In Pope Francis‘ first written Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy Of The Gospel), he sets his aim on giving the Catholic Church a vision for evangelism in the current culture. Clearly, the Pope is not interested in going back to the way things were.
The powerful 84 page exhortation begins with a call to the church “to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” It seems that Francis’ primary concern for the church in the future is a failure to remember the message of the church as a message of joy. In fact, he even goes as far as to call some church leaders “sourpusses.”
While unpacking what he believes to be the central messages of the gospel, love and joy, Francis claims that the greatest threats to the message of joy in the world is “inequality” and “exclusivism.” Specifically he refers to the financial inequality and exclusivism created by the current economic culture at large, a culture of consumerism. He believes that what is ailing the church and the world is not a “war” against the poor, but instead an indifference towards the poor and marginalized.
Rather than pushing the responsibility for the poor back on the governments of the world, he believes that the church is the one responsible for the care of the poor. The Pope believes that the issue goes farther than just “doing the right thing,” but, “for the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one.” In other words, caring for the poor is a must, not an option.
“The Joy of the Gospel” even attacks the office of the Pope, stating:
“Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy. It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization… We have made little progress in this regard.”
Going even so far as to call inequality the “root of all social ills”, Francis encourages the church to take up the task of becoming poor so as to care for the poor. In renouncing the perceived religious institutionalism of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has set himself up to be a very polarizing Pope. He even admits in the letter that some may perceive him as overstepping his bounds by entering into social dialogue.
One thing is made absolutely clear by the Argentinian born Pope. In his own words, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”
What do you think about the Pope’s stance on the church getting involved in the inequality of wealth?