Pope Francis as a model of “what it means to be fully human”

An intriguing take on the new pope, from Catholic San Francisco: 

Pope Francis is offering the contemporary world the example of Christ as a model of “what it means to be fully human,” in a way that is consistent with the previous two popes but breaks new ground in putting the Gospel into action, Jesuit Father James Hanvey said in an interview with Catholic San Francisco.

“Most of the issues we’re fighting are not religious but what it means to be human,” said Father Hanvey, the current Lo Schiavo Chair in Catholic Social Thought at the Joan and Ralph Lane Center at the University of San Francisco. “What does it mean to have a destiny, more than materialism? There’s a deep hunger in the human spirit that contemporary life does not answer.”

Pope John Paul II understood his mission as going to the entire world as the evangelizer, Father Hanvey said. Pope Benedict XVI also engaged the world on the question of what it means to be human, he said.

In Pope Francis, who in his first days in office called for a church of apostolic courage in service to the poor, Catholics have a shepherd who appears to be modeling nothing less than the teaching ministry of Jesus.

“It’s fundamentally a change in style, and that should change the culture,” said Father Hanvey, who is a member of the British Province of the Society of Jesus and specializes in systematic theology, Catholic social thought and Ignatian spirituality.

He described the style this way: “I think it’s suddenly to encounter someone who is open to them, someone who listens to them and someone who loves them basically – whatever their state, whatever condition they are in. If he can sustain that, I think he will be modeling a different way of being a priest, a different way of being in mission.”

The style of the former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is “to go out to the people, go out simply as their servant, without compromising the faith in any way,” Father Hanvey said. “It’s certainly normal for him. It’s about reaching the heart as well as the mind.”

Father Hanvey said that the combination of integrity and engagement offers a powerful inspiration in the church and beyond.

“I think contemporary culture is looking much more for a sign of witness which has integrity and a witness which is fundamentally open with the world – that’s not to say it’s an assimilation with the world but one that is immediately open to the world in all its forms without immediately condemning or closing it down,” he said.

Father Hanvey, said the new pope’s stance is reminiscent of the passage in John’s Gospel “not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.”

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