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Will Pope’s example rub off on PH clergy?

/ 12:07 AM January 13, 2015

With Pope Francis’ arrival just days away, it bothers me that many in the media have chosen to dwell on the superficial things about him and his much-awaited visit. Watching the TV newscast one night and listening to the report on the Metro Manila Development Authority’s plan to have traffic enforcers wear adult diapers during the visit, I literally prayed to the heavens to please make our news editors see the light.

While the papal visit itself is the biggest news for the moment, and rightly so, what should be more meaningful especially for Catholics is what the Pope stands for and its implications to the Church and the faithful.

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No doubt about it, Francis is making waves the world over because he is a very different and special pope. I think he is the most refreshing thing to have happened to the Vatican since, well, since Pope John VI and his Vatican II rocked the Church with their attempts at far-reaching reforms.

Much attention has been paid to Pope Francis’ preference for simplicity and abhorrence of papal protocols. I can imagine how big a challenge this is to an institution known for its pomp and pageantry and all the other trappings of wealth and power. I don’t think this is a simple matter of frugality or taste on the Pope’s part; rather, it is a reflection of his deep commitment to the belief that the Church itself should have a preference for the poor. For this he has been accused by many conservative clergy of being a radical and a Marxist.

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I have never been a Church aficionado, but recent news on the Pope have made me take a second look at the Vatican-led Church and the possibilities of it actually following Christ’s message of love, justice and liberation. When a pope rides around in an old Ford Focus, denounces the evils of capitalism, sacks the old boys’ club of the Vatican Bank for possible corruption, demotes the highest ranking American conservative bishop, invites liberation theologians like Gustavo Gutierrez and Leonardo Boff to Rome, washes the feet of Muslim women, and welcomes gays, lesbians, atheists and even Martians to the faith, then you know something’s cooking.

In his Christmas message to the cardinals, bishops and priests running the Holy See, Pope Francis did away with the usual niceties and blasted his top men for living hypocritical double lives and lusting for power. Among the “15 ailments of the Curia” that he mentioned was “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease” and “existential schizophrenia.”

Admittedly, the concept of a Church of the Poor is a cliché, and many of his pronouncements echo traditional, albeit much ignored, social teachings of the Church. But for a Latin American pope to actively preach and practice its principles, and antagonize the hierarchy and the ruling elites of the world in the process, is rare, indeed. It is not only refreshing, it is also inspiring.

When Typhoon “Yolanda” struck the Philippines in 2013, the Pope made it a point to instruct everyone to rehabilitate the lives of the survivors first before the churches. I wonder, what would he say about nine bishops and seven priests falling all over themselves in officiating at the recent extravagant wedding of Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes even as so many poor couples shun church weddings for lack of money?

In our country where the absolute poor comprise at least a third of the population and where millions can’t earn enough even to meet the minimum living standards, Pope Francis’ visit should be a liberating experience. The Pope has repeatedly riled against the heightened oppression and exploitation of the global capitalist system. I wonder, will he also denounce its local counterpart in our neocolonial and semifeudal country? Abangan.

Will the Pope’s example of simplicity, humility and solidarity with the poor and oppressed rub off on our own clergy? Will his message of social justice and peace be heard, understood and practiced by our lay leaders and government officials?

Even as the media put so much hype on the details of the Pope’s visit—the overblown security preparations, the menu and guest list during meals, the rituals and symbols—I hope equal attention is given to what he stands for. The Pope has started a revolution in the Vatican. Perhaps we should follow his lead.

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Teddy Casiño is an activist who served for three terms in Congress as a Bayan Muna party-list representative (2004-2013). He is now back in the parliament of the streets.

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TAGS: column, Papal visit, Philippine clergy, Pope Francis, popeinph, Teddy Casiño
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