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 Blooming Stars

Pope and Me

            Pope Francis is 76 years old; I am 73. Both of us joined the Society of Jesus in the same year, i. e., 1958. Unlike Francis, I had also one year of pre-Novitiate or aspirant program before joining. We joined the pre-Vatican Council, triumphant, western-oriented Society. With the historic changes introduced by the Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Jesuits took leadership in simplicity of living, in-culturation, modernization, and social justice. Under the wise and able leadership of a bold, and courageous superior, Pedro Arrupe, who was and is a true saint.The Jesuits made a fundamental option for the poor and the down-trodden bringing the mission of Catholic Church closer to the vision of Christ and the Kingdom of God. In fact Arrupe wrote a very inspiring book called ‘A Faith Related to Justice’.

            I was privileged to observe Arrupe from close quarters. Arrupe led the transitional phase of the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church involved in changes necessitated by the Vatican Council. The Catholic Church experienced the pangs of birth related to the adaptation of the Church to the modern world. That is where Pope John Paul II with all his charism and, Pope Benedict XVI, failed in ushering the Catholic Church into the 21st century. I may also note that there is no need to rush the canonization of Pope John Paul II. For that matter the Catholic Church should abandon the canonization of anyone in the future as there are more important things to do. Pope Francis and I had very similar training. Both of us became solemnly professed Jesuits taking the fourth vow of special obedience to the pope besides the three regular vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

            I left the Jesuits after 25 years, decided to get married while continuing to minister and work for the Kingdom of God as Christ did independently as a Catholic Priest and a Clinical Psychologist. Francis started climbing the hierarchical ladder, first becoming a bishop in 1992 and finally the pope, the bishop of the universal Catholic Church. He became the main actor in the center stage of the Catholic Christian world and I, perhaps, the most insignificant player in the remotest periphery of the hierarchical Catholic stage. Nonetheless, I am as much a Catholic Christian as the pope. That prerogative I am not going to allow anyone to question. I may also let go of that prerogative if and when God wants me to. For it is not good for human to cling on to anything. I am surprised at myself as I say this since there was an earlier period time when I devoutly prayed for perseverance in the Society of Jesus!

            While I remained a Jesuit at heart, I would not be able to write some of the things I am writing had I remained a Jesuit. In a series of articles on Papal Dynamics, I raised the issue of the importance of the then Pope Benedict resigning a month before his actual resignation so his cronies would not be ruling the Catholic Church in his feeble state. After the autocratic election of Pope Francis, I questioned his legitimacy to truly represent the Catholic Church in that he was elected by Cardinals who were selected and appointed by the two conservative Popes. The second Vatican Council only opened the window of the Catholic Church a little bit for some fresh air. When it is widely opened, a democratic election of a truly representative pope will take place. That is why I suggested the calling of a Third Vatican Council that is not managed by an autocratic hierarchy but by the entire Catholic Church. I must say that Pope Francis is moving in the right direction with regard to a compassionate Church and simplicity of life.

            A Hindu sanyasi (monk) friend of mine a few weeks ago called me and said that the new pope is talking about issues in the Catholic Church that I have been talking and writing about. When I said what Francis said that the God of Catholics is not any different from the one true God, Cardinal Alancherry of Kerala had no difficulty in justifying the pope. I strongly believe that many changes in the Church hitherto unforeseen by the hierarchy will happen in the future. Nobody can stop these changes unleashed by the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis said that he would like to hear the views of his critics. I do not agree with him when he says that women will not become priests in the Catholic Church. That decision has to be taken by the Universal Catholic the light, especially, of human rights and equality of sexes.

            The role, function, and mission of Christ (abhishikta) are described in the New Testament of the Bible. Christ is the Logos (Word: Aadi Shabda) from the beginning of the world mentioned in the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel. However, I am going to put the program of Christ and the Catholic Church in terms of the Vedanta (Hindu Scriptures). A human comes from anandam (bliss), is conceived in the sacred union of a committed man and a woman involving anandam that ends in climax (rathi), and comes out into this world from the womb as an individual with a primal scream that is an indication of the child leaving in trauma the ideal climate of the womb.

            This human goes from perfection to perfection, and has individuality, personality, and reality. A person is unique, has many masks (persona), and reality. Nobody knows about reality, for sure. We have only images or shadows of reality. We have our own ideas of God, conscience, and our own belief system. We develop viveka (discernment or wisdom) and viragya, (detachment), shatsampatti (the six virtues: shama, dama, shraddha, titiksha, uparati, samadhana), leading to mumukhshutva (liberation). The Christians believe that one dies and goes to heaven or a center of purification till beatific vision with God. The Hindus and Buddhists believe that one dies and is reborn until mumukshutva or nirvana (liberation). In the final analysis, all religions believe in some kind of heaven or liberation as the final end of human. So it is of great importance for Pope Francis and all humanity to think of some ecumenical fellowship where in all religions have a minimum program of creative cooperation. The pope considers himself to be a sinner; I consider myself to be a child of God.


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