WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 — Religion has incurred a lot of intense scrutiny recently. We see images of individuals declaring holy war on behalf of God on our television screens. Accounts of clerical pedophilia and religious leaders misusing funds fill our newspapers.
Several pundits and intellectuals have gone so far as to proclaim religion dead. Some even believe that religion will be gone within the century. But the world needs religion. Religion makes us better people and unites us under a common cause. It does not matter if you are Catholic, Muslim or Jewish, we are all people of faith.
On March 13, 2013, the faithful packed a wet St. Peter’s Square. The white smoke indicated that the new leader of 1.2 billion would soon emerge and not without a myriad of challenges ahead.
The Catholic Church has been rocked with scandal. Some young people have described being molested by men of the cloth. Some have documented how clergymen have mishandled church funds. Others spoke of church cover-ups and corruption.
An institution that has endured 2,000 years and a number of sackings and world wars is now reduced to scandal and promiscuity.
Despite all of these things, the positive aspects of the Church still and always will outweigh the negatives. The Church is responsible for large numbers of charities and orphanages. When people fall on hard times, they look to the Church for help and guidance. The new leader of the Church now needs to right its wrongs and shift the focus to how we all need to become better people.
When the cardinals revealed the newly elected Argentinian pope, the Church body’s prayers were answered. Not only has there never been a Pope with the name of Francis, there has never been a Pope from the Americas. There were early signs that this Pope would be different.
Instead of accepting the congratulations of the other cardinals on the papal throne, Francis received them standing up (Francis later changed the papal throne to a modest white chair).On election night, he decided to greet the faithful in white garments instead of the traditional red mozzetta. Days after his election, churches were filled to capacity.
The media described this man as modest and humble, a man who rode public transportation and opted out of living in a palace. Francis later paid his hotel bill where he stayed for the papal elections. On Holy Thursday, the Pope shocked many when he washed the feet of inmates; among them two women, one of whom was Muslim. And the Pope is currently taking steps to reform the Curia, the group of people some believed Benedict XVI could not control.
The Pope still is relatively new and has more challenges ahead. But he has shown us that the Church is in need of reform and that he is willing to confront the issues head on, unlike his predecessor. Thus far, Francis’ actions are not large, sweeping ones; they are small and humble. These small actions, however, are part of a bigger picture.
This man will change the conversation when it comes to religion. He will shed a spotlight on all of the good things religion teaches us, particularly how we should treat our fellow man.
Religion, regardless of which particular one, teaches us how we should treat one another. It shows us a pathway to happiness. It shows us that we should look to others who are less fortunate than us. In short, it tells us how to love.
Those are the things that religion does for everyone. They are not the things that get headlines, and the people who do them are hardly are ever in the limelight. But if a humble man from Argentina can show us how religion is a force for good, the world will surely benefit from that.
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