Thursday, March 14, 2013

On papal fervor

Before the white smoke had even cleared my Catholic friends were aflutter with excitement about the new Bishop of Rome. Shortly thereafter with Pope Francis' introduction to the world, the fervor-o-meter was turned to 11. What I noted (and was a bit surprised by) was the use of the word "love" and the amount of crying involved then and now. Certainly the election of a new patriarch in Orthodoxy is met with no little anticipation, but the outpouring of emotion Catholics have for their pope is - seemingly - a singularly Catholic thing.

Is this a result of the extraordinary position this man holds in the Latin Church? Is it a result of all the media attention? Your thoughts, please.


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  2. I think that the Pope more so than any other bishop, or cleric is loved by Catholics because he is the only one who can and does stand up in the world on the stage available to him and brings the message of Christ's saving love. This is not to say that countless clerics don't also do this, but not on the same stage.
    I think it is in part because of the magnitude of the office (which I think has grown too large, North and South Americas ought to be autocephalous Patriarchal Latin Churches, same with East Asia and Africa)and in part because Romans have always loved their Papa with great fervor, and with television and radio we have all in a way become Romans.

    Lastly it is important to remember in Catholicism there is an emphasis put on the Pope of Rome as being the "vicar of Christ." While Catholic theology does provide that all bishops really are the vicar of Christ in their own dioceses, this is underemphasized. The Pope then is seen by some Catholics as some sort of superbishop instead of what he is, a bishop with special prerogatives given the See which he holds. This new Pope seems to see this at least in part, in his statement when he was introduced he called himself the Bishop of Rome and not the Pope. He has been close to Eastern Christianity throughout his life and it will be interesting to see how his papacy plays out.

  3. I think it has mostly to do with Pope John Paul II. Between his charisma and global travels, he has made the papacy a much more tangible, personal office. Pope Benedict XVI continued the travels.
    Also, Pope John Paul II started the World Youth Day events which the Pope always appears at and celebrates Mass. Young people are the most excitable.

  4. It seems that in the RCC the pope is the living embodiment of the church, while Orthodoxy reigns this in and reminds us that laity and clergy, monastic and parish, all are the body while Christ is our head.

  5. I personally think that medieval and early modern Catholics would have been as bewildered by this phenomenon as anyone now, but ever since the long and momentous pontificate of Pius IX in the nineteenth century, a cult of personality has developed around the papal office. He is a rock star, a global celebrity. The irony is that, if statistics are to be believed, all that cheering and crying does not translate into obedience. The majority of the people in the Square will go home and cheerfully do their own thing, with no regard for papal teaching. The modern Roman Catholic Church is truly a very strange institution.