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Pope Francis: The humanist of our times

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Added 28th March 2018 10:26 AM

He refused the traditional papal mozzetta cape upon his election and preferred his piscatory ring to be silver instead of gold

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He refused the traditional papal mozzetta cape upon his election and preferred his piscatory ring to be silver instead of gold

HUMANITY | POPE FRANCIS

By Fr. Lazar Arasu

“Being human” means ‘being a man of the people, being down to earth, being benevolent and being accommodative to everyone.’ The word ‘human’ when used as an adjective, means being close to the simple, being practical, taking hold of life, and finding ways to reach-out to neighbours and those in need. The parable of the Good Samaritan is perhaps an outstanding allegory on humanism.

The story of Good Samaritan is brought alive in the church and society of today by Pope Francis. The Pope wants the Church that he leads to be ‘human’ that is, to reach-out to people, especially those living in margins of the world’s economy, human rights and basic needs. His catch-word is ‘periphery’.

In his first address to the Church as the Pontiff, he would say, “I want the Church to be poor and for the poor.” Poor includes all those who are looking for something to hold on and stand erect. He believes that it is poor who will save the church and stand by the church.

The five years of intervening have seen the first pope named Francis seeking to build up the Church by unleashing Jesus on the world. He seems to enact the mission of St. Francis of 12th century to ‘rebuild’ the church. The world has responded powerfully to his simple, direct style and his prophetic application of the Gospel to 21st century realities — whether pastoral, geopolitical or both. As the chief shepherd of the Church, when talking to the priests and other members of the hierarchy, he always insists on avoiding clericalism—a vice according to him is power seeking, being aloof from people and being above the ordinariness of life; is making the world to go around oneself, boosting one’s own ego and being self-centered.

Pope Francis has just completed five years of his office. After the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in February 2013, the papal conclave elected Bergoglio as the new Pope. He opted to reside in the ‘Domus Sanctae Marthae’ guesthouse rather than papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace. He refused the traditional papal mozzetta cape upon his election and preferred his piscatory ring to be silver instead of gold. These actions have justified his persona of a simple clergyman working for the faith and people and not for fame and power.

Both religious and not-so-religious people praise Pope Francis for his humanistic way of approaching life. Humanism is defined as ‘the system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity predominate.’

If we Christianise it as Religious Humanism it can be defined as, ‘a system that that is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with religious rituals and beliefs that center on human needs, interests, and abilities.’ Perhaps Pope Francis is a typical religious humanist of our times. But he also goes beyond religious circle; any person of good will and any person with a slant of humanism with surely accept him as a humanist – a lover of human beings and the world at large.

The Pontiff himself seems to be happy to call himself a religious (Christian) humanist. At the fifth National Convention of the Italian Church in October 2015 he said, “I do not want to design in the abstract a ‘new humanism,’ a certain idea of man, but to present with simplicity some features of the practical Christian humanism that is present in the ‘mind’ of Christ Jesus.” He wants to lay out his vision for “a new humanism in Christ Jesus.”

The Holy Father said, “humanism should take its starting point from “the centrality of Jesus… in whom we discover the features of the authentic face of man.” The Pope bases himself on the words of St. Paul to the Christians of Philippi: “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.” What is this attitude? Then the Pope suggests three specific traits of Jesus: humility, disinterest, and happiness. Jesus himself explains this in the life of beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Pope often says, “Closeness to people and prayer are the keys to living a Christian humanism” that is “popular, humble, generous, happy.” He adds: “If we lose this contact with the faithful people of God, we lose humanity and we are not going anywhere.”

Our humanism, more so as Christians should lead us to others; and by reaching out to others we reflect the face of Jesus, and Jesus himself is the face of the Merciful Father.

“We can speak about humanism only by starting from the centrality of Jesus, discovering in Him the features of the authentic face of man," the Pope would say. "…the contemplation of the face of the dead and risen Jesus that recomposes our humanity, fragmented as it may be by the hardships of life, or marked by sin. We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ." By this, the Pope means that we should not make the face and message of Christ abstract, but make it simple, practical and authentic.

Pope’s several quotable quotes highlight these traits of Jesus. “No one can grow if he does not accept his smallness. ...I think that we succumb to attitudes that do not permit us to dialogue: domination, not knowing how to listen, annoyance in our speech, preconceived judgments and so many others. …Humility, meekness, magnanimity, and love to preserve unity! These these are the roads, the true roads of the Church. Let us listen to this again. Humility against vanity, against arrogance—humility, meekness, magnanimity, and love preserve unity.” Only these traits of Jesus that are make alive by Pope Francis will save not only the Church but of whole humanity.

The writer is a priest and school administrator

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