On Pope Francis: “You Can See He is a Pastor. He is Not a King.”

Some provocative insights on Pope Francis from a provocative former Franciscan, via Vatican Insider: 

“Three weeks before Bergoglio’s election, I tweeted: Francis is going to be the next Pope because as St. Francis did, the Church needs someone who can restore its lost credibility…” Leonardo Boff no longer wears a habit after his clash with Rome over his theological beliefs. He left the Franciscan order and is now married but his beard, which is whiter than ever, looks exactly the same as when he was still a friar. The Liberation Theologian whom Joseph Ratzinger never managed to tame, talks to Italian newspaper La Stampa about the visit to Brazil of the first Latin American Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.

Were you surprised by the welcome Francis received from the crowds in Rio de Janeiro?

“No, this enthusiasm stems from Francis’ simplicity, from the fact that he came without a huge security apparatus, that he wanted to drive through the city in a simple car and with the windows always down, that he let people approach and touch him and from the fact that he stopped to give children kisses. You can see he is a pastor, a bishop amongst his people. He is not a king.”

Francis decided to kick off his trip to Rio with a visit to the Shrine of Aparecida. Why?

“Because this is where Latin American bishops met in 2007 and published a document which refocuses on the poor and confirms that certain methods of evangelisation are out of date and need to be changed. The Church needs pastors who smell more like sheep than of the flowers on the altar.

Francis has shown his deep devotion to the Virgin Mary and the importance he attributes to popular piety. These are not really aspects that are close to liberals’ hearts…

“Oh but they are. They are closely linked to Liberation Theology. In Argentina this developed especially as a people’s theology, developed by the Jesuit Juan Carlos Scannone, who taught Bergoglio. The Pope is close to this theological thinking. It is not to do with popular pietistic devotion but with a devotion that preserves people’s identity and strives for social justice.”

The Pope speaks often about the poor and at the hospital in Rio he stressed that being close to the poor means touching “the body of Jesus.” What does this mean?

“The poor are Christ’s real representatives. In a way, it is the poor person who is the real “Pope” and Christ continues to be crucified among the Earth’s condemned. Christ is crucified on the crucifixes of history.”

What changes will Pope Francis bring to the Church?

“I think a lot is going to change. Francis is not just reforming the Curia, he is reforming the papacy. His insistence on being the Bishop of Rome and his decision to live in St. Martha’s House instead of the Apostolic Palace means opening up to the world. The Pope has explained that he prefers a Church that has been in accidents but continues to go out onto the road, than an asphyctic Church which stops at the door of the temple. Now the Church has become a beacon of hope not a besieged fort that is constantly at war with modernity or customs that control and regulate faith instead of facilitating it.”

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