A genuinely disconcerting pope

Pope Francis is a genuinely disconcerting pope, certainly in my view, but I think also, for a good number of French people and Europeans.

Oct 12, 2017

By Pascal Wintzer, Archbishop of Poitiers
Pope Francis is a genuinely disconcerting pope, certainly in my view, but I think also, for a good number of French people and Europeans.

He is disconcerting in the strong and beautiful sense of the word. For example, he impresses from the beginning with his way of thinking as well as, perhaps, in his behaviour, challenging us to move away from the welltrodden path on which we are stuck.

I am thinking particularly of his comments, as well as many of his often repeated gestures in favour of an almost limitless welcome to migrants, whatever their country of origin or religion.

He also disconcerts some of us because his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia calls for the same thing, namely openness to families – all kinds of families.

In effect, for two thousand years, we have been used to listening to popes who come from a European culture. Many of them have been Italians, while the last two were Polish and German, but still, European.

And now here is a pope who comes from elsewhere even though his father was born in Italy.

Prior to Francis’ arrival, we had not yet appreciated that our way of announcing our faith was conditioned by a particular culture because that culture was our own!

Our present reactions, not just to the words but also to the gestures of Pope Francis are certainly revealing of a cultural conditioning of which we have not been fully conscious until now.

Obviously, when a bishop is elected pope, he becomes a “universal man.” He is given by a particular Church, Argentina, in this case, to the whole Catholic Church.

However, should this universality also erase the history and particularities of the place from the pope’s place of origin? Certainly not.

As Europeans, however, we used to believe that previous popes were, by definition, universal since they were like us.

Pope Francis has helped us to appreciate that universality is not a simple extension to the whole world of the customs and traditions of the Old Continents, even if those customs and traditions were Christian.

Thus, our European astonishment is revealing, with respect to what certain Churches on other continents may have experienced when they listened to popes who prior to 2013 were all European.

With Francis, inculturation and catholicity are taking on a new consistency, becoming embedded in reality. It is no longer a matter of adapting European modes of life to other cultural contexts. Rather, it means coming to the realization that the Gospel is not simply a European possession that we are obliged to transmit to others.

It is also a matter of, in our turn, receiving the Holy Spirit, who is able to speak without any need for our mediation.

In addition, it is necessary for Catholics, including the faithful as well as pastors, and prelates, to understand that the Roman model, as useful as it is, is not the totality of the Gospel and, in any case, it is not the yardstick.

It cannot be the sole determinant of how to ensure communion.--LCI (international.la-croix.com)

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