POPE Francis was officially installed as supreme head of the Roman Catholic church last March 19, during the religion’s most solemn 40-day period called Lent. It climaxed with the observance of Holy Week a week hence, then capped in a glorious mystery-bursting twist with Easter Sunday.
There is, perhaps, more divine grace than mere coincidence in the convergence of the Vatican event and the holy season. The Pope has promptly urged a return by the 1.2-billion Catholics to the basic values and teachings of Jesus Christ as the way to renew and reinvigorate their battered Church. Follow in the footsteps of Jesus, Francis said. Those footsteps led through Calvary and Death, then to Resurrection and Life – a template of hope and love and salvific happiness.
The Pope adopted as his papal name that of St. Francis de Assisi, whose life and work closely followed Jesus’. The saint lived at the 14th century tail-end of the European Enlightenment, when the Old World emerged from centuries of intellectual, cultural and economic limbo. Many today perceive that the Catholic Church is fighting to free itself from an analogous limbo, partly an inter-generational and ideological resistance to Vatican II reforms. It will take a New World pope to pull the prestige trick – with domino effects from continent to continent, hopefully.
A massive missionary renewal of the Church down to the grassroot level will work wonders for Mindanao. It will turbo-charge existing inter-religious solidarity-building and help much to overcome the many structural dysfunctions in present society that cause great unpeace and misery in people.
To follow in the footsteps of Jesus does not mean retreating back to biblical or doctrinal fundamentalism. On the contrary: Jesus ate and mingled with prostitutes, thieves, pagans and Pharisees to convert them into his radical teachings. When Pope Francis lets the sunshine in on the musty corridors of Catholicism, he must let in all such pollutions that hover around, too. God’s grace will take care of the rest, to separate the chaff from the grain. It’s time for a New Renaissance: As the classic song says –
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
Age of Aquarius
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation.