Pope Francis Offers the World an Example of True Leadership
The world has not listened to God or His vicars throughout much of human history
It's a trifecta! For me, Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI were a unique team that no one could follow; but with the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as the new Pope, I can see a seamless flow between all three. We we need to ask ourselves, do we see the dignity and value of our neighbor that John Paul II saw in him or her? Do we honestly thirst for truth like Benedict? Do we have the humility and courage to submit to the truth and live our lives in loving service and simplicity like Pope Francis? To a certain extent, our answers to these three questions will determine what the world will be like in the future
Blessed John Paul II gave me a beautiful vision of human dignity and our ultimate destiny in The Theology of the Body. Benedict exposed the popular thinking of our age as a lot of hot air and as a "dictatorship of relativism." He also showed me the reasonableness of the Christian faith. Now, it appears that Pope Francis is poised to give the world something that it desperately needs: humble and courageous leadership.
Of course, there is more to these three men than I have indicated, and there is much overlap between them. However, it is these qualities that stand out most for me. In this respect, Pope Francis' example of leadership reminds me of the leadership that Jesus himself exercised.
Jesus told the apostles, "Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:26-28). He also gave a visible sign of his leadership in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, verses 14 and 15: "If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
In general, all Catholic Popes reflect this kind of leadership, who, by tradition, are called the "Servants of the Servants of God." But Pope Francis appears to have a particular sensitivity to the kind of leadership Jesus exemplified.
For instance, when he was the Bishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, his motto was miserando atque eligendo. A rough English translation would be "lowly but chosen." He also lived a simple lifestyle. Instead of staying at the bishop's residence, he lived in a small apartment, and he cooked his own meals. He also used public transportation instead of the chauffeured limousine normally reserved for the Bishop of Buenos Aires.
He continued his humble ways immediately after being chosen as the next Pope. We witnessed it in the way he addressed the world for the first time as the Pope, and in his decision later that day to take the bus back to his hotel instead of the Vatican motorcade. We witnessed it again when he chose to keep his old motto, "lowly but chosen," as the Pope; and we continue to witness it to this day.
But humility is not his only trait. When he was a cardinal, he challenged Argentina's leaders on moral issues. It seems Cardinal Bergoglio's outspokenness annoyed former President Nestor Kirchner, who saw him as a political rival. He also had tense relations with Kirchner's widow, the current president of Argentina, Cristina Fernadez de Kirchner, especially over the government's efforts to legalize marriage between homosexuals.
He also spoke out against other prevailing issues in Argentina. He called abortion and euthanasia "abominable crimes," and he denounced the inhumane treatment of the elderly. In a joint statement of Latin-American bishops, he condemned the rampant trafficking of children and women for the sex trade. He also called Buenos Aires a "bribe-taking city," and he harshly criticized its wealthy citizens for having ignored the needs of the poor.
It does not appear he is about to change his ways now that he is the Pope. I say this for three reasons. First, he picked the name Francis. The name a pope picks is significant. To a certain extent, it gives us insight into the man's past and his future. Saint Francis had a love for humility, simplicity, poverty, nature, and people. He was also called by God to rebuild the Church during a time of corruption.
Second, the day after the election, he prayed at the tomb of Pope Saint Pius V, who was a reformer and swept the Church clean. Pius V also united a confederation of Catholic armies, the Holy League, for the purpose of defending Europe against a Muslim invasion. In 1571, despite the superior strength of the Muslim navy, the Holy League crushed them at the Battle of Lepanto.
The third reason I think Pope Francis' leadership will continue to exemplify courage is because his installation was scheduled on the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is viewed as the protector of the Church. In his homily during the installation Mass, Pope Francis mentioned Saint Joseph's strength and courage. Then he spoke about the vocation of being a "protector."
He said, "I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one ...
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