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Consdering Pope Francis, the 266th Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church

While I am an evangelical protestant historically anchored in the Baptist and Anabaptist movements and am married to a man with deep German Lutheran roots, I have great appreciation for our Catholic brethren. In many ways we Protestants stand on the shoulders of the Catholic Church who kept the faith alive for centuries.

While I am an evangelical protestant historically anchored in the Baptist and Anabaptist movements and am married to a man with deep German Lutheran roots, I have great appreciation for our Catholic brethren. In many ways we Protestants stand on the shoulders of the Catholic Church who kept the faith alive for centuries.

None of us – Catholics, Lutherans or Baptists have carried the message of the Gospel perfectly and through the centuries we have been on various sides of the defense of orthodoxy. That is a given.

But, in a day of great global confusion morally and in a world in which cultural diversity and pluralism is the norm, the arrival of Pope Francis on the scene of Christendom is in many ways refreshing. He is known as a man of simplicity with unwavering moral conviction and possessing a passion for the poor. He shuns ostentatious trappings. During his role as Cardinal in Argentina he traveled to parishes and churches on the Buenos Aires subway or bus dressed as an ordinary priest and chose to live in a small, simple apartment.

The Wall Street Journal commented (3-15-13),”In his opening hours as Pope Francis, the Argentine known as “Father Jorge” broke with tradition by taking a group bus and retrieving his own bags from the hotel.'  In his first appearance on the Vatican balcony he asked for prayer from the thousands of pilgrims waiting in the rain for the announcement of the new Pope.

And from the same article regarding the homily of his first mass broadcast over giant screens in St. Peter’s Square he spoke:
“When we don’t build on rock, you know what happens – the same thing that happens when children build sand castles on the beach. It all comes down. After these days of grace, I hope we will have the courage to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord, and build his church.”

In the beginning weeks of his Papacy the newspaper headlines and by lines read: “Father Jorge Described as a Man of Simplicity” (WSJ);  “In Buenos Aires, Francis known as humble” (Dallas Morning News) “Pope’s First Moves Stress Rebuilding, Humility” (WSJ); “Humble Start: Signs From Papacy’s First Days” (WSJ).

Since becoming Pope, Pope Francis chooses plain attire and rides in the elevator and a minivan with the cardinals who elected him. Departing from tradition he will not live in the apostolic palace but in a small suite (Room 201) in the Vatican guesthouse where cardinals stay in conclave. Until Pope Frances, no pontiff has ever washed the feet of a woman or a Muslim woman on Holy Thursday of the Easter week (WSJ 3-30/31-13).  There is great speculation regarding the various gestures the Pope is offering, prompting the Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi to caution against interpreting each one which resutls in too many theories behind every particular gesture.

It remains to be seen how Pope Francis's papacy will really unfold and what his impact will be on the relationship between Protestants and Catholics, starting in Italy, the home country of the Vatican.

Jorge Mario Bergogolio was born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina of Italian immigrant parents. December 13, 1969 Jorge was ordained in the Jesuit order, an order known for scholarship and bold missionary activities. March 13, 2013, Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He is the first Pope from Latin America, the first to be chosen from the Jesuit Order and the first to choose the name Francis. He chose this name, Francis, after St Frances of Assisi famous for his piety, simplicity and devotion to the poor.

Pope Francis in the head of the Worldwide Catholic Church, the Bishop of Rome and the Sovereign of Vatican City. He is the 266th Pope.

To gain fascinating insight on this new pope watch: The Table podcast
www.dts.edu/thetable “What the new pope means for the future of the church?” with Darrel Bock, Lanier Burns, Scott Horrell and Leopoldo Sanchez offering an evangelical and Lutheran perspective on Pope Francis in the context of church history.

 This podcast was referenced in Darrel Bock’s April 2. 2013 bible.org post “The New Pope”.
 

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Gail Seidel

Gail Seidel served as Mentor Advisor for Spiritual Formation in the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as an Adjunct Professor in the D Min in Spiritual Formation in the D Min Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a BA in English from the University of Texas, a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary and a D Min in Spiritual Formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a contributor to the textbook, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, Kregel Academic. She served as co-director for Christian Women in Partnership Russia with Entrust, an international church leadership-training mission. She and her husband Andy live in Fredericksburg, Texas. They have 2 married children and 6 wonderful grandchildren--Kami, Kourtney, Katie, Mallory, Grayson, and Avery.