Biblically informed observers observe that there is something biblically-nuanced about movements which, though obscure and once-powerless, are now changing the Christian Church in European and other parts, while the big and powerful churches rarely prosper. Yes, how ironic.
At all levels, the visit of Pope Francis to Jordan and Palestine was a huge success. For about 26 hours, everything was implemented as planned. And the few unplanned moments worked out quite well, leaving indelible memories and images.
Pope Francis has shown us a faithful, peaceful approach to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. All of us can follow his example. We are all Pope Francis now. It is up to all of us.
Pope Francis' trip to Israel beginning on May 25 is clearly an important visit, as any papal appearance is. Its greatest importance may lie in the fact that it reflects the normalization of relations between the Vatican and the State of Israel, not to mention Catholic-Jewish relations more broadly.
We have seen a great shift in this Vatican's tone. But what have we not seen? We have not seen the shift fully extend to the women of the church.
Who would have imagined that the third pope in 15 years will be visiting Israel -- the nation state of the Jewish people -- and Palestine and Jordan? This would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago.
While it might be argued that the Pope Francis's understanding about human sexual orientation, especially LGBTQ's is expanding, and his concern for the dignity and humanity of LGBTQ people is genuinely shown, the pontiff is still a doctrinal conservative when it comes to women.
Religious or not, one can't help but be drawn to how the Pope has humanized his role as the leader of the Catholic Church, one of the most powerful organizations in the world.
Does it surprise you that Philadelphia's Mayor Nutter and Pennsylvania's Governor Corbett were blown off by the Pope? Doesn't surprise me at all.
Pope Francis should certainly come to Philadelphia, but his visit should not be herald as a moneymaker for the city; instead it should be orated as a potential sacred moment for a city so deeply divided to heal.
The most remarkable thing about the Pope is that what he is doing should not be remarkable. He is simply doing what Popes and Christians should do - care for the poor, critique inequity, interrupt injustice, surprise the world with grace, include the excluded and challenge the entitled.
Despite his rampant popularity and sound bytes that give lapsed Catholics great hope, Pope Francis cannot save a Church by himself, nor should he have to.
When women participate as a "non-minority" in any social structure, dialog and decision-making patterns become more collaborative. More options get on the table.
I periodically go to religious services for their moments of quiet and reflection. Too often I leave feeling the faith leader missed an opportunity to reach the congregants and to advance the cause of humanity. But I am also fortunate to know some faith leaders who, like the Pope, dare to show the way.
Sure, the religious right is still teamed up with conservative politicians in their battle against gay marriage, abortion, and immigration reform -- but the days of Americans actually heeding what they say is over.
On January 26, 2014, Pope Francis I sat at a window in front of a crowd and released two doves of peace, which were immediately attacked by a seagull and a hooded crow. People speculated, usually with a bit of humor, that the incident might presage a coming apocalypse.