Tag Archives: Italy

New Pope, New Hope?

9 Dec

I’m an atheist (and a reluctant Buddhist), but that doesn’t mean I don’t take an interest in religion –  I’m keenly interested  in human psychology especially as it relates to political and social movements. I like to kid that I was raised lapsed (Catholic), because my family went to Church twice a year, but they were very disappointed when, at age fifteen, I refused to take Confirmation. Mainly because of what the neighbours might think.

I am also a great believer in the teachings ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament gospels, and do my best to live by them. They are hard. I don’t call myself a Christian, however, because I don’t believe that Jesus, if there was such a historical person, was any more divine than you or I (take that as you will). I also don’t call myself a Christian because I have only met two or three people who identify as such who actually live in accordance with these teachings – love thine enemy, turn the other cheek, camel and needle’s eye, the sermon on the mount, and so forth.

But I still sometimes dip my fingers in the holy water and cross myself when I enter a cathedral.

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So I am really fascinated by the early days of the papacy of Francis I. He made a good start in my eyes by taking the name of my favourite Catholic Saint, and showed further that he might break with tradition when he became the first pope in 1100 years not to choose a name already chosen by a previous pope (the previous was Pope Lando in 913, who of course named himself after a character from Star Wars).

In less than a year since his election, Francis has made some extraordinary statements and undertaken strong symbolic actions which set him aside from his two immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, many critics argue that thus far, he has offered many words but not done much if anything to change the church. I would like to present the view here, gleaned largely through recent discussions with leftist atheist Italian thinkers and artists, that these critics may be mistaken – in their understanding of how both the church the papacy work.

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