New Pope: New direction?

Pope Francis 1 greets crowds for the first time as Pope from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica
Pope Francis greets crowd for first time

With the choosing of Pope Francis, many wondered if anything will change as the septuagenarian greeted his flock from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time.

But Pope Francis, the former Father Jorge Bergoglio and archbishop of Buenos Aires, may surprise them all, according to a local chaplain.

Many Christians are hopeful that Francis will provide a new direction, said Dr. Michael Fallon, professor and campus chaplain at McMaster University.

“For all Christians, whatever denomination, the pope is a spiritual leader,” he said.

Fallon himself left the Roman Catholic Church because of a spiritual and lifestyle disconnect he perceived between the clergy and the common people.

He described feeling a physical disconnect as the priest served communion to the people from over a little fence at the front of the church, before which they kneeled to receive communion.

“This fence always separated the altar and sanctuary from the public worship area in older Roman Catholic churches.”

But Fallon believes change takes time, and the Catholic church is still evolving.

Rail separating altar from common worship area
Rail separating altar from worship area

“We should not be so quick to judge,” cautioned Fallon. “In many ways the church is undergoing change and Francis is part of this.”

Pope Francis succeeds Benedict XVI, the first Pope to resign since 1415.  He is the first non-European Pope in modern times and the first Pope to come from the New World.

He is also the first Jesuit Pope, an order founded in 1540 with the objective of strengthening Catholicism everywhere.

pope-francis communion on streetPope Francis appears to have the common touch. Rejecting opulent living quarters in Buenos Aires, he chose to live in a small apartment where he prepares his own meals.

He uses public transit and commonly walks amongst people in the street, unremarkable in the cassock of a parish priest. Visiting AIDs hospices, he bathes the feet of gay, dying young men.  His namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, is a canonized saint revered for his humility and charity.   When elected Pope, he quipped to the Cardinals, “May God forgive you for what you have done”.

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