Pope Francis has become a larger than life figure in the seven months since being elected as leader of the Catholic Church, after his predecessor Benedict XVI resigned. Now he wants to know what you think.
The unusual manner in which Francis ascended onto St. Peter’s chair has continued in the way he carries himself and how in tune he appears to be to everyday people.
Now in an surprise move, the Vatican is sending out a questionnaire to parishes around the globe, asking Catholics for their opinions in several critical matters concerning the governing of the Church.
Some of the questions have never been asked of Catholics before. How do you feel about same sex marriage? About birth control? About pre-marital relations and couples living together before marriage? You get the idea. Those controversial things that many in the Church have decided opinions about.
Why is this so unusual? It has never been done. In the past, the Catholic Church, through the Vatican, only rule. This is the way you will proceed, they tell us who are Catholics. So asking for our opinion is refreshing.
Another way in which Pope Francis is separating himself from any of his predecessors, including the immensely popular Pope John Paul II.
The questions go to the heart of the conflicts Catholics have with the established Church which has resulted in one in 10 Americans describing themselves as ex-Catholics. Pope Francis is trying to change that.
And he leads by example, behaving like Jesus did, being open to all, including, not excluding. He recently hugged and kiss a severely disfigured man, with tumors all over his body. Where most have looked away, he embraced him and comforted the disabled man. The image went viral.
He allowed a little boy, who came on stage to “hang out” with him through the entirety of his speech. The little boy even got to sit on “St. Peter’s chair.”
People are not used to the Pope leading by example. This Pope has become somewhat of a rock star, if you can respectfully refer to the Holy Father in such a mundane manner. It is the closest thing to compare him to.
Anything he says, anything he does, makes headlines. No other Pope has been in the news, for positive things, as Francis.
The Catholic Church is seen as an institution which is out of touch with modern times, this Pope has changed that overnight, and gotten the attention of Catholics and non-Catholics in the process.
— Saia & Ant Fainga'a (@FaingaaTwins) October 31, 2013
People think Pope Francis is “cool”. He has refused to move into the lavish Papal apartments at the Vatican saying he only needs a room with a bed in it. He rides the bus or walks to places. Unheard of.
At Francis’ urging, the Vatican has created a questionnaire asking about Catholic teaching. In October, it was sent to the world’s bishop conferences and it’s goal is to gather input in preparation for an October 2014 Synod of Bishops in Rome.
“I think this is the biggest story of the year. It’s a monumental change.” said Dennis Coday, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, an influential Catholic newsweekly who broke the story after they received a copy of the survey last month.
A letter instructing Bishops all around the world instructed them to them “to share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received regarding the themes and responses to the questionnaire.”
It is highly unlikely that a change in doctrine will take place, but the fact that Pope Francis wants to know what the faithful think, is unprecedented as Bishop Michael Putney of Australia has been quoted saying, but he adds, “It’s typical of the new Pope.”
Pope Francis has his work cut out for him, especially after the loss in confidence following the clerical sexual abuse scandals that continue to plague the Church, so far many are seeing a man who wants to listen and who also mirrors his behavior in Jesus’ teachings, which is refreshingly “cool”.
What do you think of Pope Francis’ survey? Would you like to share your opinions with him?