Mar 14, 2013 / 05:10 pm
American Catholic scholars and commentators praised Pope Francis as a spiritual leader for our times, with the ability to unify and renew the Catholic Church.
“As a man who can both preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ boldly and confidently, yet exhibit humility, he looks like he’s got the design for the time and situation that we’re in,” said Catholic intellectual Robert P. George, who is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University.
On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected as Pope, taking the name Francis. He is both the first Jesuit Pope and the first Latin American Pope.
George told CNA that the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as Pope is “not completely surprising.”
The new Pope is one of the “leading Latin-American Cardinals,” a strong candidate in the 2005 conclave and “highly respected in the Church,” he explained.
The professor also commented that the new Pope is “a man of simplicity and humility,” taking public transportation while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and living in a modest apartment where he cooked for himself.
George noted the new Pope’s adamant teachings on caring for the poor and observed that the Pontiff is “a strong critic of homosexual conduct and same-sex marriage,” while maintaining what he described as a humble and charitable approach.
The professor recounted the story of the Holy Father as an archbishop visiting an AIDS hospice on Holy Thursday in order “to wash and kiss the feet of twelve AIDS patients.” These actions, he said, symbolize “that the Church does not condemn the person, but affirms and loves,” even as it rejects sin.
George also commented on the Pope’s outreach to Eastern Churches, a trait that he said few people have noticed. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis served as Ordinary of Eastern-rite Catholics in Argentina, who lacked their own ordinary.
“Relations with those Churches, especially in the Middle East, is very important, especially in a time when Christianity is beginning to disappear from the Middle East because of political problems,” George stressed.
He added that it is “very important for the Church to have a continuing Christian presence in the Holy Land” and for the new Pope to understand the problems faced by Eastern-rite Churches and how to support Christians in that region. …