When Cardinal Bergoglio, a.k.a., Pope Francis, stepped onto that balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, my reaction was probably like many Catholics: a sense of excitement and mystery.
My ignorance of his background rushed forth in my initial thoughts: Though happy that he’s Latin American, I lamented what his choice might signal about Europe. Pope Benedict, after all, had been committed to saving Europe from its rapid, voluntary de-Christianization.
And so, by picking a Latin American, was the Church (in a sense) surrendering Europe?
Not at all. In fact, that’s one reason why the pick of Cardinal Bergoglio is so brilliant. He’s a Latin American of Italian ethnicity. He has one foot in Latin America and one foot in Europe. The Europe project isn’t dead.
But while I’m thrilled that Pope Francis, like his predecessors, remains committed to Europe, I hope he remains vocal in the Church’s battle against the Death Culture.
In his first homily, Pope Francis spoke glowingly about St. Joseph, “the ‘custos,’ the protector.” Pope Francis began by asking: “The protector of whom?” He noted Mary, Jesus, and the “universal Church.” He didn’t stop there. He listed many things Joseph protected and that we should protect. Quite conspicuously, however, he never once listed what Joseph protected foremost: the unborn child.
The new pope’s homily repeatedly underscored the need to protect the environment, the poor, the needy, the weak, creation, children, the elderly, families, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents, and “every man and every woman.” He told us to be “protectors of God’s gifts,” as well as “our emotions,” “our hearts,” and “evil intentions.” He listed still more: “the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.”
But Pope Francis never once denoted the unborn child—the primary object of St. Joseph’s protection, which, in our times, needs protecting more than anything else.
Certainly the new pope is pro-life, but why this obvious omission?
Just as the Church has remained openly committed to saving Europe, I hope its leader remains openly—and vocally—committed to saving the unborn child.
For Catholic Exchange dot com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.
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