We have a pope!

As a lifelong (75 years and counting) Catholic I am embarrassed by the royalty-like lifestyle of many church leaders and the outrageous accumulated wealth in the Vatican. My views, including that the Catholic hierarchy resembles King Herod more than Christ, has brought me some support and some condemnation over the years.

With that in mind, I'm well pleased with the selection of the simple, humble man who is now Pope Francis. A man who, as cardinal, eschewed the trappings of his office to live a quiet life, taking care of himself and his people – no palace, no limos, no servants. I believe his appointment bodes well for a papacy more dedicated to its people – especially the poor – than to misguided practices of past decades.

Pope Francis, in his first acts as Pontiff, showed he means to keep things simple – taking the bus back to his hotel, picking up his own belongings rather than sending someone to do it and blessing the cardinals standing among them rather than from a throne – indications that the church and not him will change. While the fundamental principles of the Catholic Church (which do not include child abuse or the coverup of any crimes) as given us by Christ can never change, its practices can and have changed over the years, especially since the papacy of Pope John XXIII.

While the number of Catholics in this country continues to increase – largely due to the growth of the Hispanic population – the number of active Catholics, including attendance at Mass has decreased. At one time, not all that long ago, the vast majority of Catholics would never miss Mass on Sundays and now the majority attends Mass when they feel the need, usually Easter and Christmas.

Somehow, the church is not what it once was to these good folks. This problem is recognized and efforts are being made to make parish membership more meaningful to keep members and to bring members back, as well as attracting new members. Initiatives aimed at doing all of this, for example, are being planned by my parish, St. Ladislas, and others. I believe the selection of Pope Francis will help in this regard.

For me, and many others, a good pope is one who I can picture as the pastor of my parish, one who may not know me, but does know people like me; one who knows he is here to serve us in serving Christ and not him in place of the Lord; one who leads by example and expects those in his church to do the same; one who truly represents God on Earth.

I did not expect to be excited by a new pope but I am and I hope that my fellow Catholics, active and not, are too. May God bless Pope Francis in his work and us in our faith.

– Mel Maurer, Westlake

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Volume 5, Issue 6, Posted 10:53 AM, 03.19.2013