Pope Francis is now being nicknamed the ‘cold call Pope.’ Just when I thought I couldn’t like a Pope any more than I like Pope Francis, he does something to challenge that notion.
Apparently reaching out and touching someone isn’t necessarily considered a great idea when you happen to be the Pope.
Pope Francis has been turning heads and raising eyebrows since taking the helm of the Roman Catholic Church with his revolutionary down-to-earth approach. The latest example is his apparent proclivity to call individuals who’ve written to him in various stages of life crisis to encourage them personally.
Because let’s face it, no matter how much suffering the average John or Jane Doe faces, who among us would ever expect the Pope to call?
I should point out, for those who’ve not read this blog for long, that I’m a Protestant who attends a non-denominational church that dispenses with much of the silly pettiness denominations argue about to focus on God and what it really means to be a follower of Christ. But even though I’m not a Catholic, I must say I’m very impressed with Pope Francis.
NBC News reports on several examples of the Pope calling those in need, including a pregnant Italian woman whose boyfriend had unsuccessfully pressured her to have an abortion; she had written the Pope about the problem, and the Pope told her he’d personally baptize the baby when it is born next year. He’s also allegedly called members of a family that has suffered “a series of tragedies” as well as an Argentinian woman who wrote to him that she’d been raped by a police officer.
It does not take a rocket scientist to theorize that such an unusual custom could present problems. What is to stop someone who sounds like the Pope from calling someone known to be going through a rough time — since we all face rough times at some point — in a cruel prank? Further, some might worry, what’s to stop someone from calling to specifically take advantage of a situation, further victimizing someone in a vulnerable moment?
But then there’s a disturbing criticism: that “papal phone calls could spawn disillusion among those not receiving a call”.
Vatican Historian Alberto Melloni, NBC News reports, explained it this way:
“There’s an innumerable number of people who have suffered violence or injustice who might write to the pope for a word of comfort, and it’s clear that he can’t answer all of them. They could think, ‘See, I’m feeling awful and the pope didn’t even call.’”
It certainly isn’t my intention to put words in Melloni’s mouth, and I’m not assuming that he’s coming right out and saying the Pope should stay off the phone. But I’m sure there are those who probably feel that way.
And that’s a problem.
You don’t remove a potential way of encouraging people in need — of doing good for those who need it — just because you can’t physically do the same level of good for every person in need.
I think Christians get caught up in this kind of fear from time to time. But I think all of us, believers and non-believers alike, fall into the “it’s too much for one person” trap. Making an intentional effort to reach out to help someone in need is difficult. It’s so much easier to sit back and hope someone else will make that call. But it’s just as easy for the person you hope will make the call will feel the same way.
And the call never happens. Or the card of sympathy. Or the hug. Or even the Facebook message.
We don’t stop trying to help those we can help because we fear we can’t solve all of the world’s problem by ourselves.
Every difference made is potentially a life changed for the better. How do you put a price on that? How does one reasonably say that helping that one struggling person isn’t worth it because of the “bigger picture”? If you love God and love your neighbor as yourself, which Jesus Christ Himself called the greatest commandments, and this is an expression of that, it doesn’t get any more “bigger picture” than that.
I applaud the Pope for making the effort to do what he can, when he can.
May we all learn to follow that example, no matter what faith we belong to.