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Pope Francis’ Message to the SDA Church

The pontificate of Pope Francis has been nothing short of surprising. Coming after years of the highbrow and intellectual mannerisms of Benedict XVI, Francis is winning hearts and minds across the globe by insisting the church come down from its pedestal and engage humanity. In recent photos, Francis is seen hugging two disfigured men. Those pictures have gone viral. People are asking: Is he the “reincarnation” of Pope John Paul II?

In a statement today, Tuesday Nov 26 2013, Francis said:

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. … In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives."

I was struck by how his vision for the Catholic Church is so relevant and applicable to the Adventist Church. This seems to be an inversion of roles. To those who still see the Papacy as “a beast,” it is undeniable that it is increasingly speaking more like a “lamb” than “dragon.” Meanwhile, the top levels of the SDA Church seems to be hunkering down in “obsessions and procedures,” in the words of Francis, which have little to do with its mission in the world. Ironically, the infamous “kingly power” of beastly religious leadership seems to apply less and less to the Catholic Church and more and more to those who fiercely criticize it.

Admittedly, we can’t expect Francis to be the “perfect” pope. He was seen over the weekend clutching a box full of bones purported to belong to saint Peter. Some things will never change, but at least I admire him for trying.

Francis continues:

"Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. … I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”

Food for thought indeed.

__________

Based on “Pope: No More Business as Usual” CNN’s Belief blog http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/11/26/pope-calls-for-big-changes-in-the-church/?hpt=hp_t2

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