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The Word on the Week

Pope Francis

When it comes to the election of a new leader there can be no doubt that the Roman Catholic Church is in a class by itself. The news this week has been dominated by reports from Rome where the conclave of Cardinals moved slowly towards a conclusion.

The drama was played out in a very public way with the Cardinals being locked up in the Sistine Chapel which had electronic jamming equipment installed under the floor. Clearly mobile texting of the results was to be avoided in favour of the traditional smoke signals.

There can be few people subjected to such scrutiny as Pope Francis. His past has been delved into and his present actions examined minutely. On both counts he has not been found wanting by the faithful. His first words to the crowd of pilgrims was to ask for prayer rather like St Paul in his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honoured, as happened among you” and a good start made to his ministry.

In his first homily he sought to steer the church away from work which NGO’s were engaged in and focus more on Jesus and his cross. Whilst he did not say that the preaching of the cross was offensive, as we do not like to hear that we are too sinful to contribute to our salvation, he did say that to be a disciple we need to profess Christ with the cross.

To the more liberal minded in the crowd mention of the cross may not have sounded like shorthand for the death of Christ on their behalf. To the conservative it may not have sounded vital for salvation. Ultimately the cross stands over against all other methods of self-salvation. To rely exclusively on the work of Jesus on the cross requires the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit.

Those who proclaim it soon get the labels of un-loving and intolerant. Pope Francis starts with reservoir of goodwill will stand him in good stead if he is to fulfill the Pauline goal, “we preach Christ crucified a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1Corinthians Chapter 1 verses 24/25. In today’s world we could substitute Liberals and Conservatives for Jews and Gentiles and pray that both might find salvation in Christ at the foot of the cross.