The hierarchy and ostentation surrounding the Papacy gives most Quakers a headache. However, the tone and content of Francis’ inauguration will be very welcome. Catholic social teaching, on many issues, chimes with the reported concerns of Jesus.
Francis has called for a “Church for the poor” . The BBC website reports that
Pope Francis said in his homily that his power, to be authentic, should be service to others – especially the poorest and the weakest in the world. The new Pope apparently hopes to repair the reputation of the Catholic Church by reviving basic Christian teaching.
His chosen name, Francis, honours St Francis ofAssisi, the 13th-Century son of an aristocrat who spurned a life of luxury to live with and for the poor.
Francis, 76, expanded the image, referring to Francis of Assisi and saying that the role of protector was not just a Christian one.
He said: “It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world… It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.
“It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”
Francis called on “all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life” to be protectors of creation.
“To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope,” Francis said.
Without care for the environment and fellow humans, “the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened”, he said.
“Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world.”
Francis said the pope himself must be inspired by the lowly – “the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those who Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison”.
There are issues on which Quakers might think this Pope is way off beam; there are very difficult issues in his in-tray; the debate about Christian unity is a complex one. But few can deny the importance of this opening homily.