The Catholic Church-A A +A
Sunday, March 17, 2013
HABEMUS Papam! Viva il Papa!
We have a new pope, Pope Francis, whose character, mental acumen, simplicity, humility and a clear sense of vision and mission for the church are apparent and felt by those who have come to know him personally. Indeed, he has the capacity and moral ascendancy to lead the flock by example, particularly at this time and age when the church, just like any other international human institutions, such as the United Nation and its member countries themselves, is buffeted by internal and external conflicts, which to a certain degree and instance even made his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI admit as “moments of turbulent seas and rough winds, as have occurred in the history of the church when it seemed like the Lord was sleeping.”
But the Catholic Church will survive as it has survived for the last 2,000 years or so. It even survived the great Roman Empire, which persecuted the early Christians and even crucified to death the first Pope, now venerated (not worshiped) as St. Peter, the apostle, just as it has survived the scribes and Pharisees, the Turks and the Vandals and the other empires, kingdoms and dictatorships listed in human history.
As to the so called Roman Empire, which succumbed to the Vandals and finally fell sometime in 476 AD, among the few remaining glories of the aforesaid empire is its classic history and works of art and perhaps the honor which the Catholic Church continues to give the defunct empire by calling the universal church--the Roman Catholic Church. But even Italians today prefer to call themselves “Italians” rather than “Romans” and they speak Italian rather than Latin.
Perhaps, the next generation or two of the Catholic faithful and their servant leaders may finally decide to adopt a name for the church, which is more proper, accurate, relevant and significant by calling the church “Catholic Christian Church,” with Christ as the beginning and the center.
As to the current concern that the Catholic Church is already slowly losing some members who have transferred affiliation to other religious or spiritual denominations, that is not a new phenomenon to the church.
Even Jesus Christ, who is God Himself and founder of the church, was abandoned by some of his followers who could not take and understand some of his teachings, particularly referring to the mystery of the Eucharist, and complaining: “This is too hard for us to accept.”
Worse still, from among the first 12, yes 12, apostles who were personally chosen by Jesus Christ Himself and who personally witnessed with their own eyes and ears the miracles and sermons of their Master, one of them, Judas Iscariot, believed to be the treasurer of the group, betrayed Jesus to death for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
Another one, Peter, also known as Simeon bar Jona, appointed by his Master to be the leader of the group and to whom Jesus Himself proclaimed “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” denied his Master not once, not twice but three times.
And finally the third one, Thomas, at first openly doubted that his Master had actually resurrected from death.
That the Catholic Church, indeed, is losing some of its members from the fold is not really surprising nor a big issue, considering that there is an increasing number of religious groups with different perspectives and practices, though different more in methodology rather than in theology.
Moreover, there are more and more financially prosperous people today who have become too materialistic and mundane and who now tend to believe that they are no longer dependent on any direct or indirect intervention by any divinity or divinities--unlike in the past when poverty, deprivation, oppression and desperation led them to seek faith, hope and charity and to look up to the heavens and plead: “O God, if not to you, to whom shall we pray? If not to you, O Lord, to whom shall we go?”
What is a bigger issue today for the church, which our new Pope Francis is fully aware of and is determined to address is for all living Christians to follow the footsteps of Christ not only to Calvary but more so to His teachings of love--to love God and to love one another by daily and actually manifesting it in an act of mercy to a person in need of such mercy, which act is, indeed, more pleasing to a benevolent God than a thousand heads bowed in prayer or a million hands lifted with shouts and songs to the heavens. --Atty. Amay P. Ong Vaño, Cebu City
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 18, 2013.