Mar 13, 2014 | By Simone Campbell, SSS
Campbell: Francis challenges Catholics to live the Gospels
Published: March 12, 2014 3:43 PM
By SIMONE CAMPBELL
In a recent interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis warned against calling him a "superman" or "star," deeming the descriptions offensive. He is, he said, a normal man who laughs, cries and has friends.
And yet, people around the globe respond enthusiastically to him as if he alone can satisfy a deep hunger for a renewed Roman Catholic Church focused on Gospel messages of compassion, inclusiveness and mercy.
The truth is, no single individual can satisfy our spiritual hunger. The challenges are too great: sexual-abuse scandals, Vatican financial misconduct and the perception that the church is deeply disconnected from those it is supposed to serve.
Pope Francis has reached out to everyone -- particularly those who are struggling -- and made it clear that all of us Catholics are to be part of the transformation. Not easy, but he helps pave the way by calling us to be joyful believers in the power of the Gospel. Joyful . . . not fearful people focused on sin and punishment, as many of us have been of late.
His apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," published in November, highlights his views of the change he is leading in the church and in the world. He is trying to build the peace Jesus gave to the Apostles. He challenges us to end turf battles, whether they be within Vatican offices or elsewhere, and embrace processes that bring us together. He knows that the heart hungers for unity and we must open the door to make that happen for each of us.
He also tells us that reality -- read, real people's lives -- is more important than any theoretical construct. This is critical for social justice advocates like myself as we work to apply faith to lived reality. Stories told us by parents struggling to feed their families break our hearts and cause us to grow in a way that a federal budget battle or a Congressional Budget Office report never will.
And finally, he states that building peace requires inclusion of all because individual shapes are needed to form the whole. Each of us matters.
Some skeptics want him to immediately focus on church structural issues such as the role of women and shared decision-making. While critically important, these issues cannot be resolved without first engaging in spiritual conversion.
It won't be easy. Almost everyone resists, seeking to assign blame for individual f