Pope Francis: Theologian of the Cross!

This time fresh off the press/internet this morning.

Pope Francis seems to have quite a way with words – and I note that he was preaching extempore. But what a message! This is powerful stuff. And I do hope that Pastor Mark is listening, because that sounds to me like an authentic theology of the cross that the Holy Father was preaching.

There is a full text in English translation at Zenit.

[I]f we do not confess Jesus Christ, the thing does not work. We will become a welfare NGO but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. …When we do not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the words of Léon Bloy: “Whoever does not pray to the Lord, prays to the devil.” When we do not confess Jesus Christ, we confess the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.

…The same Peter who had confessed Jesus Christ said to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let’s not talk about the cross. This is not a part of it. I will follow you in other directions, but not to the cross. When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly [lit. mundane], we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like for us all, after these days of grace, to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.

It is my wish for all of us that the Holy Spirit – through the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother – bestow upon us the grace of journeying, building, confessing Jesus Christ crucified. Amen.

Of course, Pastor Mark will not like the fact that the Holy Father spoke of the prayer of Our Lady. But there it is. Evangelical Catholicism. Get used to it.

We have heard a lot about Pope Francis’ simplicity of life, but this short homily shows he has a “simplicity of preaching”, which gets right to the core of the Christian kerygma: “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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34 Responses to Pope Francis: Theologian of the Cross!

  1. matthias says:

    Exactly it cannot be said that the Catholic Church is antiGospel or Anti Christ-despite the preaching shananagans of Dispensationalists,Reformed Presbyterians ,some Lutherans or even traditionalist -as opposed to traditional catholics.
    I hope that Francis 1 will deal severely with child abuse and with those who have sought to hide it.

    • Stephen K says:

      I am gratified to see you distinguish between ‘traditionalist’ and ‘traditional’ Catholics, Matthias. In practice, the distinction may be hard to discern, but I believe it’s real, and cannot be bridged by traditionalists merely insisting that they are the other because they value tradition(s). Of course they are both as much a part of the Church as all the other groups vying for airtime. But the difference has significant implications for discourse.

  2. Tony says:

    He certainly doesn’t pull his punches. This is attributed to him (as a bishop I think) in various sources:

    In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don’t baptise the children of single mothers because they weren’t conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today’s hypocrites. Those who clericalise the church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it’s baptised!

    • Joshua says:

      Amen! I love our new Pope more and more.

    • Gareth says:

      While we are digging the archives for every word he has said over the years in order to fit our own agenda, may I add I also liked his quote against homosexual marriage that it is a violation of children’s rights and God’s plan.

      • He also seems to have a penchant for including giant puppets in the Mass!

          • jules says:

            Hello all, on close examination to that Mass please note the commentary below which says it is a children’s mass .
            That Mass was in 2011, it was the Archdiocesan Mass for Children in the Parque Roca Stadium. Many children accompanied by their catechists, leaders and delegates were there.

        • Joshua says:

          I suspect we won’t be seeing them at the Vatican, or WYD in Rio.

          • Thank God for small mercies.
            Why do people insist that children must be entertained during the Mass/Divine Service or they wont benefit from it or come back? They’re making a rod for our backs! At one of my congregations we have 20 African refugee children who attend every week – they can be a bit noisy (bless them!) but we are teaching them to participate as fully as possible by praying the liturgy, making the sign of the cross, coming forward for a blessing, and so on. We are very conservative liturgically – I still face the altar (yes, we do call it an altar) for the consecration. No puppets, giant or small!

            • Joshua says:

              I have seen some Lutheran services in Australia, and was actually rather scandalized at their slackness; then again, I do prefer the minute regulation of the Latin Mass, so doubtless I am biassed.

            • jules says:

              I agree . Children can be lifted to a higher level of worship when it is modeled to them. Sometimes it is the [dare I say???] women – surrounding these events that call the shots . Some priests are not confident enough to say ‘no’ . I don’t know the Argentinian culture or church tradition, but it does seem rather ‘Hillsong”.

  3. Gareth says:

    The new Pope reminds me a little of Pope Luciano, the original JPI, although I don’t want to put the mockers on him.

  4. I will listen to it – I certainly would like to see better preaching in the Catholic Church! But I protest at your usurpation of the term ‘evangelical catholic’ on two grounds: 1) Catholic doctrine is not evangelical; 2) Johann Gerhard invented that term and Lutherans have claimed it ever since. If you persist in claiming it, I might have to revert to calling Catholics “Roman Catholics” in protest :0)

    • Schütz says:

      I must protest – authentically catholic doctrine must be evangelical and vice versa. Much Protestant evangelicalism fails in catholicity – including the Lutheran version of it, I am sorry to say (despite your other blog’s title).

      Furthermore, while what you say of Johann Gerhard is true, I am pretty sure neither John Allen Jnr or George Weigel – both of whom have used the term extensively in their writing – have ever read Gerhard or are aware that a certain kind of Lutheran also claims this epithet.

      Perhaps the coincidence – and that is what it is – of the use of the term in both communions points to a deep commonality which it is my earnest prayer that you, dear Pastor, will one day come to accept.

      • When you or anyone else can convince me that Catholicism is both evangelical and truly catholic, David, I will accept it. Failing that, you can’t blame me for critiquing it from my perspective. Catholicism’s traditional claims demand examination, no?

        • Joshua says:

          Indeed they do; and I pray for you, Pastor (and for all), as I am sure you will for me (and for all), that if either of us be as yet uninformed about the truth of the Faith, that the Paraclete may guide us into all truth just as God the Son promised us. I am sure you and I both wish to be true to the Gospel and to the Faith in a way that is both evangelical and catholic: God grant it.

          • I always try to refrain from questioning people’s motives, Joshua. Our catechism teaches us to always put the best construction on what people say and impute good motives to them. I have no doubt you are sincerely committed to the Gospel as you have been taught it and are seeking further enlightenment. Thank you for your prayers and interlocutions.

  5. Matthias says:

    Preaching can always be improved upon pastor. my brother in theological college was told “if you cannot strike oil in 10 minutes ,stop boring”.
    Catholic doctrine not evangelical ! – -” we proclaim Your Death O Lord and Your Resurrection, until you Come again” . The Mystery of Faith .
    I am not eloquent and can only point you to Fish-eaters web site for their take .
    However I think pastor whilst attacking Catholics , I think you need to hold a candle to your Lutheran co-religionists in Scandanavia and the USA (ELCA) who have accommodated to the surrounding culture. Bill Muheulenberg I think showed Grace when speaking as a protestant about the new Pope and I did note you commented too pastor.

    • I don’t “attack Catholics”, Matthias, I criticise Catholic doctrine and practice – there is a difference.
      As for my alleged co-religionists, may I just point out we are not in communion with them. I personally find the Catholic Church much more interesting than liberal Lutherans!

      • Joshua says:

        Good. I certainly have a regard for the stance of Confessional Lutherans that I have not for the fuzzier and less rational views of post-modern Christians of whatever denomination (though of course I try to love and pray for them all, as I hope they do for me and everyone else).

      • jules says:

        What I have come to learn, in recent years, is that many converts from Lutheranism were surprised by the beauty and richness of the ‘marriage’ between doctrine and practice. It is certainly worth your attention. If only more of the ‘liberal’ Catholics discovered the same beauty !

        • “What I have come to learn, in recent years, is that many converts from Lutheranism were surprised by the beauty and richness of the ‘marriage’ between doctrine and practice.”
          Mutatis mutandis, I would say the same thing re Catholics who become Lutheran. Jules, ;0)
          Unity of doctrine and practice is very important to us.

  6. Joshua says:

    Pastor, may I ask whether these words of Pope Francis (long before his election to the Papacy) strike you as they struck me – as being quite evangelical in the best sense:

    “Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord,” Bergoglio said in 2001. “I beg the theologians who are present not to turn me in to the Sant’Uffizio or the Inquisition; however, forcing things a bit, I dare to say that the privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin.”

  7. Precisely. As the Reformed theologian Carl Trueman has written, these days, when Catholicism is increasingly (for better or worse) the de facto version of Christiainty in the West, evangelicals need to be very clear on why they are NOT Catholics.

  8. Joshua,
    I certainly appreciate the evangelical notes in what the Pope says here. Let us hear more of it. May it even lead to a true evangelical reform of Catholicism that will expunge from it the dregs of the dreaded theology of works righteousness and merit theology! Of course, we will need to start with theological anthropology, i.e. the state of man before and after the Fall, to achieve that end.

    • Joshua says:

      Surely in condemning Pelagianism and Semipelagianism we avoid the wickedness of attributing our salvation to our own unaided efforts?

      • Precisely Joshua. Unfortunately, it seems to me that Catholicism, certainly at the “folk” level and at doctrinal level, does not entirely avoid this error. This is because it has so much historical theology to synthesise that it attempts to be a via media between semi-Pelagianism and classical Augustinianism. It wants to retain a spiritual activity for man in his conversion (speaking of the assent of faith, as if man had a choice in the matter), and after initial justification it allows man an even greater role in the process of his further justification.

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