Pope Francis and Me

pope francis kissing feet

As my readers know (find the posts here and here), I’ve been praying for the new pope, Pope Francis I.

When he was first elected back in March, I mentioned in a sermon that I would like members of my congregation to pray for him too, something I could not imagine hearing from my own pastor when I was a child sitting in the pews.

At the time I thought it was an unusual thing to do – a Protestant clergyman asking people to pray for a Roman Catholic pope.  A local reporter even called to ask me why I was doing it.  But the more I think about it, the more I’m glad I did it.

My hope was that Pope Francis would do something to restore integrity to the Catholic Church.  I had no idea how he was going to do that, and I wondered if it was even within the grasp of one man, even one as talented and gifted as he seems to be.  But still, I thought, the task was clear.

As it turns out, Pope Francis is doing it – and in an unexpected way.  I’ve been reading news reports – maybe you’ve seen them too – of out-of-the-blue telephone calls, which have endeared him to the public, but occasionally unsettled his aides.

Just this week, apparently, the Pope called a 35 year-old Italian woman who was pregnant and whose boyfriend had left her.  Turns out, the boyfriend was already married and had a family of his own.  She told the Pope she felt “betrayed” and “humiliated.”  Beyond that, “who will baptize my baby?” she asked him.  “I’m divorced.”

The Pope spoke to her, she said, “like a dear, old friend.”  He was certain there would be a pastor who would baptize her baby, but “if not, you know there’s always me.”

In addition to this call, the Pope also called an Italian man who has struggled to forgive God after the murder of his brother, and an Italian engineering student who can’t find work even with his degree.  Aides say that the Pope is frequently on the phone – when he’s not busy fixing the Vatican bank, restoring trust in the Swiss Guard, or appointing a new Secretary of State for the Vatican.

The interesting thing – and it really shouldn’t be surprising– is that the church is seeing signs of life and hope because of the pastoral heart of its new Pope.

When I first became pastor of a larger church, the first pastor I worked with, and someone who has been my mentor over the years, called to say, “Don’t forget to make regular hospital visits.”  I wasn’t surprised by the advice, because I had worked with him long enough to know his own pastoral heart, but it was nevertheless important, even critical, advice.

Don’t forget to be a pastor, he was saying.  Don’t forget that those relationships become the foundation for everything else you do.

I hope I’ve learned that lesson.  And I’m glad for the example of His Holiness, who’s also the pastor to a rather large flock.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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7 Responses to Pope Francis and Me

  1. Judith Ackerman September 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Thank you Doug for praying for Pope Francis.
    It is not about Religion. It is about the relationship and the heart.
    It is the heartfelt acts of love and kindness that makes a pastor, a priest, a pope, a mother, father, sister, brother, friend or even a stranger, endearing to another soul created by God. It is the unexpected acts of kindness that can change another persons life, and yes, one man can make a difference and change the world, that is what Jesus did.

  2. Michelle September 23, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    Hello Doug
    I’m curious to know if you believe that the catholic church doctrine is a “christian” one, in that it is salvific and that Catholics who believe in all the extra doctrines of Catholicism (such as purgatory, the role of works and the like) are saved and Christians?

    • Doug September 24, 2013 at 5:37 am #

      Michelle, our theological differences do not prevent me from praying for Pope Francis.

      • Michelle September 24, 2013 at 5:42 am #

        I fully agree that it does not prevent you praying- but i wanted to know what “your” views were regarding my statement.

        I think we should definitely pray for all.

        But since you said theological differences, i assume you mean that you do not believe that the catholic doctrine is salvific? and thus we should evangalise to them?

        • Doug September 24, 2013 at 7:17 am #

          I believe that the Catholic Church is Christian. If you’d like to continue this conversation off-line, I would welcome that. Thanks for your interest in my blog!

        • Michelle September 24, 2013 at 7:56 am #

          Thank you Doug for your reply- Appreciate it.

  3. marietheresamacdonald April 1, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Thank u Doug 4 the link so I got 2 enjoy another of your open minded and enjoyable write up on the peoples pope .You may ruffle a few traditionalist feathers 4 rising above the divide between our churches especially the scandals that have plagued the catholic church so far .Thanks a lot also 4 praying 4 our pope .Rest assured of my prayers 4 U , your family and congregation. This from a grateful catholic.