Everyday Theology: Pope Francis, Man of the Year

Time Magazine has named Pope Francis its Person of the Year for 2013.

After a mere nine months on the job, Time Magazine has named Pope Francis its Person of the Year for 2013.  The editors at Time award the annual distinction to the individual whom they consider the most influential global newsmaker of the year.  What is it about Francis that makes him such a sensation?

Francis became pope at a time when all the news streaming out from the Vatican was negative. The clerical sexual abuse scandal, Vatileaks, the Vatican’s paternalistic attitude towards women religious in the United States, the refusal to discuss the ordination of women, and the endless focus on sexual morality had disheartened many faithful Catholics. While many were wondering how much longer they could remain part of the church, others had already left.

Into this milieu, a relatively unknown cardinal, José Bergoglio, burst onto the world stage and captured the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics alike with lightning speed.  Choosing the name Francis, after the saint known for the renunciation of his wealth, his embrace of poverty and his radical commitment to the gospel, Pope Francis signaled that change was afoot.

At the institutional level, Pope Francis is initiating change.  He has set up committees to address the church’s dismal record on child sex abuse and to restructure the Vatican Bank. On a pastoral level, he has called a synod to discuss the issues facing families. While there is nothing unusual about a pope calling a synod, Francis is asking ordinary Catholics for input in advance of the synod through the circulation of a questionnaire that is available online in most dioceses.

Since his election as pope, Francis has surprised the world with his spontaneity and humility. He is a man who eschews both the trappings and protocols of the highest clerical office in the church. He drives around the Vatican in a 1984 Renault, a gift from a priest who served the poor, instead of the papal Mercedes.  He acknowledges the institutional sinfulness of the church, as well as his personal failure to perfectly follow Christ and receives the sacrament of reconciliation bi-weekly.  He reaches out to the disadvantaged and wounded, not only caressing a man disfigured with neurofibromatosis, but also by walking among the poor at night in order to feed them.  He meets the temporal and spiritual needs of those with whom he comes into contact.

This man, who is the subject of so many photos, is not about the photo-op. This man, whom some call “Francis, the Frugal”, and who promotes a “culture of encounter” between the church and the world, is about following Christ. Francis brings the Gospel message of hope into lives that are broken, and into a world where the news is generally negative.

In my view, Pope Francis has an extraordinary ability to make God present to people. He reminds the world that the message of Christmas is a message for everyday: God is with us. He shows the church and the world that God is not an abstract theological concept wrapped up in dogma and doctrine, nor a far off deity unconcerned with the affairs of humans.  Francis carries the healing mission of the church into the world.

This global newsmaker is about much more than headlines, good public relations and snappy photos. He is about the compassionate mercy of God, and that attracts attention.

Trail resident Louise McEwan is a catechist and former teacher, with degrees in English and Theology. She blogs at www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Reach her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

One additional staff member at Kelowna long-term care home tests positive, no new deaths

Interior Health says Salmo’s COVID-19 cases have been contained. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Interior Health: Salmo’s COVID-19 cases are contained

Every person who tested positive has recovered

Vases of red roses will be placed in remembrance at several locations in Trail on Monday. Photo: Jamie Street
Trail bridge goes red on Sunday to honour national remembrance

Every night in Canada over 3,400 women and their children are in shelters trying to escape violence

Masks are mandatory indoors in all B.C. businesses. Photo: Black Press file
Think about the common good: wear a mask

Opinion by Trail Times columnist Louise McEwan

The Village of Salmo has told Cody Puckett and Ashley Nelson that clearing land at this property doesn’t constitute building a property according to a bylaw. Photo: Submitted
Work in progress? Salmo family, village at odds over property construction

Cody Puckett says he’s being evicted from his own land, which the village disputes

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020, featuring COVID-19 relief payments promised for most households. (B.C. NDP photo)
Next $1.5 billion in B.C. COVID-19 cash ‘prudent,’ Horgan says

New round of payments for household incomes up to $175,000

Most Read