It’s all quite disorienting. A new pope who seems reluctant to accept the trappings of his office and reaches out to ordinary people. For example, he is going to break with tradition by celebrating Maundy Thursday in a prison for youthful offenders, washing the feet of prisoners rather than those of retired clergy. A new Archbishop of Canterbury whose style is very different from Rowan Williams and who has in his early statements, tried to reach out to bridge some of the most difficult divisions in the Church of England. Perhaps more important still, the ecumenical gestures that have broken new ground–the presence of the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Rome on March 19, and the wonderful diversity in the enthronement service yesterday.
I’m tempted to see something of a new spirit beginning to blow throughout Christianity from the simple, yet powerful gestures of Pope Francis. No doubt there are rumblings of discontent in the back alleys and hidden corners of the Vatican, but the stultifying, rigid conservatism of the last decades has for a moment at least been sidelined by a spirit of humility, simplicity, and tenderness (the prominence of that word in the Pope’s homily noted by several commentators). That is not to say that the Pope is less conservative doctrinally than his predecessors, but by choosing to focus on other things, he is changing the tone and perception of the Roman Catholic Church in popular culture.
Both leaders face significant problems and it remains to be seen whether they will be any more skillful in negotiating those conflicts than their predecessors. Still, we can hope.
Some commentary on the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury
A little background and summary of the event.
David Sinden links to photos, highlight videos, etc.
His Grace has this to say. An excerpt:
The moment the great oak doors of Canterbury Cathedral were flung open, the fanfare seemed to blow away an entire age of theological aloofness and stuffy ecclesiology. We had a new and vibrant liturgical dialogue, written by the Archbishop himself, explaining the whole meaning of the day to a nation that no longer knows or cares. The interrogation by the Christian child, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, was brief. But its illumination could not have been brighter.
“Who are you and why do you request entry?”
“I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”
An interview with the new Archbishop of Canterbury
Colin Coward reflects on another interview with the ABC:
The new Archbishop said: “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” He told the BBC he had “particular friends where I recognise that and am deeply challenged by it”. Justin Welby clearly has gay friends, partnered gay friends, and knows perfectly well that their relationships are equal in love and quality to those of his married friends and of his own marriage.
A new ecumenical spirit?
Pope Francis urges dialogue with Muslims.
His relationship with the Jewish community of Argentina.
His message of greetings to the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
I love it: “Who are you and why do you request entry?” “I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”
There is an old book about a woman who enters a Benedictine monastery. On her arrival, she knocks on the door, and they open it saying “What is it you desire?” She responds, “To try my vocation in this Benedictine House of Brede”.
Both of these similar events speak of our capacity to make commitments, knowing that nothing is predetermined and all possibilities are open, but also with enormous challenges.
The new Archbishop said: “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.” He told the BBC he had “particular friends where I recognise that and am deeply challenged by it”.
Sorry, Justin, I’m not impressed. If you replaced “gay” with “black” everyone in the church would be cringing (I hope). Why is it that religious leaders can get such lavish praise simply for acknowledging the existence of sexual minorities? I suspect this is related to the fact that the youth today are deserting organized religion.