A group of spectators in St. Peter’s Square await the results of the next vote for the papal office in March 2013. Courtesy photos
By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
On March 13, 2013, the world watched and saw Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio elected in the Vatican City and become Pope Francis.
Ever since then, he has been seen as a positive influence in the Catholic Church – both in the Vatican City and abroad. A recent Pew Research poll that came out near the first anniversary of his election says that he remains popular among American Catholics and that more than eight in ten U.S. Catholics say they have a favorable view of the pope.
Catholic leaders in Liberal share the sentiment, saying that the new pope has begun a spiritual revolution.
“Instead of the pope being like a master or a boss, he’s a servant in the church with another type of authority,” said the Rev. Hector de la Vega, the parochial vicar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Liberal. “Of course he’s the pope and we have to follow him, but he’s making this kind of spiritual revolution because he’s striving to make the church more in the service of the people.”
The Rev. Jim Diecker, pastor at St. Anthony’s, says he has also noticed the change in how the church has served the people since Pope Francis’ election.
“The image he has used for the church is like that of a field hospital where there are numerous injured people all over the place, and he’s reaching out and taking care of those things,” he said. “I think that is what he brings to the table, a more pastoral vision of openness and less stringent consideration of doctrine.”
The Pew Research poll goes on to say that seven in 10 U.S. Catholics also now say Francis represents a major change in direction for the church. Another change that Diecker said he has noticed is how visible Pope Francis is compared to past popes.
“I can read daily what he said in a meeting, what he’s preached at the Angelus and that is the thing that I see as the most interesting, his daily visibility,” he said.
Another characteristic that has garnered attention in the media is how Pope Francis prefers a more simplistic approach to his role, which has not escaped the notice of De la Vega.
“One thing especially is presence,” he said. “Instead of robes that are very fancy and very expensive, he’s very simple, very, very simple. Instead of a throne, he uses a normal chair. I remember he once said ‘I was named pope because Im a follower of a simple carpenter and not of a king and not of an emperor.’ This is the difference.”
While there have been several differences in the styles of conveying the church’s message and doctrine, Diecker says he does not consider there to be any actual difference in the message preached by the different popes.
“Rather than differences, I see continuity in their devotion to the church and their dedication to filling the office of Pope according to their personality and their gifts,” he said. “I think that rather than seeing differences I see continuity and energy and vigor with which Pope Francis is able to do it.”
To see the full results of this Pew Research poll, visit:
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