In an unprecedented move in modern times, Pope Benedict XVI on Feb 28 voluntarily threw in the towel and abdicated his office. The Pope conceded that the pressure of the work was getting too much, and at 85, his health cannot bear the pressure.
As soon as the Pope stepped aside, the exact nature of the pressure of work started coming to light. In particular, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica claimed Pope Benedict “decided to resign after receiving a dossier investigating the "Vatileaks scandal" containing details of a network of gay prelates, some of whom were vulnerable to blackmail.” See Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Francis#cite_note-vatileaks-220) .
In the face of the never-ending paedophile charges against several high-ranking priests, (virtually all around the globe), together with unimaginable financial scandals in very high places, etc Pope Benedict’s move is a masterpiece. First, he literally saves his health and at the same time, secures a new lease of life for his Church. At least, most critics would be charitable enough to give the incoming Pope some breathing chance and see what sort of reform jokers he might have under his sleeves – especially with the old Pope still around to whisper into his ears!
It was no surprise that it took only a short time to produce a successor to Pope Benedict. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Bishop of Buenos Aires since 1998 and former head of the Argentine Jesuit Order, was reportedly the main runner-up at the conclave that had produced Pope Benedict in 2005; and he was reported to have graciously stepped down for Benedict to prevent a long drawn-out exercise at that time. It is interesting that Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis on 13th March 2013, exactly 53 years after he officially became a Jesuist (on 12th March, 1960).
Going through the profile of Pope Francis, it is difficult not to see a “good”, very likeable, compassionate, and humble man. It would seem that if any human being could foster peace of earth, Pope Francis could well be the man. Unfortunately, man’s heart is thoroughly degenerate, and the world’s situation direly critical. Clearly, good wishes are not enough to accomplish anything. Only the soon-coming Lord Jesus (and not a supposed ‘Vicar’ of His) can save the world at this juncture. How is the new Pope addressing the real essence of his job – salvation of souls in this world and in the hereafter?
Shortly after his election, in a meeting with ambassadors from the 180 countries accredited with the Vatican, Pope Francis called for more interreligious dialogue – "particularly with Islam". But that’s nothing new. Like Pope John Paul II who had gathered together all manner of religious and spiritual expressions together at Assissi (in honour of Francis of Assissi – see CA! Vol 2 No 6) the new Pope who took his name after the same Francis, is with new zest, forging ahead with this interfaith agenda.
The consummate “negotiator” that Pope Francis is, even those who openly scorn God, attributing the beauty and order of our complex universe to random forces of nature - all these will have a place in God’s heaven. This is how the new Pope puts it: God “has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! (…) Even the atheists,” Everyone!”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Francis#cite_note-144) . Of course, Pope or no Pope, the catholic hierarchy could not allow that kind of statement! Thomas Rosica promptly corrected the Pope by clarifying that non-Catholics who ”know” the Roman Catholic Church can only get to Heaven by converting to Catholicism.
Commenting on this crucial central issue, the Wikipeadia article on the new Pope quotes author Neale Donald Walsch : “it was regrettable that the hidden hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church chose to officially retract the recent statement on eternal damnation bravely made by its new leader, Pope Francis.”  In any case even if Pope Francis could grant access to Heaven for all atheists, not all of them would like to take up the offer! Outspoken atheist, Richard Dawkins commented “Atheists go to heaven? Nope. Sorry world, infallible pope got it wrong”Showing the world the way to Heaven, validated by making available here and now victory over sin, is the bottom-line in religion. All the admirable qualities of Pope Francis notwithstanding, turning round the fortune of the tottering catholic institution would hinge on transforming people from within, and not on another round of human philosophies and niceties. As much as we will like to wish Pope Francis well in his new office, it is evident that if he does eventually finds the work too daunting (like his predecessor), there may be no more room for possible maneuvers by the Roman Catholic Church. It will then become all too clear that it is only the Lord’s ideas and intervention that can save the world. In this sense, Pope Francis might as well be the last Pope in the catholic church, as the famed prophecy by catholic mystic, St Malachy, allegedly predicts. (see CA! Vol 8 No 3)
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