Pope Francis reveals his spiritual boldness yet again. Recently at St. Peter’s Basilica he shocked the congregation by confessing to an ordinary priest before hearing the confessions of fellow priests during the ceremony. He continues to display his ability to lead with authority, without losing his humanity and integrity.
The Pope’s boldness is infusing a fresh vision into the leadership of the Catholic church, one of spiritual vibrancy and courageous humility. He is intentionally modeling the kind of leadership that Jesus asked of his apostles and ministers: to be a servant of all.
He’s not only inspiring Catholics, but Evangelicals as well.
While Protestants might not agree with some of the doctrines the Pope holds to, there is nevertheless an evangelical spirit to his way of leading and speaking. Pope Francis is committed to the Gospel, to communicating to the world who Jesus is and the life he invites us into. Not only in his preaching and recent writings (the latest an exhortation to the church entitled Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel) but in his bold public gestures he is deliberately displaying who Jesus is, what He is like, and how He seeks us out in love.
One of the beautiful aspects of Pope Francis’s style of leadership is that he spends little time engaging in negative or pessimistic critique of those outside the Roman church: Protestants, Muslims, atheists (he has reached out to atheist groups publicly). Rather, he focuses on encouraging the church to be bold in extending compassion, support and healing to those in need – especially the poor.
Evangelicals can learn from Pope Francis’s example; rather than living out of a fear-based or reactive stance towards those of other faiths or traditions, we can with Spirit-led courage seek legitimate ways to build bridges, heal wounds, and show the warmth and compassion of Christ.
During Pope Francis’s now-famous first interview as Pope, he was asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” His answer? “A sinner.”
This was no trite answer, no shallow religious platitude. This was the response of a man who knows who he truly is – a man, a sinner, welcomed by Jesus, called to extend that same welcome to others.
And so, last Friday before receiving the confessions of other priests, Pope Francis pauses to kneel down before an ordinary priest, to be that which he has always been – a man, a sinner, in need of the welcoming and pardoning embrace of Jesus.
Flickr photo (cc) by Catholic Church England and Wales