A Catholic college student’s perspective on Pope Francis

If you were asked who the top five most powerful people in the world are, who would you say should be on that list?

It would make sense to include political leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama because they are the leaders of two nations with large economies and expansive militaries (they were No. 1 and No. 2 according to Forbes’ “World’s Most Powerful People” ranking, respectively). But would you think to include the pope?

Pope Francis snuck into Forbes’ top list of the most powerful men and women on Earth because of his leadership of 1.2 billion Catholics all over the world. And, his current actions and words show that he has tremendous influence over one of the largest religious institution in the world.

As a Catholic, I am excited by the direction he is taking the Church and the leadership style he has decided to take on.

For as long as I can remember, I went to church on Sunday or the Vigil Mass on Saturday every weekend.

I guess it can be assumed that my parents instilled it in me to become a Catholic because it was instilled in them. They were born and raised Catholic, so it only makes sense that they passed down their religious beliefs to my sister and me. They would take me to church on Sundays where I would hear readings from the Bible and view rituals practiced in the Catholic Church.

I would also be brought to Sunday school where I was taught a more kid-friendly lesson of the readings. My parents also taught me how to pray the rosary, and I can even say I know how to serve as an altar boy.

The church helped me sculpt morals, and I think the Catholic Church, among other religious institutions, does an excellent job at helping people around the world form their own morals. But, people of other spiritual or non-spiritual backgrounds could obtain those morals, too. It’s not exclusive to Christianity.

However, a priest said something to my parish that I’ll never forget — if you believe in homosexuality, you don’t deserve to be a Catholic. And that really stuck with me.

I know atheists and I know homosexuals: I believe that they can live however they want as long as they do good in life and find happiness. So, why was this priest telling me otherwise?

I didn’t want to believe him because I think the church can do better at accepting individuals of different backgrounds. And, I think Pope Francis is doing better at that.

Pope Francis and the Vatican plan on conducting a worldwide survey on how Roman Catholic parishes deal with and teach sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and same-sex marriage. The Vatican wants to seek input from various parishes before a major meeting on family issues that Pope Francis plans to hold next year.

This poll is part of the pope’s plan to make the Catholic Church less Vatican-centric. Pope Francis believes the Vatican often focused too much on the interests of the Church, which neglects the world around it. He feels that the Vatican should focus more on how it can help the world’s interests rather than just its own.

And Pope Francis isn’t just acknowledging the need to diverge from a Vatican-centric Church, but he’s leading by example.

Rather than moving into the extravagant papal palace in the Vatican, he refused. He instead stays in the Casa Santa Marta, a residence for visitors. 

Back in March, he said we as humans, regardless of religious background, are united in the principle of “doing good.” And, in July he said in a news conference, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him?” 

Growing up as a Catholic, I felt like Christians and other religions focused too much on the wrong or sinful parts of life. For example, if you sleep with another man, then you’re going to hell. I believe that while Pope Francis is not outright changing the Catholic doctrine, he is showing that the Church is aware of the change in this era.

In today’s society, many people are too quick to judge based on pretty much anything. Oh, you’re in frat? You probably drink and have sex all the time. You’re a Christian? You’re probably going to throw your religion down my throat.

The pope is a beautiful example of a leader that understands that the world around him is changing. He realizes things that once were, have now changed, and as a leader, he is responsible for leading the Catholic Church into this new world.

Regardless if you are a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Islamic, Atheist or Jedi, the pope provides an example of how to be a better person.

Thaddeus is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at chatto1@dailyillini.com.