The Holy Father makes the Church accessible through his emphasis on mercy, says Peter Nation
By Agnieszka Krawczynski
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Peter Nation, the coordinator of Catholic Voices Canada, calls Pope Francis a reformer during a talk at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre Sept. 25. "Our Holy Father has not changed a single item of doctrine. He has just made his presentation of the face of the Church so gripping," he explained. Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic
Our prisoner-visiting, leper-kissing, world-travelling Pope Francis will be going down in history as a reformer, according to a Catholic Voices Canada coordinator.
"He was a reformer in the Church in Argentina. He was a reformer in the Jesuit order. When he was elected as the Holy Father, he just continued that charism that he has," said speaker Peter Nation.
"Our Holy Father has not changed a single item of doctrine. He has just made his presentation of the face of the Church so gripping."
Nation spoke to about 30 employees and guests at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre Sept. 25. He drew from The Great Reformer, a book by Catholic Voices founder Austen Ivereigh.
Ivereigh, an author and journalist who actually published a doctoral thesis about Catholicism in Argentina 20 years ago, provided unique insight into the Pope's aims.
"The purpose of Pope Francis's reform is to enable God's mercy to flow more freely, for people to see the Church not just as teacher but as mother and healer," Ivereigh said in an interview about the 2014 book.
"He wants to make it easier for people to be in relationship with God through the Church."
Nation said Pope Francis's reform is not about changing Church doctrine, but about making it more accessible.
"Touching people's emotions is often far more convincing than an intellectual appeal. You have to speak to people's hearts. You have to touch them on an emotional level, and then they'll get you.
"That's precisely what mercy does, and that's precisely why it's very effective, as far as evangelization is concerned."
He added that Pope Francis, who was involved in the Catholic charismatic movement before becoming the Pope, acts with parrhesia, a Greek word that means "apostolic courage."
"It's exactly the gift of the Spirit that the apostles, and particularly St. Peter, received at Pentecost. They were shivering, scared to death, trembling with fear in the upper room with the doors locked so the Jews and Romans couldn't get in and crucify them."
"And then: bang! Tongues of fire come down, the rushing of a mighty wind, and they go out. Peter's first papal homily: 3,000 converts. Good work."
That same courage and conviction is "what's so attractive in the way (Pope Francis) communicates."
Nation told The B.C. Catholic it's too soon to measure the size of the impact Pope Francis has made on the Church and the world. He added his recent predecessors: Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, also made significant impacts in their time.
Audience members wondered if the "Francis effect" is a flash in the pan or if the Pope will really make a lasting effect in the Church.
"Whether or not it trickles down is up to us," Nation replied. Pope Francis's reforms, his emphasis on mercy, and his accessibility must be made visible on the parish level to make a lasting difference.
"We are the Church, too."