Of course the name chosen by the new Pope, Francis, has encouraged me to think that his ministry will be different from his predecessors. In his first 100 days Francis has behaved like a pastor, like a parish priest, encouraging his flock in following the Gospel.
In his informal style Francis has also used some charming and helpful images: while encouraging bishops to be exemplars to their people of Christian living, the Pope also shows that he trusts the faithful to be the faithful: “they have the scent of the Gospel anyway,” he has said more than once. That’s refreshing.
I know that a faraway personality can become simply a blank screen on which to project our own hopes and values, I can see that his apparently off the cuff homilies are actually quite studied, and I hear the warnings that despite the gestures of austerity, he is governing like an old-fashioned Jesuit (listening to all but making decisions by himself), and that his theology on issues I care about is still conservative (I am certain he disagrees with my views on the ordination of women, and the acceptance of LGBT people in the Church!), however, what counts is clear: Francis is a pastor encouraging all Christians in their faith.
In this address to the Cardinals Francis shows that he trusts God with the future of the church, and for that we can be encouraged:
Let us never give way to pessimism, to a sort of bitterness that the devil offers us each day; let us never give way to pessimism and discouragement: let us have the firm certainty that Holy Spirit gives to the Church, but her powerful breath, the courage to persevere and also to look for new methods of evangelism to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf Acts 1:8)
– Pope Francis at Rome, 15 March 2013
As an Anglican, I am in the nice position of being able to pick and choose what I like from the Pope’s leadership, and this Pope is showing forth Gospel values in his reported lifestyle and gestures, and is speaking about the Gospel from the heart. I thank God for him.