Pope Francis’ papacy has been marked by a distinct emphasis on the poor and a unique ability to convey God’s tenderness, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said Oct. 1 at the seminary of his archdiocese.
“Anyone hoping for - or worried about - a break by Pope Francis from Catholic teaching on matters of substance is going to be mistaken,” the archbishop said at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.
“At the same time, the tone of this pontificate will certainly be distinct from anything in the past century.”
His address was part of the Philadelphia archdiocese's Year of Faith lecture series.
Archbishop Chaput particularly noted how the Pope has attracted the attention of so many people.
“The reason the world has paused for Pope Francis – if only for a little while – is that so many people sense in him something more than himself; not just God’s truth and God’s justice, but God’s tenderness.”
He said that Pope Francis is shaped by “the global south” and by “the poor who inhabit it.”
“God will guide his Church. And God will fill this holy man who is our Pope with the wisdom to lead us well.”
Archbishop Chaput examined the goals of the Year of Faith, which lasts from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013. He explained that the observance is intended to help encourage Christians to profess their faith “more fully and with conviction,” to deepen their encounter with Jesus Christ in the liturgy and the Eucharist, and to witness to the faith through the example of their lives.
He warned against treating Christianity as only habit and appearance, saying, “the words and habits of religion are easy. We can sometimes use them to fool ourselves. We need to drill down below the counterfeit Christianity so many of us prefer into the substance of who we are and what we really treasure.”
Catholics, he said, “need to let God transform us from the inside out,” adding that this conversion requires “humility, patience and love.”
“It requires letting go of the desire to vindicate ourselves at the expense of others. So much of modern life, even in the Church, is laced with a spirit of anger. And anger is an addiction as intense and as toxic as crack,” he warned.
The archbishop admonished against identifying the “new evangelization” with techniques, technologies or programs.
Rather, its main instrument is “you and me.”
“There’s no way around those words: Repent and believe in the gospel. The world will change only when you change, when we change, because hearts are won by pe rsonal witness. And we can’t share what we don’t have.”
Repentance, he said, “makes us new” by “healing the evil we’ve done.” Belief in the gospel gives Christians hope that despite their failures and sins, “the greatness of God’s love can reach down and redeem even us.”
The archbishop also discussed what Benedict XVI called the modern world’s “profound crisis of faith” and the modern world’s inability to find happiness.
“Human beings are more than a bundle of appetites. Our longings go beyond what we can see and touch and taste. We were made for God.”
Materialist answers to questions about the soul “can never be more than a narcotic,” he reflected.
“So much of the suffering in modern American life – we see it every day – can be traced to our misdirected desires, and the distractions we use to feed them. We look for joy and purpose in things that can never give us either.”
He said Catholics need to prove their beliefs through “the zeal and joy of our lives.”
Catholics need to “forgive each other, protect the weak, serve the needy, raise the young in virtue, speak with courage, and work for the truth without ceasing – always in a spirit of love.”
Archbishop Chaput said God’s love is “the heart of the matter.”
He prayed that God “turn our hearts to him, and make us a 'fire upon the earth' – a fire that lifts up his creation in love.”