Pope Francis (L) caresses a sick person in Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his General Audience in Vatican City, 06 November 2013.
Photo courtesy of Washington Post
Photo courtesy of Washington Post
A man of faith
I watched with billions of others in 2005 as Pope John Paul II slowly departed this mortal coil, frail, infirm, a body so weak, but a spirit so strong doing the service he was called to minister to the faithful.
In his death throes, we wondered about how great a man was about to depart having left deep footprints in the sands of time, difficult to obliterate from our memories because his advent changed the world.
In July that year, I visited Rome for the first time as a birthday gift to a friend and as we queued to enter the Sistine Chapel, we were really in another queue that filed past the tomb of this amazing and great man of God.
A church so solemn
I am a Protestant, school in the High-Church Anglican faith, baptised at 9-years old and confirmed at 16. I took new religion of the Evangelical to Pentecostal kind at 18 and was baptised again, this time by full immersion at 21 but the Catholic Church has always held some fascination.
In 2008, I visited Fatima in Portugal, I watched the solemnity, the stillness, the reverences, the religiousness, the humility and the awesomeness, maybe I should have taken more away from that experience before cancer struck a year later.
Churches serving as sepulchres and places of worship depict an eternity of the circle of life and death that defines our humanity. The Catholic Church is one long continuous documentation of human history, the longest existent human religious and political institution; it is significant even if many ignore it.
A church astray
Today, there are many strands of Christianity, people rising with a gospel and a teaching gathering the wild sheep of people strewn all over the world to tents of great performance and pageantry. Many other religions too bring adherents to temples and synagogues imposing conditions, some easy, some difficult; all to lay hold on some peace on earth and possibly the promise of something in the Great Beyond.
In all this, the simply message of our common humanity is lost, the pain we share, the suffering that is the story of many. The plenty that the rich avariciously aggrandise to themselves stepping on the heads on anything or anyone to fill their vaults with much more without restraint, yet, like a flower we all bloom and then wither away.
For all the riches in this world cannot yet buy immortality, the best we can get is longevity in life, providence willing and being favourable towards us.
Compassion is the message
Back to the Catholic Church, we have a new Pope, his name is Pope Francis, and he is taking us back to where the church the belongs, to where religion serves humanity, to where humility is what draws the hearts of men to a truth that is irresistible, to where compassion is the open door to everyone, and it is a good thing.
Princess Diana with one handshake in 1989 dealt a blow to the stigma of HIV/AIDS, Pope Francis is dealing bigger blows, calling us to service as Good Samaritans, lifting our humanity to the pinnacle of existence above all beliefs, race, sexuality, condition, situation and whatever part of our diversity the unconscionable exploit for gain.
Good Samaritan humanity
In embracing, kissing and blessing a much-disfigured man, the Pope retells the gospel in the letter, the spirit and the acts of Jesus Christ when he walked the streets of Jerusalem and the Galilee, comforting and healing the sick, ministering love and compassion, with unconditional access.
No other story can be told than to see the story the picture tells. We must see, reach, touch, embrace – that is Good Samaritan humanity regardless of what you believe in.
Read the story and see the pictures – here.