Pope Benedict XVI will be leaving his Papal chair by the end of this month. Understandably, the mantel gets heavier as one grows older and the world continues in the throes of change. One can sympathize with him. But, this is nearly the end of an era, and at the moment, who will put on the sandals of the Fisherman and hold the fort of the Roman Catholic Church, we can only speculate.
Putting aside all the official protocol and procedure of choosing his successor from the current line up of cardinals, it would be interesting to have a lay person’s wish list of characteristics for a leader of this ancient institution.
Firstly, as an apostle of Jesus Christ he should be an Imitator of Christ. It would not matter whether he is black, white, brown, yellow, red or olive-skinned. Jesus and St. Peter, his running mate, came from working class backgrounds. The human father of Jesus, was a carpenter by profession and his mother, a housewife. Jesus didn’t own property and much of the time had to depend on other people’s goodwill. Some parts of the Gospels seem to hint that Jesus and his friends had to collect some donations to support themselves (Judas Iscariot, apparently managed the money for the group until he opted out, after being bought over by the powerful Jewish political leaders).
As someone from a working class background, Jesus, was able to empathize, not merely sympathize, with the poor, the disabled, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and the outcasts of society in that day. Their equivalent today would be the homeless, disabled, exploited workers, migrant workers, sex workers, refugees, and all the underdogs of today’s society, including the Occupy movement.
Yet, he wasn’t exclusive and allowed the wealthy and powerful to question him. Just reading about the life of Jesus gives the impression that he didn’t belong to, or aspire to wealth, fame and power. He humbly accepted his mission and his destiny to end his life falsely accused by a ‘kangaroo court’, and executed like a criminal.
Jesus was always current and not out of date in his time, so it would be good if the next Pope adopted a similar attitude towards the climate of change and needs of people in this 21st century world.
The Pope should be someone who ‘spoke’ the language of the ordinary people and be able to understand what was going on around him better. He would be more aware of the sufferings of minorities like the LGBTi community, the inner city dwellers, who face crime and danger daily, drug users, slum dwellers etc. He would also better understand the different lifestyles of today with their myriad temptations.
Looking at Jesus, in the first stages of his mission, about 30 plus years before the early Christian community, and long before the Roman church existed, we see a man like many other human beings today, trying to make people understand his thinking and message.
The truth always grates at certain parties with vested interests supported by the status quo. This makes Jesus an activist of his day. Like many activists of today, life is largely insecure, materially impoverished, and open to having personal liberty being snatched away by those in power. Not only liberty, but at times, life as well. But, there is a power in being dead. This is another topic of conversation.
Well, ideally, the potential successor of St. Peter, certainly has to have a great amount of guts, like Peter too and the early Christian martyrs. Well, look what happened to Jesus first. Horrifying as it may seem, one has to remember that the spirit never dies and what happens after we, “shuffle off this mortal coil”, no one can tell, till they get there.
So, my wish list for the kind of leader such a religious institution should have is simply that he is the most ardent imitator of Jesus Christ and lives as simply and as close to those who need love most, without discrimination. Those old Fisherman’s sandals certainly make heavy demands.
- Vatican announce resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (kmov.com)
- The Twelve Apostles (mychristiancoffeeshop.wordpress.com)