Saturday, March 16, 2013

Leonardo Boff on New Pope: "Francis Isn't a Name, It's a Plan for a Church"

At his website now, Leonardo Boff has an important theological statement about Pope Francis and his call to rebuild the church, which Rebel Girl has helpfully translated at her Iglesia Descalza site. Boff notes that he had predicted that the new pope would be called Francis, because the Catholic church today stands in imperative need of rebuilding, as it did when Francis of Assisi heard the Lord tell him, "Francis, go and rebuild my church." Boff thinks that the new pope deliberately chose the name Francis because he recognizes that the church is in ruins now due to scandals and demoralization that have eroded the church's most precious possession: its moral voice and moral credibility.

As Boff notes, Francis of Assisi was not even a priest, but a layman who reluctantly agreed to be ordained a deacon only at the end of his life when the Vatican decreed that laymen could not preach. He did so with the proviso that he was not ever to receive remuneration for being a deacon.

And then Boff notes,

Francis isn't a name; it's a plan for a Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power. It's a Church that walks the way together with the least and last, that creates the first communities of brothers and sisters who recite the breviary under the trees with the birds. It's an ecological Church that calls all beings those sweet words "brothers and sisters". Francis was obedient to the Church and the popes and at the same time he followed his own path with the gospel of poverty in hand. So theologian Joseph Ratzinger wrote: "Francis' 'no' to this imperial type of Church couldn't be more radical; it's what we could call a prophetic protest."(in Zeit Jesu, Herder 1970, 269). Francis doesn't talk; he simply inaugurates something new.

And he points out the ways in which, from the inauguration of his papacy, the new pope has already sought to model the vision of Francis for the church: he did not wear the imperial mozetta cape when he appeared on the balcony as his election was announced; he stated that he wants to "preside with charity" (i.e., not as an absolute monarch); he gave a central place to the people of God by bowing and asking for their blessing; and he avoided "spectacle" in how he met and addressed the crowds following his election. 

Boff concludes,

It's worth mentioning that he's a pope who comes from the Great South, where the poorest of humankind are and where 60% of Catholics live. With his experience as pastor, with a new view of things, from below, he will be able to reform the Curia, decentralize the administration, and give the Church a new and credible face.

And many, many people pray and hope he's right. I'm one of them.

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