Father Eugene Hemrick

Why is Pope Francis so appealing to some and not to others?

To answer the first question, Pope Francis loves the poor and is opposed to those who can alleviate their suffering but fail to do so because of corruption. He is more than a champion of social justice. He speaks to our conscience and its spiritual yearning for true joy.

More often than not, the picture of joy the world presents (mainly materialism) leaves us empty and wondering if it can ever be achieved.

In his treatise on joy, Pope Paul VI tells us we can achieve the true happiness we yearn for by being grateful for God’s wonders in our world, and especially by serving others.

Pope Francis personifies these virtues in his emphasis on solidarity. He urges us to put ourselves in the shoes of the poor and feel their pain, and to campaign against poverty and injustice. Solidarity prompts us to leave our comfort zone, to bring comfort to others. Pope Francis speaks directly to a conscience that knows deep down that this is the highest means for achieving true joy. Why? It is because Christ chose those virtues to redeem us.

One reason some Catholics are displeased with Pope Francis is that he is making them feel uncomfortable. For example, many of us have more material goods than we need. Our closets and pantries are filled to the brim. The solidarity Pope Francis calls for prompts us to do with less in order to give it to those who have less.

True, we do this at Thanksgiving time, but true solidarity asks of us to continuously give, not just at Thanksgiving time, but throughout the year. Options like this prick the conscience and create discomfort most of us would like to avoid because it calls for self-sacrifice and a change in our routine.

Dissatisfaction with Pope Francis goes even deeper than this. Some people feel religion is about God and “me,” and not about God and everyone else. To be religious is to go to church and be with God. Catholicism should be a conclave onto itself.

Pope Francis represents the theology that says, The church belongs to everyone and to follow God’s love it is important to leave the confines of the temple and minister to them — too many Catholics have been lost to evangelicals because of neglecting this principle.

Then there are those who love pomp and a church triumphant. To their dismay, Pope Francis stands for less church trappings and more religious substance.

In Pope Francis, we have a man who is redefining the meaning of real joy and being a true church. It is something we all yearn for, and God willing, will experience in his pontificate.