Wednesday 22 November 2017

Liz O'Donnell: Francis's dignified actions are winning over sceptics

Pope Francis: leading by example

Many lapsed Catholics have noted with approval the refreshing approach of the new pontiff since his election. Actions speak louder than a million words. From the very moment of his appointment, Pope Francis has demonstrated a willingness, indeed appetite, for visible change in how the Roman Catholic Church should be perceived and how it should respond to the modern world.

He is a Jesuit, which in my book is a great start. The long tradition of Jesuit priests as advocates of justice and human rights issues and against regressive regimes, particularly in the developing world, is instructive in this regard. As a Jesuit, this Pope is ideologically placed to champion fundamental human rights. Here in Ireland Jesuit schools have a deserved reputation for instilling in their pupils a commitment to intellectual excellence, public service and human rights and justice. My Jesuit-educated brother, now settled in Madrid, is a committed socialist and history teacher; his world-view informed by his education in Limerick's Crescent College.

Pope Francis is apparently determined to lead by example. His statements and actions from the beginning were to associate with and reach out to the poor. Visiting prisoners in Italian jails was an unprecedented act by a pontiff and was a pointed and biblical gesture that this Pope and Catholics should honour those otherwise slighted by society. Likewise, his refusal to conform to the elaborate trappings of the Vatican protocols as to residence and transport has raised a few eyebrows.

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