One hundred and fifteen cardinals from around the world gathered this week to elect a new pope for the Catholic church. They elected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit priest from Argentina. We believe that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they have chosen a man whom they believe is the right person to lead the church at this extraordinary time. Pope Francis is an advocate of the poor and a man of humility and simplicity. The church faces a lot of challenges and if she must remain relevant, she must have a strong leadership that does not only emphasize discipline and liturgy but must also be pastoral. Shepherds of the church must not assume that the fold, like sheep, are foolish. We have smart, intelligent, spiritual people in our pews who must be listened to.
We must reach out to young people. Having worked with young people and still relatively young myself, the number one complaint I hear from our young members is that the church is not identifying with them. The church seems to be in a different socio-cultural landscape than they are. Little wonder our pews are more and more devoid of the young. The church has lost almost a whole generation of young families, those crucial families who are in their mid-20s to early 40s. Most of these are good spiritual people who see value in neither the Catholic Church nor institutional religion in general. They do not hesitate to tell you that they are spiritual but not religious. This is mostly as a result of poor catechesis. Having World Youth Days and youth conferences at diocesan levels is great, but parishes must commit substantial financial and human resources to minister to young people. We must be ready to reform our liturgies to appeal to the young.
We must be a communion. The heart of our worship is the Eucharist and Vatican II reminds us that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. In the last several years, we have not been what we receive, Communion. We are a church that is divided into liberal and conservatives, West and Global South, white and brown, gays and straight, male and female, etc. We can celebrate our differences without demonizing the "other." Those who hold progressive views love the church as much as those who hold conservative views. We must look beyond the ideologies and be a communion. We are all created by the image and likeness of one God and we share in one baptism and Eucharist. Communion is a sacrifice of love by Jesus. What should characterize our relationships within and outside of the church should be this sacrifice of love.
We must be a church of love. In some parts of the world, including the United States, the church has embraced an overly political ideology. The church's role in active politics seems to portray the failure of the leadership to convince her members to embrace the church's moral values and thus the political approach. We must never forget that the Christians did not conquer the Roman Empire politically but through love. Constantine did not save the church, he killed it. He made it a political church. Without his support, the church of Jesus Christ would have continued to grow and flourish. Let us love more and condemn people less.
What makes us church is love, and may that love guide your actions. You can always be assured of my prayerful support for you and your ministry.