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Monday, November 4, 2013

What This Bishop Has Learned From the Bishop of Rome

by ldsbishop (bio)

I was sat in a Stake Priesthood Leadership Training Meeting when Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected as the Bishop of Rome to become the 226th Pope of the Catholic Church. While I was concentrating on my priesthood meeting (honest!), I kept one eye on a live blog as Pope Francis was revealed to the world.

I love how theatrical the election of a Pope is, with the College of Cardinals locked away within the walls of the Sistine Chapel while the world awaits the white smoke signalling the result. When the President of the LDS Church dies, the result is a forgone conclusion, but the Papal Conclave adds an element of excitement to proceedings. I suppose not having a conclave in the LDS Church is a good thing, the smoke signalling the result would wreak havoc with the already terrible air quality in Salt Lake City.

Between the ages of 4 and 11 I went to a Catholic School. I wasn't a Catholic, my parents just enrolled me in a school with a good reputation, but I immersed myself in certain aspects of Catholic culture: attending mass each week and spending time after lunch with some friends and a Nun, going though the sequence of prayers on the Rosary in order to get out of playing outside. After leaving the school with good grades and a heavy dose of guilt, I left religion behind for ten years before I became a Mormon. Even though I was never an active Catholic I have always kept one eye open to what is happening in the Church that took such an important role in my early religious upbringing.

I have followed the change of tone emerging from the Catholic Church since the election of  Pope Francis and I have found a lot to be "of good report." The LDS Church has its fair share of balding white men to offer their spiritual insights to me, so I don't really need another from another faith but I just can't help but like Pope Francis.

In his first homily (a bit like a sacrament talk) after his election he said "... all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life."
I guess our Church isn't the only one to let culture and fringe beliefs distract us from the core doctrines of the Saviour. The LDS Church claims to have Christ at its head, yet sometimes we hear talks and lessons on a Sunday that barely mention His name. Pope Francis' remarks led me to the scripture,
"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." 2 Nephi 25:26
For any Christian Church, Mormon, Catholic or otherwise, to lose sight of Jesus Christ in any of its activities, leads its people into worldliness and away from the divine.

Which leads me to another thing about Francis that has impressed me. Before and since his election he has spoken much on the need to care for the poor and the dangers of abandoning the most vulnerable in society. Francis' lack of worldliness and genuine humility since his election shames me a little. If I were elected Pope I would no doubt have moved into the lavish papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace whereas Francis has continued to remain in humble surroundings at the Vatican Guest House. Before he was elected, Francis lived in a modest apartment, rode the bus and cooked his own meals. I admire that he is still striving to live a humble and modest lifestyle. I find this form of modesty far more admirable than the one which dictates to girls how long their hemlines should be.

Pope Francis has said that the Catholic Church must strip itself of "vanity, arrogance and pride" to serve the poorest in society, wanting the Church to resemble that of his namesake, Francis of Assisi's "Church of the Poor." Pope Francis has recently taught, "The Church, all of us should divest ourselves of worldliness. Worldliness is a murderer that kills souls, kills people, kills the Church. Without divesting ourselves, we would become pastry-shop Christians, like beautiful cakes and sweet things but not real Christians."

In addition to these things, his apparent informality and general charisma makes Pope Francis someone I admire greatly. I see Pope Francis as a man of God, as I also see my own Church leaders as men of God, striving to do the best with the divine inspiration available to them. As we, with our Catholic brothers and sisters, follow their teachings to bring souls to Christ and to serve the poor and needy, we will be part of fulfilling Heavenly Fathers plan for his children. Catholic, Mormon or whatever.

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