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GW Catholic: Pope Francis "acting as the world's shepherd"
For Pope Francis and Church, The Greatest Challenge Lies
By Chris Crawford
The George Washington University Class of 2014
September 20, 2013
It’s official: the world is in love with Pope Francis. From
the moment that he waved to the masses in St. Peter’s Square last March, the
Pope has energized faithful Catholics, recaptured the attention of lapsed
Catholics, and has earned praise – and even downright fawning – from those who
do not believe in God.
Perhaps the most surprising fact of Pope Francis’ early
papacy is that the secular media has covered him in such a positive way. Even
though the Pope is preaching the same teachings as his predecessors, the media
are encapsulated by his humble style and his energetic tone. It would be
difficult to say that Pope Francis is more eloquent than Pope John Paul II, or
that he possesses an academic knowledge that is more brilliant than Pope
Benedict, but the world still hangs on his every word, eager to approve of the
speeches and writings of Pope Francis.
Perhaps they love Pope Francis because his humility gives
him credibility. In a world full of hypocritical political leaders, perhaps
they’ve been hungry for a leader of consistency. In a world of
self-centeredness, perhaps people have longed for a humble leader. Or, perhaps
the world was hungry for the Gospel all along, and was eager to give a new Pope
a new chance to win them over.
Pope Francis has fed this hunger plentifully. The New York Times, Washington Post, and
other traditionally anti-Catholic publications have sung his praises on their
editorial pages and have covered him in a positive way in their news divisions.
Throughout the world, atheists and homosexuals have simply proclaimed, “We love
your Pope.” And many lapsed Catholics have said, “We love our Pope.”
In many ways, Pope Francis has created the very cult of
personality that he wanted to avoid. While the secular media has praised Pope
Francis, they have stopped short of praising the Church. And while
non-believers are drawn to this joyful leader, they have not yet turned
themselves toward the cross.
This is not a criticism of Pope Francis. He is actually
doing exactly what he is supposed to do; he is acting as the world’s shepherd.
In the very first answer of his famous interview on Thursday, the Pope
primarily defined himself as a “sinner.” He declared himself a sinner who has
found God, and invited the world to follow him.
Yes, this is exactly what a shepherd is supposed to do. With
his eyes fixated on the cross, he has outstretched his arms to the world and said,
Therein lies the Pope’s biggest challenge – and it’s a
challenge he shares with the whole Church. It is not enough to bring people to
the Pope; we must bring them to Christ. Pope Francis has called the world to
the doors of the Church, and they have responded to that call. It’s up to all
Catholics to get them inside.
We can do this by following Pope Francis’s example. We must
live humbly, we must show love, and we must remain rooted in the truths of the
Gospel. The Pope has taught us that we do not need to change the words of the
Gospel; we need to follow them. The values that Pope Francis preaches are not
“new”, they are as old as the faith itself.
It is not enough for us to rely on positive editorials and
favorable news coverage of the Pope, because we know that they will not always
be there. We must be the postmasters of the Gospel. With the confidence and joy
embodied by the Holy Father, we must take the extra step to bring people
through the doors of the Church and into a relationship with God.
Together with the Holy Father and in Communion with Christ
himself, it’s time for Catholics to embrace this watershed moment of the New
Evangelization. Pope Francis has assembled the flock; it’s up to all of us to
lead them home.