Pope’s remarkable style

Pope Francis is barely six months in office and his pontificate is having a remarkable effect on people both inside and outside the Church.

The Holy Father has an extraordinary ability to find simple words to pose fundamental questions about the world in which we live, about the Church and about the life of faith.

Pope Francis challenges Catholics to become the “tender embrace of Jesus” for all who are marginalised and on the fringes and on the frontiers of the society in which we live – this is a challenge to the wider world too. Pope Francis has been rightly critical of the ‘throw away’ nature of much of the modern world, a culture that sees people as products or cogs in wheels rather than unique human beings made in the image and likeness of God.


Last week’s interview with Pope Francis should be read and embraced by all Catholics. In his characteristic simple style the Pope is encouraging Catholics to give reason for the hope that is within them, the hope of the Gospel. He is underlining the fact that if people experience Catholicism as an ideology or as a list of rules they will be unable to come to know and love the person of Jesus towards whom all the Church’s missionary activity should be directed.

The way in which the women and men of the Church live their lives is critical: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire,” St Catherine of Siena wrote in the 14th Century. It is a challenge as relevant today as it was then. People come to faith because they see the transformative power of faith in the lives of others.


Many Catholics are understandably frustrated that some elements of the media have sought to misrepresent the Pope’s message for cynical purposes. Unfathomably, a British-based newspaper accused the Pope of performing a ‘u-turn’ when a day after the interview was published, Francis condemned the evil of abortion. Not that there was anything in the original interview that indicated that Pope Francis was departing from the traditional Christian understanding on the sanctity of human life. Such examples show the urgent need for Catholics to read and reflect on the Pope’s words.

It goes without saying that the Pope’s responsibility is to guard the deposit of faith, but this should not be understood as a merely defensive posture – the Pope must also go out and embrace the world. In giving his interview Pope Francis is causing people who have long-since walked away from the Church to have a second look: they need to experience the Church as an open and welcoming community.

Evidently if people think the Pope has turned his back on the Church’s tradition they will be disappointed, but if he can encourage people to re-engage, even in a fragile fashion, he is doing his job of confirming the faith of the Church.