The Pope and the Patriarch

The Pope has been in the news a lot lately. I am Catholic and I have been very interested in the current Pope because he is so unique. He has done some very unconventional things and has taken people off guard with his humble nature. I like him a lot. I hope he will change the often negative and rigid reputation that the Catholic Church has in the media.

Recently, Pope Francis met with Metropolitan Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church while they were both on a trip to Latin America. In Havana, they issued a joint statement that is seen as historical. While I understand the division between the Catholic Church and many Protestant Churches, I have been less clear about the division among the Orthodox Churches. However, the article describes how the head of these two churches have not come together in centuries.

Yet, religious differences were not the topic of conversation. The main topic that was discussed seemed to be the crises affecting Christians in Europe and the Middle East. Christians in these areas are facing persecution by extreme Islamic groups and being driven out of their homes. This is quite ironic because many of these areas, such as Iran and Syria, as considered the Holy Land to Christians, and now they can’t even live there.

In class, we have talked about the concept of “shell” organizations. With the advent of multinational corporations and transnational organizations, it is happening that a particular country’s government may no longer be the highest authority on an issue. As a result, many bodies that once had a lot of power now have reduced power.

That is probably a big factor in why this meeting happened. Governments are turning to religious leaders to influence the issues that are important to them.

But the Church also does not have the power it once did. The Pope used to have as much influence as any monarch. But that is not the case anymore. Now, he is more of an ambassador of peace.

I had to laugh when I heard another story about Pope Francis on his way home from this trip to Havana. He made a simple comment about Donald Trump and it became a huge news story.

I find it hard to believe that the Pope Francis really cares much about Trump. I can’t remember a Pope ever getting involved in a US Election! I think the reporters that asked Pope Francis that question were looking for some kind of leverage to use against Trump. By implying that the Pope said Trump was “not a Christian” they are reminding people of the Pope’s ability to excommunicate a person from the Church.

But the Pope has not used that power in many, many years. I seriously doubt that Pope Francis, of all Popes, would use it now. The Pope simply meant that Trump’s stand on Mexican  immigration to the US did not reflect Christian values of inclusion and equality.  But the press was trying to create a “throwback” to a time when Christians in America would have been afraid to go against the Pope in any way.

So, in this situation, you have religious leaders coming together to try and address political issues around the world. You also have reporters asking the Pope of Rome to comment on an American Presidential candidate. These are truly examples of how issues are not contained in one country anymore – issues are Global and belong to all the world’s players.

One thing that struck me in all this is how it relates to the concept of “Jihad vs. McWorld” that we talked about in class.  The idea that forces of Globalization are working, at the same time, to push together and pull apart. Although in this case, it may be in the reverse order.

The Pope and the Patriarch may not have talked much about religious issues at this meeting, but the fact that they are talking at all is good.  Who knows, if they come together often enough maybe there will be an eventual reuniting of the two Christian Churches?

If this does happen, it will have been a direct result of the threat from radical Islam. So, “Jihad,” the terrorism that is persecuting Christians in parts of the world, may play a role in the eventual unifying of Christians. Making the Christian Church stronger is certainly NOT what the terrorists would want. But it is out of their control.  The forces of “Jihad and McWorld” operate together – in the most unusual ways.


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