Is he the Pope who can help transform our church?

Written By Call To Action

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December 12, 2013

An open letter from Call To Action to those in the church-justice movement.

Yesterday Time Magazine announced Pope Francis as their person of the year, a significant honor for a humble man. For those of us in the church justice movement, what are we to make of Francis?

Is he the Pope who can help transform our church?

Perhaps in unprecedented fashion since the second Vatican Council, the church-justice movement is perplexed as to what to make of the hierarchical leadership in Rome. There is new hope. There are new questions, too.

While the new tone from the Vatican is welcome and the emphases on the poor and curial reform are long overdue, we have good reason to be wary that Pope Francis may represent a gentler version of an oppressive system that will continue to marginalize. We hope he proves us wrong.

Call To Action, the largest Catholic church-justice organization in the country, is encountering many viewpoints along the Francis spectrum. And, we believe, this is a good thing. We, and the prophetic thinkers who came before us, have worked too hard to create a Catholic space where many perspectives and ideas are welcomed to see the range of ideas as a negative. Such diversity is necessary to create a church that is just, inclusive, and accountable. Together, we yearn for such change because we love our faith and know it can be better.

Will Francis be a leader who is capable of bringing needed transformation to our church? Only time will tell. If there’s one thing all of us in the church justice movement know well, it is that genuine dialogue is a slow process and transformation takes time. We’re in this for the long haul and we always have been.

Rather than speculating about the kind of leader Francis is and will be, however, we believe the focus should be on the people of God – the church. To what extent will we, as we have now for decades, continue to stand in solidarity with those whose voices have been silenced and whose ideas have been cast aside? Women’s equality in the church, for example.

A Pope can certainly help or hinder this. Whether Francis will be more help or hindrance remains to be seen.

What are we to make of Francis? A fun question to ponder. It’ll certainly make for good holiday conversation.

Let us never forget, however, that regardless of who is Pope, transformation depends on us, the people of God.

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