I’m been accused of heresy and worse in my attitude to organised religion and the Catholic church in particular, but I have to say this new Pope of continues to impress me.
On Maundy Thursday it is normal to hold a service either in St Peter’s Basilica or in the Church of St John in Lateran, which is the Pope’s church in his capacity as Bishop of Rome. But this guy continues to break the mould.
The Pope chose to surprise everyone by holding the service in a young offenders’ institute on the outskirts of Rome and kissing the feet of inmates in a gesture that commemorates Jesus’s humility towards his disciples before the Last Supper, on the night before he was crucified.
Somehow, I cannot imagine his predecessor even contemplating such an act. I am reminded of the sight of Pope John Paul II kissing the soil of the countries he visited during his tenure.
And the message he gave to the faithful? Well, in a clear reference to the reclusive Ratshitter, the Pope urged priests to do less “soul-searching” and engage more with parishioners.
“It is not in soul-searching… that we encounter the Lord,” he told hundreds of cardinals, priests and bishops in St Peter’s Basilica. “We need to go out… to the outskirts where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight.” Quite so, I say! Put your money where your mouth is.
Francis has been branded the ‘unpredictable Pope’ in the brief time since his election. He’s certainly living up to the nickname – and long may it continue!
So far, he’s a much needed breath of fresh air…