Just the other day pope Francis led his first Angelus of his pontificate. Reports say there were 150,000 people in attendance, and it was broadcast worldwide. Certainly there is a great deal of jubilation for this new pope, even from Protestants. One article I read had the following snippet:
Although she couldn’t understand the content of his talk, the emotion of the moment got to Lucy Fanning of Pennington, N.J.
“This is …” she said before fanning her face with her hand.
“I’m not even Catholic, I’m Protestant, but this is messing me up a bit,” Fanning said, as her husband, Joe, a Catholic, smiled. The couple is escorting a group of private school Latin students around Italy.
“You can tell this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Casey McGovern, 16, explaining the group’s decision to brave the huge crowds only to get as far as a quarter-mile from St. Peter’s. “It’s his first address as pope to the people. You have to be here.”
Love this: “…but this is messing me up a bit.” I know that feeling. I too have been messed up a bit by my observations and experience of Catholicism.
Love this: “You have to be here.” Isn’t it interesting the attention the pope engenders? One could even say there is a kind of obsession with the Catholic Church over and above all other churches. The closest thing Protestantism has to a pope may be the head of the Anglican church, and not many cared all that much when they recently chose a new head.
One possible way to describe this is that there is only one church in the world that seems to stand for “the Church”, and that is the Catholic Church. When the secular media speak of the Church, they mean the Catholic Church. Everyone else is in relationship, one way or another, to it. Therefore, when the Church chooses a new pope, you have to be there. You may not know why, but you feel it. If one is Protestant, at least the American-fundamentalist-evangelical kind that I am familiar with, then one is likely not trained or prepared to know how to explain those feelings elicited by things Catholic, those feelings that “mess” one up a bit and make one just know it’s important to “be there”. It seems to be much more than just a big show, it seems to be fundamental.
Perhaps a truly honest assessment of those feelings may lead us to greater unity within the body of Christ.