, is mistreated."

The synod on the family was the focal point of the meetings held at the Vatican in recent days. The whole college of cardinals dedicated two days to it, February 20 and 21. And for two more days, the 24th and 25th, it was the project of the council of the general secretariat of the synod, which is a bit like the elective aristocracy of the worldwide Catholic hierarchy.
As I read Magister's words this morning, I could not help by think of a picture taken of the Holy Father during the celebration of the Holy Mass this Sunday in the Basilica of St. Peter:

To be sure, this is a meme worthy image and I'm rather surprised none have yet circulated with it.

I know not who took the photo; I saw it in a Facebook album of pictures taken during the Mass. I also do not know who it is - or why - who is receiving "the look" (I did not notice anything out of place at this). This is an image of Pope Francis that we do not see in the media, who shows us only pictures of Pope Francis carrying his own bag, kissing a baby, or embracing the ill. 

Now, I know that sometimes the camera will snap a picture at just the right moment in such a way that the image seen is not an accurate portrayal of what the sentiments that transpired. But, given that it would only be a few seconds after this picture was taken that Pope Francis would criticize the Cardinals for "courtly" behavior, it seems a fairly accurate representation.

As I said, this shows a side of the Holy Father we do not often see, the side of him that is more than blunt and straightforward, even to the point of being insulting, even if remaining honest.

Last week, over at Get Religion, Jim Davis in which he rightly noted that "Pope Francis doesn't always sound like Mr. Nice Guy." The entire article is worth your read, but I wish to highlight one a quote Davis takes from Laurence England:
Indeed, here’s some of the names the Pope has actually called people: “pickled pepper-faced Christians,” “closed, sad, trapped Christians,” “defeated Christians,” “liquid Christians,” “creed-reciting, parrot Christians,” and, finally, those “watered-down faith, weak-hoped Christians.”
Catholics who focus on church traditions are “museum mummies,” the Pope says. Nuns who fail to inspire faith in the church are “old maids,” and the Vatican hierarchy has at times been “the leprosy of the papacy,” in Francis’ words.
Indeed, men of the cloth face the brunt of Francis’ fulminations. He has called some of them “vain” butterflies, “smarmy” idolators and “priest-tycoons.” He’s described some seminarians as potential “little monsters.”
This list is not conclusive and has been satirically referred to as The Pope Francis Little Book of Insults.

I don't bring this up because I do not like Pope Francis; I bring it up so that we can come to a better understanding of who he is and to what he calls us. When pointing sin, Pope Francis, like Jesus, does not mince words. In reconsidering the common assessment of Pope Francis as nothing more than a smiling face, a reconsideration of the common assessment of Jesus as just a nice guy must also be down.

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