Fr. Tom Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television, says Pope Francis calls Catholics to stand under the transforming gaze of Christ. Photo by Ruane Remy

Francis, the defibrillator pope

  • November 23, 2013

TORONTO - Pope Francis was elected the Bishop of Rome eight months ago, but the honeymoon isn’t over yet. The new pope continues to invigorate the faithful and captivate the secular media, and Fr. Tom Rosica believes he knows why.

Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television and Vatican spokesperson during March’s papal election, addressed about 150 people on Nov. 14 at the Newman Centre in Toronto on why the Pope says the things he says, does the things he does and continues to keep the world intrigued.

According to Rosica, the Pope calls the Church and all Christians to stand under the transforming gaze of Christ. Rosica adds that the world is stopping to listen to the Pope because he’s disturbing our conscience, mind and heart.

“We let patterns of materialism captivate our lives and distort our humanity,” said Rosica. “The Pope disarmingly makes us deeply uncomfortable in a way that allows us to recognize and confront the alienation from our own humanity that occurs when we seek happiness in objects rather than in a relationship with God.”

Rosica said the spirituality of Pope Francis is about human faces — “the face of Christ, of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph and Mary, Mother of the Lord.”

“When Francis offers a spiritual self-portrait,” said Rosica, “he describes himself as standing under the gaze of Christ: ‘I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.’”

Even when speaking about abortion and euthanasia, the Pope references the face of Christ. On Sept. 20 he addressed the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, saying, “Each child who is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, bears the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born, and then as soon as he was born, experienced rejection of the world.” Similarly, “each old person, even if infirm or at the end of his or her days, bears the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded.”

When the Pope visited the island of Lampedusa off the Sicilian coast, where hundreds of refugees have died in search of a better life, he coined the term “globalized indifference,” meaning that we have become desensitized to the suffering of others.

“The Bishop of Rome is calling us to conversion, from the culture of comfort that makes us think only of ourselves,” said Rosica. “The Church must elevate the issue of poverty to the very top of its political agenda, establishing poverty alongside abortion as the pre-eminent moral issues the Catholic community pursues.”

Rosica outlined three temptations, according to Pope Francis, to which the Church must not succumb: to turn the Gospel message into an ideology, to run the Church like a business and clericalism.

Rosica also spoke about the “misunderstood” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who made the “unprecedented” decision in modern times to resign, demonstrating that he is “one of the greatest teachers of the faith that the Church has ever known.”

As for where Pope Francis will lead the Church, Rosica cited a French journalist who compared the pontiff to a defibrillator. He is giving the Church new life. Whether speaking on the role of women, life and family issues, the common good or being a Church for the poor, Rosica says Pope Francis is challenging people to think outside the box and travel to the fringes because “for the Pope, the Church is missionary or she will die.”

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