Friday, October 04, 2013

Rules for Reading Pope Francis: Rule #3

So the Pope is making headlines. In these days of 140-character posts, a headline may be all some people read. What about you, the ordinary, Mass-attending (right off the bat that makes you not exactly ordinary) Catholic? If you are going to read the next interview with Pope Francis, what rule do you need to keep in mind, aside from Rule #1 (Get Used to It) and Rule #2 (Accept that He's not Speaking to You)?

I give you, Rule #3: Don't stop at the headline.

In fact, don't even dwell on the headline. Headlines are interpretations even when they include a direct quote. Case in point: Last Tuesday's release of the Pope's conversation with Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari. The Italian headline declared: "This is how I will change the Church" (the English translation was more modest: "The Church will change").

Crest of Pope Paul V (St Peter's Basilica)
What was behind the headline? Did the Pope really express a detailed program for how he "will" change the Church? Not really. In speaking of the Roman Curia, the Vatican offices that are at the service of his worldwide ministry, the Pope remarked that too often the goal is "Vatican-centered" rather than "person-centered": "It sees and deal with the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it.*" That "it" is a self-focused institutional vision that Francis sees at play in certain offices of the Vatican--not the Church herself.

But there is a kind of change the Holy Father alluded to (without using the word "change"): "The Church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls are at the service of the people of God. That is the Church."

But who wants to read a headline like that?

*This amended translation comes from the blog "In Caelo."

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