I’m sure you’ve had a conversation or two about the pope lately. I’ve talked with complete strangers about it a few times! It makes for fascinating conversation, instead of talking about the weather 😉
I think that there is an important lesson that can be taken from Pope Benedict’s surprising “retirement.” Just as Pope John Paul II taught us how to die with dignity, Pope Benedict XVI has taught us how to live with humility. Pope Benedict knew that he did not have the strength: emotionally, physically, spiritually, etc. to lead the Church anymore. He understood that the Church needs a pope who has the energy to carry out the Petrine ministry. As the world keeps moving at a faster and faster pace, having a pope who can’t effectively have dialogue with the world would really set the Church back. Even 50 years ago this would not have been a problem. But nowadays, as news spreads in a matter of minutes, having a pope who can’t operate at his full capacity could set back the Church a lot.
The way that I see it, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have laid the foundation. We can even credit Pope John XXIII for calling Vatican II, Pope Paul VI for leading it, “humanizing” the papacy by not wearing the Papal tiara, and writing Humanae Vitae and Evangelii Nuntiandi, and Pope John Paul I for “humanizing” the papacy by removing the royal “we” and not having a formal papal coronation. But with this foundation, I hope that our new pope will be able to focus more on the new evangelization than anything else.
The message is the same. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is always the same, now and forever. The truth does not change. The sacraments do not change. The nature of the offices of Pope, Bishop, and Priest do not change (though technically it’s possible for the Church to allow priests to marry, I highly doubt it’ll ever happen). What must improve is the method of sharing the message of the Gospel. So many Catholics themselves have never read a papal encyclical, don’t know the Church’s teachings, and (most importantly!) don’t personally know Jesus. And the Church’s job is not only to correct that, but to also teach the rest of the world too! We’ve got a lot of work to do…
I would like to see the new pope expand his social media presence. Look, if St. Paul and the Apostles could instantly share the Gospel to millions of people in one click, do you think that they would even hesitate one moment in doing it? In addition to finally getting a twitter account, I think that it would make even more sense of the pope to have his own facebook account. Not a regular account, but a fan page thing, so that it can be used in the same way as the twitter account is, but with pictures and video in addition to the text. And any social media account that the pope has is instantly more effective if it’s actually the POPE who updates it himself. People love authenticity. Check out Cardinal Tagle’s facebook page. It’s brilliant! He does his own webcast every week, explaining the readings and other things. Why can’t the pope also do a webcast in addition to his Wednesday and Sunday addresses? He could still say the same thing, but it could be accessed by so many more people, and people that often wouldn’t otherwise hear the message of the Gospel. This reminds me of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” – 1 Corinthians 9:22
A whole new issue is the Vatican website. You’re trying to tell me that God’s Church, the very Body of Christ on earth, has a website that is hard to navigate, looks like it’s from the 90’s, has virtually no social connectivity, and it’s easier to find info on the boring Curia than it is to find out what the Pope’s up to today on it? My Newman Center has a more attractive website than the Vatican, for crying out loud!
But they’ve been making strides. The Pope App is wonderful, News.Va is quickly becoming one of my favorite news sites, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is free and online, and at least somebody has organized all of the Papal Encyclicals that you could ever want to read.
Please join me and the whole Church in praying for the Conclave and our new pope. May the Bride of Christ become ever more beautiful in Her desire to share the Good News with all of the world in charity and truth. The conclave starts on Tuesday, March 12th.