Issues for the Pope to handle
THE FOCUS OF THE WORLD this past week has been on The Vatican. Christians of all faiths, others of different religious beliefs and even those who form part of the ever increasing number who do not belong to any particular religion would have been watching with interest the election of a new Pope.
The process which was filled with tradition, shrouded in secrecy and promised new hope would have left many people thinking and wondering how much will really change.
The choice of Pope Francis 1 on Wednesday to lead 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide will hardly lead to any significant change; we would be foolhardy to expect this new pontiff to institute significant reforms. There will hardly be any new approach in the way the church does its business. However, there are issues he will have to tackle.
We should perhaps reflect on the profound words of the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, when he recently demitted office: “Loving the church also means having to make difficult, trying choices . . . having ever before oneself the good of the church and not one’s own.”
This new Holy Father will have to address the sexual abuse scandal brought on by priests in the Roman Catholic Church. The church itself has done nowhere near enough to endear itself to many people disillusioned by the consistent efforts to deny, overlook or cover up the charges and allegations of severe sexual misconduct.
This bad behaviour by many priests over many years has been a most damning stain on the church especially since many of the victims have been children whose innocence was shattered by those in whom they reposed their faith.
Given the misbehaviour, it will be interesting to see how the new prelate will deal with the issue of homosexual relationships, certainly a hot topic in the developed world and even in his native Argentina. For most of the developing world, especially Africa, the traditional church position will certainly prevail.
In a world that is very different from that of his predecessors, who were in many ways absolute rulers, Francis 1 leads a church whose membership is not only looking to it to speak up on social justice issues but wants equality of the sexes.
The idea of women taking secondary roles in the church does not conform with the modern society of which the said church must be a part. A church without ordained women priests simply does not make sense in today’s world.
Undoubtedly, some Catholic communities may very well be ahead of The Vatican on many moral and doctrinal issues. We also understand that radical changes would destroy the Pope’s base. That is why we look to Pope Francis 1 and await his reforms.