Francis, the Bishop of Rome, brings to the Church a type of change that many Catholics were not expecting. While looking for the usual papal guidance, they are encouraged to walk and follow Jesus in responsibility. While some 280 bishops were exploring the mystery of Family during the Synods in Rome over the last two years, they learned to understand that there are different and acceptable views among them on some difficult issues. While the American People and its Congress were waiting for a further papal condemnation of abortion, they had to hear that life is indeed sacred and therefore the death penalty should be banned.
Pope Francis changes radically the perspective of those raising questions and looking for answers. He simply turns to the reality of people experiencing need, whether it be material, spiritual, moral or an unknown distress. He had made this clear at the very beginning of his pontificate. Any one who has read his programmatic apostolic letter Evangelii gaudium (Nov 2013) should not be taken by surprise. “Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. (…) Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people” (Nr. 270). This Pope likes complexity and dialogue because he believes that in the midst of open and honest debates among brothers, and the all too often missing sisters, a new attitude and new behavioural patterns will arise.
On December, 8th the gates of mercy will be opened in Rome by Pope Francis and in each local Church throughout the world by the local Bishop.The flock should find open doors worldwide. Those who seek, will find a merciful Father. Those who do not understand mercy because they are not thirsting for it, will remain in their closed churches, complaining about those who are forgiven their sins, celebrating with the Father and eating the best calf together with the servants.
Let’s understand the logic of a Pope who calls himself a sinner and who ask’s “who am I to condemn?” The real difference he brings should not be searched for in the change of whatever doctrine. It is again about people. He deals with the elder son. He touches the inner morality of Christian life. In this way he radically changes the approach of traditional moral theology by transforming it swiftly into a newly to be elaborated “Theology of Morality”. A Theology, in which priests and bishops follow the people of God, a people which “does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith” (Nr. 119). The latter is the task of theologians and pastors!
Pope Francis works on our hearts of stone. With his words and deeds he transforms the environment, our culture which co-authors our moral norms and judgments. And together with the people of good he hopes for a change coming from the hearts of all concerned. Without her people the Church will be lost. Hope is where the many doors of mercy will be opened for all. Freedom is where the moral factory starts working again, assuming risks and responsibilities.