New pope, new hope Francis' humility impresses world
The pope is the face of the Roman Catholic Church, and the change in the Church's top leadership has generated considerable discussion ahead of the holiest of Christian holidays, Easter Sunday.
But as the Rev. John Szada, pastor of Divine Redeemer Church, Mount Carmel, reflected on the recent installation of Pope Francis, he reiterated a point the new pope himself made just before the 2013 papal conclave.
"He warned against spiritual worldliness," Szada said earlier this week. "That particular speech seemed to have a very profound impact on the cardinals. What he's talking about more than anything else is that the Church must reflect the face of Christ.
"It's not about the Church, it's Christ. What we have to do is rely on God and the Holy Spirit to guide us."
When Pope Francis was elected by the cardinals on March 13, his elevation to the papacy was met with hope and optimism, in no small part because of his reputation for humility.
A powerful man of great influence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and beyond, he lived in a simple apartment, cooked his own meals and often used public transportation. His work with the poor carried over to his papacy with his choice of name, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi.
As an archbishop, he performed a ritual foot-washing on Holy Thursday in hospitals and jails, and he continued with that practice this year as pope at a juvenile detention facility in Rome.
In many way, he appears more approachable than recent predecessors.
"He's very gregarious. He really reaches out to people. I've never seen, in the past, popes actually hugging people," the Rev. Francis Karwacki of Church of Our Lady, Mount Carmel, said.
Pope Francis exchanged hugs and kisses with journalists while in Rome, Karwacki said, and he shared more hugs with parishioners at Mass. "He acted," Karwacki said, "like a regular pastor."
His behavior and his attitude make him very relatable to people of all walks of life, Karwacki added.
Pope Francis caused a stir among both conservative and liberal Catholics Thursday when, while washing feet at the detention center, he did so for two young women. It was a first for a pope, scholars say, and a break from church tradition.
While much has been made about the man's humility, Szada said people should use caution when reading into the new pope's humble background. Pope Francis has many positive qualities and is quite sincere, but he said that should not be interpreted that he has a liberal attitude.
"There's a hidden danger of people reading into his personality," Szada said.
As for potential changes in church teaching on contraception, ordination of female priests, abortion and homosexuality, "I don't think you're going to find them in this pope," Szada said.
Although women are barred from becoming priests, Karwacki stressed that they do play a "tremendous role" in the Church. The chancellor of the diocese is a woman, he said. However, when it comes to the priesthood, the priest acts in the person of Christ, Karwacki said, and a literal interpretation of those actions requires the priest to be what Christ was, a man.
"The Church will remain conservative," Karwacki said. "We don't change with public opinion."