Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

The Vatican’s new messenger

 

OUR OPINION: Pope Francis signals new direction and greater inclusiveness for Catholic Church

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

It was startling to hear Pope Francis declare, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” He is, after all, the supreme pontiff of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, arbiter of moral issues and symbol of ecclesiastical rectitude.

If he is not prepared to judge, why should anyone?

That is precisely the pope’s point. His words did not signal a doctrinal change in the church position that homosexual acts are a sin. Nor did he retreat from the church’s position against the ordination of women.

But he sent a clear and important message about “gay” people — the word he used in response to a question about gays in the priesthood — that marks an encouraging change in attitude, perhaps a new approach for the church in dealing with those with a same-sex orientation.

They should not be marginalized by the church, he said — nor, by implication, society at large. Who are we to judge?

This change in tone should not be lost on anyone, nor should the larger message of inclusiveness. That message was brought home by the pope’s remarkable visit to Brazil, home of the world’s largest Catholic population.

Get out of the sanctuary and talk to the people, the pope admonished members of the clergy. He set the example by visiting a crowded favela, talking to inmates as well as students and young people in small groups.

He waded unafraid in his popemobile into tumultuous crowds eager to see him up close and preached to millions on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

This pope wants to reinvigorate the institution and bring it closer to the grassroots, away from pomp and incense and closer to the spirt of humility symbolized by St. Francis of Assisi, whose name he adopted for his papal identity.

His sermons were in the same vein. “No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world,” Pope Francis told a rain-soaked crowd in the Varginha favela, where he was received enthusiastically. “Those in possession of greater resources,” he declared, must “never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity.”

The words of the first Latin American pope on his visit to the continent of his birth are sure to find resonance in a part of the world where tensions have often reached the breaking point between a “popular” church that seeks to speak for the poor and an institutional church with a more traditional outlook.

His sermon was sure to be well received in Brazil, where poverty remains a huge problem. But the pope also underlined the greater importance of spiritual life: “It is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry — this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy.”

The pope’s visit to Brazil and his comments on homosexuality highlight the way in which the Argentine pope is writing a new chapter in church history. From the day he was elected, he began to change the rules in a way that signaled a refreshing new direction.

He lives in a Vatican residence with visiting clergy instead of the plush papal apartments. He eats there with everyone else. He carries his own luggage, shuns some of the pontiff’s elaborate regalia and, on occasion, speaks one-on-one with tourists visiting the Vatican — even the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

Traditionalists may be shaken by this new approach, but the pope evidently believes it’s time to shake up the church and bring it into the 21st Century, at least somewhat. And he may be right. Who are we to judge?

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) goes up to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers' Evan Turner (12) and Spencer Hawes (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Jan. 17, 2014, in Philadelphia.

    Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    The Heat unites us

    OUR OPINION: Team will take us all along in its quest for a third NBA championship

  •  
Everglades National Park retiring superintendent Dan Kimball watching over the park last month.

    Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Two wins for the Everglades

    OUR OPINION: Protecting region’s clean water supply remains a challenge

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Let the state choose textbooks

    OUR OPINION: Allowing districts to select them is a plan for inconsistency, ideological battles

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category