A PIONEER Pope Francis brings new perspective to Vatican. On May 12, 2013, people cheered as the Pope rode through St. Peter’s Square.
When Pope Francis was ordained as the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, he was already an anomaly in the status quo. He is not only the first pope from the Americas, but also the first from the southern hemisphere. His most notable characteristics include his concern for the poor, his humility and his pronounced piety. The Pope has elected to live in smaller quarters, make his own meals and utilize public transportation. His handling of social and religious matters, however, is what truly sets him apart from his predecessors.
Homosexuality has long been a topic of debate and controversy in the Church. Popes, cardinals and priests alike have deemed being homosexual an abhorrent sin, saying it’s “ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” and have openly campaigned against gay marriage, adoption, and LGBT rights issues. Pope Francis made headlines when he clarified that while engaging in homosexual acts is a sin, homosexuality itself is not. He went on to say that “religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.” He also sharply differed from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in stating that the Church is “obsessed” with gays, abortion and contraception, and suggested that the Church instead focus on service to the deprived and oppressed.
The Pope has also distinguished himself from the previous head of the Church with his open dialogue with leaders of other faiths. He has attempted to repair bridges that Pope Benedict burned with the Muslim community when he made a controversial lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany in saying, “show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Francis’ close ties to the Jewish community in Argentina and general respect for Judaism have prompted him to say, “due to our common roots [a] Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!” He has made huge strides in improving rifts between Catholic and Protestant communities.
Pope Francis’ interpretation of Catholic doctrine, respect for youth and other faiths, and more simplistic approach to the papacy make this immensely humble Pope a breath of fresh air.