Currently our planet is populated by approximately 7,2 billion people. 1,2 billion of them are members of the Roman Catholic Church, which is an amazing amount of people. The Catholic Church, led by the Pope, is among the oldest religious institutions in the world and has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilisation. For many it still does. The opinions about the role and importance of the Church are various and have changed dramatically over the centuries. But no matter how much we evolved during the many years we have lived with the Church, the institution still has a very strong grip on a huge amount of the population. It isn’t that strange. I mean a religion that has a seventh part of the world population as its followers is not something you can simply ignore. And that is something that goes both ways. The Catholic Church can also not ignore the fact it still has such influence and power on so many people and with power comes responsibility.
For many centuries the Roman Catholic Church has been a stronghold of believes that are anchored in old values and norms, hardly adapted to modern times. On the contrary, the previous Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, was as conservative as they come and seemed to have been going out of his way to give his followers the third degree when it came to values that relate to social norms and behaviours. Strangely enough this very same Pope surprised friend and foe by resigning from his Holy Calling and retiring to make room for a new Pontiff. Pope Francis was elected and installed in March 2013, a little over a year ago, and in his 12 months of leadership he has stamped through the Holy halls of the Vatican as an elephant in a China store. After having been in office for a full year, it should be clear to the world what kind of a man Pope Francis is, but if there is one thing that can be said for sure, he is a man of contrasts. Though affirming the Church’s social views on homosexuality, the Pontiff also stresses on the fact that the Church is an institution of love and should in that context not turn away from gays and lesbians but accept them with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Or in his own words: “Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free.” The opinions are still divided. Is he conservative or liberal. Unpredictable or simply a spokes person for a cosmetic rebranding of a global corporation that has undergone massive reputational damage in recent decades.
I have to admit, as I have done before on occasion, that I’m not a fan of the Roman Catholic Church or any religion for that matters. As mentioned earlier I think a religion is an institution that wields great power but I believe that not all use it with responsibility. Pope Francis seems to understand this to a degree and even I must admit he is a breath of fresh air for the Catholic Church. But let’s wait and see where he will go in the near future. If he appears on the balcony of the Vatican in a pink robe instead of a white one, or even better, unites a same-sex couple in Holy union, even I might fall on my knees and pray a Hail Mary. For now lets suffice by saying, things are looking rosy. –BM-
Cover photography by Hector Rodriguez.
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