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Repinski: Pope puts Argentina on the map, but affects all believers

Published 8:48am Friday, March 15, 2013

Argentina will forever — or at least for many years — be on the world map. The new Pope of the worldwide Christian community of Roman Catholicism is, I believe, to be honored and respected by religious persons of all faith expressions.

Especially among those of Christian persuasion, the election on March 13 of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, with the name he chose, Pope Francis I.

The chimney on the roof of a building in Vatican City gave puffs of black smoke in early balloting — the selection of the new Pope viewed as a decision informed by nudges from another world — gave the world a signal. On the fifth ballot, white smoke was the symbol that a huge, praying crowd had been waiting for. A new Pope had been selected.

Argentina, with a population of 40 million, with estimates of 70 percent Catholic, is the birthplace of the new leader of the largest branch of world Christianity. The man chosen is from a family of five children, his parents immigrants from Italy. In this unpredictable, struggling world of misunderstood voices and violent behavior, the new Pontiff represents an offer of healing, a wave of hope. Whatever our personal orientation, can we not embrace leadership that brings stability and spirituality?

Representation, more and more a crucial necessity of modern life, is enhanced by people being conscious of geographical settings and have leaders selected from their region. Is it a leap in our thinking to assume that members of the Catholic faith community are, in gratitude, saying: “Thank God, after hundreds of years, our time has come!”

The Roman Catholic Church is, as I regard it, an authentic, historic part of the Christian community rooted in Jesus Christ. Seen in its early beginnings, organizational life shaped by a number of Apostles and men and women as lay persons, has brought us to this day. The New Testament reflects the importance of early disciples, especially Peter, shaping the earliest missions to Jerusalem and beyond.

In recent years, religious organizations have been analyzed in terms of so-called institutional breakdowns. Reportage of the flaws, flukes, and failures of spiritual communities has been more than coffee hour conversation. The media — news from multiple sources — reminds us of hypocrisy, abuse, and hurtful behavior within almost every church organization and denomination.

My observation: None of us is among the absolutely pure in heart. Yes, we are human! And yet, I believe, there are men and women who continue to be for us, priceless, commendable examples of wisdom, intelligence, and moral vision.

Whatever our present place in the spectrum of religious affiliation, or even if not “involved” formally in a church-on-the-corner, there are primary values which we share with others. In saying that, I believe there is general consensus in affirming gifts, talents and examples of humane living. A Pope of integrity, compassion and global vision may uplift all who embrace a Divine Presence in this world. We, of course, view the Papal Office from various perceptions, diverse affiliations and the observance of stated rituals and doctrines.

We, with challenging opportunities, may respond to the leadership of a new person, an Archbishop who upon elected Pope, wishes to be regarded as Francis I. We are aware of the original St. Francis of Assisi, whose memory remains as an “Instrument of Peace.”

It is asserted that in Christianity there is an unbroken chain that flows out of the Apostle Peter (Petra: Rock) and the early teaching center, Rome. Bible references are stated in the New Testament: Mark 16:7, Luke 24:34, Acts 1:13, 20, Galatians 2:7, Matthew 16:16-19, 18:18, John 21: 7-8, 15-17, Ephesians 2:20, 2 Peter 1:16-18, Matthew 14:28-33, I Corinthians 15:4-5). In multiple ways, various theologies, organizational life, and interpretations of today’s churches have a common source.


—Marvin Repinski is a retired pastor with the United Methodist Church in Austin.

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