By Barb Arland-Fye
Today marks the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ election as leader of the 1.2 billion members of the Roman Catholic Church.
The charismatic pontiff from Argentina has inspired the world’s Catholics and non-Catholics because he practices what he preaches: love, mercy, forgiveness and a preferential option for the poor. He asks the faithful to pay attention to the fundamental values of the Gospel.
In reflecting on the Holy Father’s impact on Catholics closer to home, we asked Bishop Martin Amos, leader of the Diocese of Davenport’s 95,727 Catholics, for his impressions. Two lay Catholics also shared their thoughts about the impact of Pope Francis on the Church today.
“When I think back to Pius XII, the first pope I knew right up to Pope Francis, each seems to me to be the right person at the right place at the right time,” Bishop Amos said. “Each of them has faced big events, happenings or difficulties during his pontificate. For Pope Francis, it might well be the secularization of society. He seems to know how to present a new face to the essence of our faith.”
The bishop said many people have told him how much they like Pope Francis, his simplicity and his message. “Non-Catholics often say, ‘I like your pope.’”
Asked what advice he would offer the Holy Father, Bishop Amos remarked: “I doubt that he needs or wants my advice.” That being said, the bishop would advise the pope “to stay the course and to know that you have our prayerful support.”
Katie Pirc, a University of Iowa sophomore and member of the Newman Catholic Student Center there, said: “I think Pope Francis is shaking the Church up in a good way. He is trying to make change and teach by example, and people are respecting him for it. He is paving the way for lots of change in the Church. He is a progressive leader and he is trying to modernize, which is something that hasn’t really been done lately. Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air, so people are following his lead.”
Her advice to the Holy Father: “Continue to try to interpret and re-envision the teachings of the Catholic Church in the modern world so it continues to prosper.”
Michael Gayman, who runs the Oaks of Mamre Catholic Worker Community in Davenport, observed: “Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air for the papacy! From his adoption of a more simple, humble dress to sharing his birthday celebration with the homeless in Rome. These are things that open our eyes and our hearts to Jesus.
“The Holy Father is willing to draw us closer to Jesus; he draws the children and young people in and welcomes them with open arms. I really admire his hope and willingness to speak truth to power.
“Francis is not afraid to talk about the idolatry of money and how the rich need to be generous to those who suffer, live with and — in many cases — die from poverty. We are truly grateful to have a pope who ‘smells like the flock.’ We are also grateful for the priests who ‘smell like the flock’ as well, and this is a call for all religious to get their hands dirty and find Christ in the poor. Let us be a Church who goes in search of Christ!
“Christ in the poor, the suffering, the addict and the ‘other.’ ‘Who am I to judge?’”