I’m not a Catholic, but like most have kept up with what’s happening over in the Vatican. I watched as Benedict left for the last time as the Pope, and followed the announcement of the new Pope yesterday. In all of this, I have watched and shook my head as the American media has tried to understand what it means to be a leader in the church. They have talked about the power that the pope has in the world and speculated (quite a lot) about whether or not they would elect an American. Listening to the news, it all began to sound like election time in America. They were asking who was qualified, what kind of changes would this person make, and did they have the right leadership skills to be the Pope. It was all primarily about the power and position of the papacy.
Then yesterday, the church and the new pope did something that messed with the media’s perception of “power” in the church. They elected someone that no one in the media considered and he choose a name that truly demonstrated what Christian leadership is all about. They elected man who has served the poor and chose to forgo some of the privileges that his previous role allowed him. They elected a man who is known for his act of washing the feet of 12 AIDS patients in 2001. Then they announced the name of the new pope. His name is Francis. He took the name of a very famous saint who is famously humble. Saint Francis chose a life of poverty and spent his life serving the poor and preaching the gospel. Of all the names he could have chosen, I think that this name is quite appropriate for someone who is supposed to lead the church. When it comes to being a leader in the church, it’s not about power or wealth. It’s not about having the most impressive resume or being the smartest guy around. It’s not about being able to dominate the boardroom or be at the top of your field. It’s about being like Christ. Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:6-8 NIV)
While I’m not a catholic, I am impressed with the new pope’s choice of name and I hope that he lives up to it. I hope that he emulates the life of Francis and the life of Christ. I hope that he leads in humility and shows the world that Christian leadership is different from political leadership. He is a man with a lot of influence, and I pray that his influence spreads the gospel and shows the love of Christ to those in need.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27 NIV)
For more about on this subject please check out my friend David’s post, “The new Pope and why Protestants should care.”