Monday, September 30, 2013

A challenge to Pope Francis: to embrace all of humanity

Leonardo Boff
Earthcharter Commission

Commenting on the August 9, 2013, interview of me by the newspaper, La Libre Belgique, a reader, Marc Den Doncker, wrote these words, that I consider worthy of reflection.

Den Doncker says:

«Good Pope Francis frankly announces a revolution in humanity, towards one that is more plainly human. The Pope says: “if a homosexual seeks God and is of good will, who am I to judge him?” How good it would be if, some day, the Pope expressed love for a homosexual who did not seek God, but who was still a person of good will. In that the influence of the Holy Ghost would be seen».

The commentary continues:

«How good it would be if, over time, good Pope Francis were to reflect deep in his heart about a poor woman who pierces herself with a needle to free herself from a fetus, the result of a violent rape, because she cannot take it anymore and is desperate. And that a benevolent God, in infinity divine mercy, allows good Pope Francis to understand the desperate situation of this woman, who is filled of a profound consternation and wants to die. How fine it would be if that good God, in infinite divine goodness, understood that a couple who had decided not to have more children, simply used the pill. And how good it would be if that good God, in infinite kindness, elicited the consciousness that a woman and a man enjoy the same equality and dignity».

«I cry inside –the commentator continues– at the huge number of tragic events that life gives us day after day. Facing this reality, would the Church be willing to proceed along a slippery path, but one leading towards a humanity totally embraced, animated by the Holy Spirit, that has no relation to the principles and moral philosophies that end up killing the love for the other? It is important to wait». Yes, filled with confidence, let us wait.

In fact, not a few ecclesiastic authorities, popes, cardinals, bishops and curates, with dignified exceptions, have lost, in great part, the good meaning of things; they forgot the image of the God of Jesus Christ, to whom He sweetly calls, Abba, my beloved Father. That God of His showed maternal dimensions when he waited for the son, led astray by vice, when he looked for the coin lost in the house, when he gathered us under his wings, as the hen gathers her chicks. His main characteristic is unconditional love and limitless mercy, because “He loves the ungrateful and the bad and lets the sun shine and the rain fall on the good and the bad”, as the Gospels tell us.

To Jesus, it is not enough to be good, as the faithful son who stayed in his father's house and followed all his commands. We must be compassionate and merciful with those who fall, and are lost on the way. Jesus criticized only the good son, who lacked compassion, and did not know how to welcome his brother who had been lost and was now returning home.

Pope Francis, talking to the bishops in Rio de Janeiro, urged them to embrace the «revolution of tenderness» and an unlimited capacity for understanding and mercy.

Surely many bishops and curates must be in crisis, when urged to confront the challenge of the «revolution of tenderness». They must radically change the style of relating to the people: not bureaucratic and cold, but warm, simple and filled with affection.

This was the style of good Pope John XXIII. A curious occurrence reveals how he understood doctrine, and the importance of cordial encounters with people. What is more important: love or the law? The dogmas or the cordial encounters?

Giuseppe Alberigo, a layman from Bologna, extremely erudite and committed to the renewal of the Church, was one of the primary historians of Vatican Council II (1962-1965). His great merit is having published a critical edition of all the official doctrinal texts of the popes and the councils from the beginning of Christianity: the Conciliorum Oecumenicorum Decreta. He himself relates in Il Corriere di Bologna that on June 16, 1967, he proudly went to Rome to solemnly present to Pope John XXIII this voluminous book. John XXIII gently took it in his hands, sat in the pontifical chair, carefully placed the volume on the floor, and put both feet on top of the famous book.

It was a symbolic act. It is good that there are doctrines and dogmas, but they exist to sustain the faith. Doctrines and dogmas exist neither to inhibit faith, nor to serve as an instrument of limitation or of condemnation.

How fine it would be if good Pope Francis did something like that, especially with reference to Canon Law and other official texts of the Magisterium that are of little help to the faithful. In first place is found faith, love, spiritual encounter and the creation of hope for a humanity stunned by so many deceptions and crises. Then come doctrines. Let's hope the good God, in infinite kindness, leads Pope Francis in this direction with courage and simplicity.

(For those who want to verify the foregoing, the reference source is: Alberto Melloni, introduction to the book, Ángelo Giuseppe Roncalli, Giovanni XXIII. Agende del Pontefice 1958-1963, Instituto per le Scienze Religiose, Bologna 1978, p. VII).

Leonardo Boff

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,,


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