Jorge Bergoglio, commonly known as Pope Francis, waves at some Christian devotees.| Photo courtesy of Google Images
By Anne Kathleen Vicho

It was an ordinary day for Michele Ferri when his telephone rang and the voice of the Pope greeted him. "Ciao Michele, it's Pope Francis," the Pope said when Ferri picked up. "He told me he had cried when he read the letter I had written him," Ferri added. Italian Ferri wrote to the Pope after his brother was murdered in a gas station robbery earlier in June.

Pope Francis has started picking up the telephone receiver last August and calling distressed believers who wrote him letters in hopes of “healing their wounds”. Last September, he called another Italian woman to console her when he read her letter saying that she was pregnant, but her boyfriend revealed that he is married and asked her to abort the baby.

The Pope is healing wounds – wounds of the world – that can only be fully healed by healing the small scratches of individuals. The Pope expressed grave concern about the Church being too focused on issues such as same-sex marriage, contraceptives and abortion forgetting the more important issues the world is facing today – unemployment and loneliness.

He voiced out that the Church has been “obsessed” with these issues and has “locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards,” the Pope said in his interview with America Magazine.

He said that the Church’s stand has not changed but reminded that it should always keep in mind the individual person and show mercy towards them. Homosexuality, abortion and usage of contraceptives remain sins but he reiterated that sinners may always ask for forgiveness.

“If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge,” he added. “We must heal wounds. Then we will be able to tackle the rest,” he told the Jesuit newspaper La Civilta Cattolica.

Instead of focusing on this “obsession”, Pope Francis urged the unemployed to fight for work. In his trip to Cagliari in Italy last September, in front of 20, 000 faithfuls, he called a prayer for “work, work, work”.

“I find suffering here. It weakens you and robs you of hope,” the Pope said regarding the situation of the unemployed miners in Cagliari. “Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”

The Pope attacked the global economic system and said that unemployment is “the consequence of a world choice, of an economic system that brings about tragedy, an economic system that has its center and idol which is called money.”

“Men and women have to be the center as God wants, not money,” the Pope said in the Eucharistic Mass held outside the Cagliari Cathedral wherein 300,000 people attended. He added that, “To defend this economic culture, a throwaway culture has been installed. We throw away grandparents, and we throw away young people. We have to say no to this throwaway culture. We want a just system that helps everyone.”

In an interview with Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist founder of the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, the Pope said that loneliness is one of the more important issues that he wanted the Church to focus on saying that along with unemployment, loneliness hurts both the body and soul of the person making it the Church’s responsibility to heal.

He also said in the interview that “all are brothers and all are children of God” hoping that a new and harmonious relationship with non-Catholics will emerge as he emphasized that his Church will be open, welcoming anyone who is seeking God.

These electrifying acts the Pope has done in just the first six months of his papacy were seen as an act of laying down the groundwork for bigger changes by many religion analysts saying that the Pope is bringing back the charismatic authority the Church needs.

“He is trying to position the Catholic Church as a force for tolerance, as a force for acceptance,” John L. Allen Jr., a Vatican expert at The National Catholic Reporter, said regarding the actions of the Pope.

The Church, an institution that has been present for thousands of years, has not escaped controversies and issues that has troubled them and their believers for a long time. In the past few years, the scandal of gay lobbying in Vatican has surfaced in which the Pope reacted that “The problem isn’t having this [sexual] orientation. The problem is making a lobby.”

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