Tuesday, October 31, 2023
"What affects all should be discussed by all."
If you look deeply enough into the eyes of any person, there you will see something that is divine.
Pope Francis has 'opened our hearts and doors'
In May, Pope Francis elevated the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada to an Archbishopric and chose George Thomas as Archbishop. This reflection is a part of his first homily.
As we consider the past 10 years of Pope Francis' leadership, several important events and leitmotifs come into focus, events and themes that help us to appreciate and value his leadership and legacy both to the church and to the world.
Lampedusa, 'Laudato Si',' caring for others
I will never forget his first pastoral visit outside Rome, when he traveled to Italy's southernmost island — the island of Lampedusa. He went there with a very particular purpose in mind.
For nearly two decades Lampedusa served as a point of entry for desperate immigrants seeking passage into Western Europe. They came from North Africa and the Middle East, from Egypt and the Sudan, some from as far away as Southeast Asia. They made this perilous maritime journey in order to flee genocide and famine, civil unrest and unspeakable poverty in their respective homelands. The pope was deeply pained by the reality that at Lampedusa, the bodies of immigrants numbering in the hundreds — and mostly women and children — regularly washed up onto the rocky shores like so much driftwood, with others taking little, if any notice.
Two years later, in 2015, Pope Francis issued his encyclical entitled Laudato Si' on climate change and the degradation of the environment. This is an encyclical that provides further testimony to the pope's fatherly concern for the poor and hopeless of the world. Yes, Laudato Si' and its newly released coda stand as clarion calls to address vexing and complex problems — pollution, industrial waste, the destruction of the environment, conspicuous consumption and escalating global warming, just to name a few.
Pope Francis poses hard questions to world leaders. How many more families will face premature death or be driven from their native lands as the rainforests are plundered and the oceans are contaminated, all under the banner of profit for the few? The two encyclicals echo the same conviction raised by St. John Paul II in 1991. "God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone" (Centesimus Annus, 31).
Still other scenes that have touched my heart deeply are the pope's Holy Thursday visits to Casal del Marmo, the youth detention facility in the city of Rome. There he washed and kissed the feet of young inmates, male and female, Christian and Muslim, in profound acts of humility and affection.
His visits to the youthful offenders stand out as a tutorial on Catholic social teaching, declaring to the world that there are to be no throwaway people, no cast off souls, no discarded lives, no second-class citizens, no "sobrantes" (leftovers) and no exceptions. The Holy Father's example is a living homily on servant leadership, giving flesh and bones to words often attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo: If you look deeply enough into the eyes of any person, there you will see something that is divine.
Since his entrance onto the world stage in 2013, Pope Francis has been resolutely and systematically unleashing the Pentecostal power of the Second Vatican Council. His encyclicals, exhortations, homilies and indeed the example of his daily life, are transmitting and amplifying the council's hallowed teachings.
How often he has echoed the council's deeply held conviction that clergy and laity share common spiritual DNA, the "universal call to holiness," the call that flows from the waters of baptism and leads us into a personal encounter and deep companionship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
He has held that "all the Baptized, without exception, are to be agents of evangelization," co-missioned to preach the Gospel of Jesus, first by the example of a holy life and then by inviting others to "taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (Psalm 34:8).
As we speak, the Holy Father is enjoining us to become a more synodal church, a church that listens intently, discerns deeply and plans intentionally, always with an ear that is finely tuned to unpredictable promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Synodality helps the church both to understand and to address, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, "the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted …" (Gaudium et Spes, 1).
In the mind of Francis, a hallowed principle that is rooted in the ancient church and that serves as a vital touchstone for understanding and effecting authentic synodality is: "What affects all should be discussed by all."
In that same vein, he has asked us to open our hearts and our doors to the diverse cultures that are present within our communities, and to raise up and celebrate our peoples' multifarious customs and ethnic expressions of prayer and praise.
Read Archbishop George Thomas' full homily using this link: