Folks, Pope Francis has done it.
He has taken his stand.
He did it this morning, about three hours ago.
And his stand is with… Pope Benedict, his predecessor, with whom he will meet tomorrow.
The importance of Francis’s words today cannot be overestimated.
Francis today took his stand with the essential spiritual vision of Pope Benedict. (And note: in this talk, unlike in several previous talks, Pope Francis adhered strictly to his prepared text; he made no “off the cuff” remarks. So, this was thought-out in advance and intentional.)
If one were to summarize in a phrase, one might say that Francis today said: “I stand with Pope Benedict.”
But on what, precisely?
Francis today said he stands with Pope Benedict on the Christian conception of truth: that the truth of the Christian faith, the truth of the Christian vision of man, leads mankind toward life, more abundant life, toward justice, toward true joy.
What Francis said today was critical, and should be read carefully by all who want to understand “where he is coming from.”
So far, the “pundits” — and really, all of us — have been “circling” Pope Francis, like the group of blind men circling the elephant, one touching the rope-like tail, one the smooth, sheet-like ear, one the hard, ivory tusk, all “seeing” only a small part… none seeing the whole.
One pundit notes the Pope’s simplicity, his actual poverty, his love for the poor, and says (wrongly): “He is the people’s Pope, the Pope of the poor, so… he is a liberal, he may very well be a social revolutionary, a ‘liberation’ Pope… and perhaps also breaking with Church teaching on sexual matters…” Another pundit notes that Francis has strongly defended Church teaching on the family, on sexual morality, and says (wrongly) “he is a conservative, he won’t ‘rock the boat’ at all…”
Francis cannot be captured by these political categories.
He transcends them.
As Jesus transcended all categories, reaching out to sinners — and all are sinners — but also, asking them not to sin. Loving the sinner, but not the sin…
As Pope Benedict transcended all categories. Ceaselessly reminding all of us that our destiny transcends all worldly categories, that we are made for eternity, not just for time…
Read more: Letter #56: Holding to Benedict ~ The Moynihan Letters