Yes, Catholics have a new pope! In fact, the world has a new Pope, at least that’s the feeling one gets when reading the paper or watching the news. MSNBC devoted the entire afternoon to coverage once the white smoke appeared; the NYT sent out push notifications, Huffington Post changed its headline and the twittersphere exploded. The anticipation of who the Pope would be was almost palatable as I stopped work and watched the coverage. The crowd was joyful, the newscasters were giddy with excitement, taking guesses at who it could be and what it meant for the church. Still there were people who asked,”who cares?” and “why does it matter?” Even as I watched and waited, I thought the same– what does it matter and why do so many people care? Why is this news?
And then it hit me: it’s news because everyone, despite the prevalence of cynicism and declining interest in religion and more specifically the Catholic Church (particularly in the U.S.) is hopeful. A new pope might mean change in the world. It might mean that good is still there, that joy still abounds somewhere on this planet. We are all looking for someone to do it, or something to make it better. So yes, it does matter because if nothing else it shows promise and a future and new ideas.
Will the Catholic church do a 180 on contraception, gay marriage, women’s roles in the church? Not likely. To be perfectly honest, I don’t care if it does nor do I expect it to. I understand, as a Catholic that the church has to take positions on certain issues and most frequently I will disagree. But what I do hope is that this Pope returns the church to what it should be– a place where caring, love, acceptance, forgiveness are the norm. A place not of deception and closed doors, but of open acknowledgment of the wrongs of the past and a determination to right all things in the world. It is the church’s falling from these tenets that really mirrors how we have become as a society in every respect. Maybe the change of the Pope will mean that view will change as well. Here’s to hoping its an epidemic.