Pope Francis’, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, tenure as pope has been characterized as one filled with humility and outspoken support of various marginalized groups around the world. That statement alone is profound as all of the popes before him followed strict catholic laws that did not often help those same marginalized groups of people. Much of these changes can be credited to the fact that Pope Francis is the first ever non European pope, and thus offers a different outlook on the papacy and his role as a whole. Similarly, he is one of the few popes in history to apply his different interpretations of the religion to offer diverse perspectives on controversial topics.
Bergoglio taught literature and psychology at Immaculate Conception College in Santa Fé in 1964 and 1965. He studied theology and received a degree from the Colegio of San José, before completing his thesis in theology. After completing his education and eventually receiving his papacy, many reports and articles began to surface regarding his humility and kind nature. He was the first non European pope and so many wondered what sort of changes that might offer. Barack Obama also spoke of these potential changes: “as the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world, and alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day.” Among those changes were pope Francis’ simple lifestyle which had become a welcoming change to the usual distant popes of the past. They found that when he had become a pope he returned to the boarding house where he had been staying at to pay his bill as opposed to sending an assistant to do so. He also chose to live in a two-room apartment rather than the luxurious papal accommodations in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. He deliberately met with ordinary people on the street, and washed the feet of prisoners. By making these decisions to live simply and be more approachable, pope Francis broke a tradition that had spanned for more than a century. He was passionate about religion and giving back, which in turn manifested itself into his papacy.
Pope Francis’ changes go beyond just his lifestyle. He has made it a habit to offer alternative outlooks on pre-established ideologies adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. One of the big ones being his thoughts on gay marriage: “if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Similarly, he offered a different perspective on abortions. He made it clear that it is not the Church’s place to judge and refuse forgiveness of a woman that has gotten an abortion. Pope Francis pointed to the church and the changes he hoped to see during his tenure: “we have to find a new balance; otherwise, even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” he called for the proposal of the gospel to be more “simple, profound, and radiant.” He does not wish to overcomplicate his role as pope or a person’s approach to their faith. He hopes to simplify the religion in a way that welcomes different notions instead of shying away from them.
When thinking about the environment and theology, pope Francis also does not shy away from these topics. He has showcased how progressive he is on several scientific issues. He once told the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that he supported the Big Bang theory and evolution as a whole. He stated in The Independent newspaper that “The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.” He also went on to state that evolution “is not inconsistent with the notion of creation.” Pope Francis again shows here his ability to adopt new ways of thinking by offering various different perspectives. He has made it a habit throughout his career to showcase the importance of seeing widely accepted notions through a new set of lenses. By challenging the old and embracing the new, pope Francis has made it his goal to illustrate that Catholicism can fit into any society, no matter the time period.
Pope Francis uses his passion for religion to offer a new outlook on the Roman Catholic Church. He refuses to follow the same formula that has been laid out for him by previous popes. He instead fundamentally changed what is expected from a pope. From his “who am I to judge?” statement to finding correlations between Catholicism and scientific evolutionary theories. He has illustrated that even though there are pre-established systems and structures set in place, there are always different perspectives that can be presented. He offers knowledge and wisdom to not just Catholics, but to everyone around the world. Pope Francis integrated his own thoughts and beliefs into the pre-established ones. This allowed pope Francis’ papacy to forever be marked as his own. His papacy is not filled with previous notions that were established by the popes of the past. It instead marks his own journey and how he has changed what it means to be a pope.
Author Bio: Idil Dahir
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