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Comment: The new Pope needs God’s wisdom and courage, says J John

We have our theological differences, but Christians need to respect, support and pray for Pope Francis ...

Canon J John writes:

We have our theological differences, but the fact is that secularism has declared war on all expressions of Christianity, and in such a battle we Christians need to respect, support and pray for each other.

The Catholic Church has stood firm against many of the pressures of the modern world and has been both an active defender of traditional Christian biblical values on marriage, abortion and euthanasia and a strong supporter of justice and social action. The Catholic Church has resisted the pressures of the modern world better than many Protestant denominations!

So what should we pray for the new Pope? Let me suggest that one of the biggest issues in the Catholic Church centres on its extraordinary past and heritage. Consider what Pope Francis inherits: two thousand years of history, the largest organisation in the world, some of the greatest works of art in existence and an extraordinary richness of doctrine and traditions going back centuries. This wealth is surely both the blessing of the Catholic Church and its burden.

History will weigh heavy on Pope Francis because, with such a past, it is difficult to navigate into the future, to change and to be relevant. Let me suggest that with such a heritage the new Pope will need the gifts both of God’s courage and of God’s wisdom.

Pope Francis will need courage to make the changes that need to be made. He will need the courage to take a stand on what is right. He will need the courage not to retreat into simply doing ‘more of the same’. He will need the courage to examine what is being done, and to see where it needs to be changed and transformed. He will need courage because there will be many voices to tell him that he must not bring about change.

Yet courage alone will not be enough. Pope Francis will need God’s wisdom. You see, there will be those who say he must change nothing and there will also be those who will say he must change everything! Indeed, the many who speak for secularism will soon be encouraging him to make the Catholic Church subscribe to the agenda that they have set for our civilisation.

But the Church that listens to the world is no longer the Church of God. No, the new Pope needs that supernatural wisdom that is the gift of the Holy Spirit to see where, under God, the Church must change and where, under God, the Church must not change.

It would, I suggest, be disappointing if the new Pope changed nothing. It would, however, be a disaster if he changed things in such a way that the Catholic Church became like the world.

Without God’s courage, nothing will be achieved. Without God’s wisdom, what is achieved will be worthless. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ grant him both. And may the smoke signal a fresh move of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church, to renew it and channel a revival in the world of God’s truth, values and principles.

Revd Canon J John is director of The Philo Trust, and a popular writer and speaker

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