A Pope from the Southern Hemisphere! This is a game-changer

For those of us from missionary backgrounds, we have saying (myself for almost 2 decades) that if when the Catholic Church elects a pope from the Southern Hemisphere – S. America, Africa, Asia, or Islands – that is would be a game changer. White smoke emerges from the chimney on roof of the Sistine Chapel to signify there is a new pope

Well that has happened.  

Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina will be known as Pope Francis and it is nearly impossible to overstate how monumental this is.

You don’t have to be Catholic. You can think that the white smoke and all the pomp & circumstance is a bunch of hooey. You can roll your eyes and some of the superstitious or antiquated elements of the various varieties of global expressions.

What you can not do is ignore how important this is. 

In his 2007 book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins talked not only about the rise of Pentecostalism is the Southern Hemisphere but the importance of the unique Catholic expressions and hybrids as well.

Read any book about globalization and you will see how much this is going to matter in the inter-connected, trans-national, multi-cultural 21st century.

This is the primary reason that even as I have transitioned to working at a Mainline church, attending a Liberal school, and adopting Process theology as my main conversation partner … I have continued to carry the banner of Pentecostal-Charismatic expressions of the church and to have post-colonial studies as one of my cognate fields for my PhD.

I take this stuff seriously and I am under the impression that you should too. 

Since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960′s the Catholic church has undergone many serious changes. The sex abuse scandals of the past decades have been crippling – especially in the North Atlantic countries of Europe and N. America.

I am not saying that this one change fixes all that. That would be silly. What I am saying that is a non-white face, from South of the equator, speaking Spanish … it is going to be big.

I have been asked several times in the last month what my opinion of the Pope change was. I have repeatedly said:

Unless they elect a Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, I have nothing to say.

We they did, and now I do.  I will write more this weekend after I turn in my massive paper due Friday.

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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17 comments
JohnSilva
JohnSilva

@BoSanders, I wonder how much of a game changer woud it be if Francis embraced Latin american's liberation theology and focused on broader issues like peacemaking and economic equality, instead of simply going against abortion and gay marriage.

By the way I wonder how process theology sees the liberation thelogy... Any thoughts?

Isaac FL
Isaac FL

I agree with you @BoSanders  this is a game changer even in North america the catholic church grows because of Hispanic immigrants, a pope that can relate with the hispanic culture in some way or another is huge specially for this continent.

prophetsandpopstars
prophetsandpopstars

In terms of chess, there was only one move on the board, they made it.

Now the game opens up again.

What happens now is anyone's guess, except perhaps Kasparov's. 

pkdd
pkdd

Too late to be a game-changer?  Isn't this a reactionary move by the RCC to keep their hat in the ring in the Global South?

kenalto9
kenalto9

I was impressed to read in the Guardian that when Bergoglio became a cardinal  he urged all the Argentinians that intended to fly to Rome to join the celebration to give the money they would have spent on plane fare to the poor instead, and that he commutes by bus instead of private car. It is not ordaining women and he is vehemently opposed to gay marriage, but given the makeup of the cohort of cardinals, he at least seems to have some concern for the planet and the poor.

jerimijo
jerimijo

Is this bigger than a black president. As long as they don't take the paintings of milky white Madonna and child, I am cool with it.

BrethrenlyLove
BrethrenlyLove

Game changer, maybe. He's Argentine, but born to Italian immigrant parents. It's interesting that he's Jesuit, but has taken a Franciscan name, so maybe he's more of a bridge builder.

wierz
wierz

While a shift to the Southern Hemisphere is fairly radical, from what I'm reading we shouldn't get too excited about a Pope that will need more air miles to visit home. Bergoglio has been a "hold the line" kind of Archbishop and he is likely to continue the hardline conservatism of Benedict.

 

It's easy to be distracted by skin tone and nationality and miss the character of the man.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@tanyam No doubt we will have to wait a couple of years to see. But I think that the identification with the global South is a big big development.  Also issues of immigration. 

Sure, he is a social conservative.  If he wasn't, he wouldn't have gotten elected ;p  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@prophetsandpopstars Agreed.  But at least they made it - the other option was just a non-move. 

He actually is best case scenario for the Catholic higher ups: from Italian blood, but from the global South  ;)  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@pkdd I don't think it is too little too late ! With the sheer number of Catholics IN the Southern Hemisphere ... It is far from too late :p

BrethrenlyLove
BrethrenlyLove

Looks like his name might reference a Jesuit after all, Francis Xavier.

tanyam
tanyam

Except that, of course, his skin tone is white. He is Italian in descent. And Argentina is that "most European" of Latin American countries.

pkdd
pkdd

 @BoSanders  True, but regardless of who the pope is (or was) those Catholics are still there.  It just seems like the vatican feels left out and is trying to put its official stamp on what is already happening.

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