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Letter: The Awakening of Hope

To the Editor:

March 12, 2013, marks a number of firsts for the papacy, the Catholic Church and our human community. First Pope Francis, a name chosen because of St. Francis of Assisi (the naturalist and servant to the poor, after a life of pillage and privilege). First Jesuit pope. First pope not of Europe by birth. First pope who, prior to his election while an archbishop, lived in a small apartment in his diocese, cooked his own dinner and eschewed servants, riding to work each day on a bus or walking on his own feet.

Oddly, he’s a pope who, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, stepped down because of his age, as Pope Benedict recently did when he gave up the bishopric of Rome. And yet when called by the college of cardinals, he took up the staff and mitre as the next prince of the Holy See from the end of the world.

I am a lapsed Catholic child of lapsed Catholic parents. I am an agnostic by belief. I have seen in my lay life the Roman Catholic Church be a powerful and positive force in the lives of families and communities on a daily basis. A proper and positive parish supports everyone in its community, Catholic or not. And there are many such parishes in my experience.

I love humanity. My greatest hope is that we as a human race find the opportunity for fraternity, comity and peace among us all. A pope named Francis from the New World and living an ethic of service and poverty gives me the strongest sense of possibility I have had in my adult life.

Of course, my cynical side tries desperately to convince me otherwise and thinks, worriedly, of Pope John Paul I (the workers’ pope). The realist in me says wait and see.

In the meantime, Habemus Papem! And Gloria.

James L. Mulligan

Plainfield