Habemus Papam! Although I am not a Roman Catholic, I have always been interested in the person who, as the Bishop of Rome, leads the vast number of Roman Catholics and fellow Christians. In my lifetime there have been three following in the footsteps of St. Peter who have particularly impressed me with what I, lowly as I am, perceive as 'holiness': John XXIII, John Paul I, and now Francis I.
On Maundy Thursday it is traditional in many churches to re-enact Christ washing the feet of his disciples just before the last supper. It is customary for the Pope to participate in this re-enactment also, usually washing the feet of selected clergymen. But this year our newly elected Pope went to a prison and washed the feet of a rapist, a murderer and a thief. For me, the implications of this are very powerful and imply that this man is breaking away from the inculcating protection of the wealth-bound glory of an enthroned papal head. (In addition, it should be noted that he also washed the feet of a Serbian Muslim woman inmate.)
Pope Francis 'gets it'! Christ is to be found among the poor, the wretched, the people who believe and those who do not; not in the edifices and trappings made and built to glorify him. We, his community, bring Christ to these places, we do not find him there otherwise. Places are spiritually powerful because of those who come -- and have come before us.We find Christ in our humanity toward and for each other -- whether we are rich or poor, white, black, English, Chinese, Korean, German, French, saint or sinner...
I am writing about this in response to the Good Friday service I attended this year. The Vicar made a special reference to the Pope's actions on Maundy Thursday and made the point that the sign of a successful church is in its 'diversity'. Society is now multi cultural. This may well take us out of our comfort zone. We may long for past days when life may have seemed simpler. It doesn't really matter because this cultural diversity is here to stay and it is the lifeblood of the church.
It seems to me that the history of Christianity has been one of struggle: A struggle through persecution and intolerance. As often happens in history, the persecuted became the persecutor, those who were not tolerated, became the intolerant. We do indeed "see through a glass darkly".