Francis sees protection of creation and of human beings as involving not only compassion, but love and tenderness.
By Fr. Bwangatto Ambrose John
On 19th March 2013, Pope Francis began his ministry as Bishop of Rome and of the whole universal Church. The ceremony was opened with the celebration of the Eucharist in St. Peter’s Square, Rome.
On this same day, he also received the pallium and the fisherman’s ring as instruments of power proper to his office. In his homily Francis during this celebration, he gave a central place to the theme of the protection of the creation along with the protection of all human beings.
He drew this theme of protection from the Feast of St. Joseph which Catholics observe on 19th March every year. Pope Francis sees Joseph as protector of Mary and Jesus, and is taken as the protector of the whole Body of Church.
Pope Francis said of Joseph: “In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is to follow Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!” He continued to say that this protection is a vocation to which all humans are called: The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving only Christians alone; it also has a preceding dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.
It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.
It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts! Pope Francis highlighted that the failure to respond to this vocation of protection ends in tragedy: “Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.”
Sadly he noted that there are always “Herods” who arise in different ages to bring death.
Francis invited leaders of peoples to join him in the work of protection of creation and of our human brothers and sisters: “Please, 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 another and of the environment”.
Francis sees protection of creation and of human beings as involving not only compassion, but love and tenderness. He said: “To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a ray of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope!”
Towards the end of his homily, Francis spoke of this protection as central to his own ministry as bishop of Rome, and also as the vocation of each person: “To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!”
The invitation of the Pope to all people of good will to “protect with love all that God has given us” deserves a serious meditation! The events of 22nd September 2016 in Arua Catholic Diocese and other unfortunate events unfolding in our society each passing day, leave us questioning whether the message of Pope Francis, however remarkable and lofty it is; carry any meaning to Christians generally and Catholics in particular.
Catholics and the Catholic Church in its various manifestations in the local contexts, is supposed to replicate the messages of the Pope so as to be an instrument of peace and development. In the Catholic Church, the teaching of the Popes within their competencies is considered authoritative and instructive. And that explains why respect to the Pontiff is an outstanding pillar in the Catholic Church binding all members.
The standoff in Arua Catholic diocese between some sections of Christians and their Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki is inconsistent with the spirit of Pope Francis who calls on Christians to cultivate Mercy and Love; Reconciliation and forgiveness; Peace and Justice. And this explains why the Catholic Church in a statement disowned the acts of violence and rioting by Christians of Arua because their actions are inconsistent with the very essence of the gospel and the teaching of Pope Francis, our leader.
If Christians also turn into rioters, then who will stand as a standard of true human values? And if the Pope preaches Mercy and Peace and reconciliation and forgiveness, but Christians choose violence, do they take the teaching of the Pope seriously?
The writer is Prefect of Studies and Lecturer of Philosophy and Theology at St. Mbaaga’s Major Seminary, Ggaba