While it is pretty cool that Pope Francis was named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” he is not the first pope to be named so. Blessed John Paul II was also given the moniker of “Person of the Year.” There was one more pope thusly honored but technically speaking he was named Time’s “Man of the Year.” (Times and Time have changed.) That would have been Blessed John XXIII. I bring this up just in case people forget we have had a string of popular popes. But this is not to diminish the uniqueness that is Pope Francis.
As reported on a Quote Tuesday, Mr. John Allen, Senior Correspondent for the NCR and Senior Vatican Analyst for CNN, gave a talk on Pope Francis at the First Friday Club of Greater Akron. In his talk he said that if you really want to understand this pope, one must see his actions through three basic pillars through which the pope guides his pontificate.
The first is “Leadership through Service.” If there was anybody deserving to be served and worshipped, it was God Himself, Jesus Christ. Yet what did He do? He came to live among us as a man and used His glory, honor, and power to serve His people who were in need of saving. Likewise, Francis calls on his clergy to move away from a mindset of privilege and as shepherds to carry the scent of the sheep on them. It is good advice for everybody. Instead of using our resources and privileges solely for self aggrandizement, use what we have been given to assist those who do not have your blessings.
Second is the “Social Gospel.” He eschews what he calls the “Throw Away Culture” of the world. This does not mean that he wants us to recycle more. This is referring to a tendency to see certain people as “less than” and not afford them the dignity that all human beings should have. From conception to death, all humans should have the right to life and dignity. Life is the most basic of rights and that upon which all rights rest. And there will never be true peace on earth until all are afforded this most basic of rights.
Finally is the idea of “Mercy.” Perhaps this pope will be remembered as the pope of mercy. Though one cannot separate the idea of judgment from mercy, perhaps we have a great handle on the judgment of God, but not so much on His mercy, which this pope emphasizes. “God never tires of forgiving.” This is a message we need to proclaim and practice.
This is the new pontifical age. With John Paul we had, “Be Not Afraid.” With Benedict we saw highlighted faith being wedded to reason, and with Benedict: “Mercy.” How blessed we are in our leadership.