“Francis Effects” In The Age Of Moral Free Fall
Catholic Church is unarguably the largest Christian denominated church with a global membership of over one billion people. In the last two decades, the church has witnessed torrents of reforms initiated in quick succession by three Popes namely John Paul II; Benedict XVI and the current Holy father Pope Francis.
Carol Josef Wojtyla best known as Pope John Paul II was remarkable because of the fact that he made world history as the first non-Italian Pope in over 400 years and this unprecedented step has continued till date with the emergence of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger known as Pope Benedict XVI from Germany and Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina who was elected Supreme Pontiff on March 13th 2013 and he became the first Latin American to be made a Pope in over 600 years.
He nevertheless has Italian roots since both of his parents were Italian immigrants.
As stated earlier, the three Popes have carved unique selling points for each of their legendary papacy even as the current pope has already won accolades for his exemplary simple lifestyle and critics and admirers alike have had no choice but to identity him with some positive virtuous sparks which they gave the sobriquet of “Francis effects”.
I will return to these key points but first let us examine in quick succession the moral standpoints and achievements of each of the three Popes in this era that can best be described as “age of moral free fall”.
Pope John Paul II who became pope in 1978 was born on May 18th 1920 and joined the saints triumphant on April 2nd 2005 at the ripe age of 84.
John Paul II is credited with achieving so much in the area of speaking out for global peace and respect for the fundamental human rights of humanity.
Historians who documented his legacies in the website of www.bigraphy.com highlighted the following as key among his many legendary and Iconic legacies.
“He was a vocal advocate for human rights even as John Paul often spoke out about suffering in the world”.
The Vatican historians also stated the legacy of Pope John Paul 11 as follows; “He held strong positions on many topics, including his opposition to capital punishment. A charismatic figure, John Paul used his influence to bring about political change and is credited with the fall of communism in his native Poland. He was not without critics, however. Some have stated that he could be harsh with those who disagreed with him and that he would not compromise his hard-line stance on certain issues, such as contraception”.
Pope Benedict XVI born at the Diocese of Passau in Germany on April 16th 1927 and became the first pope in recorded contemporary history in over 600 years to proceed on retirement, is also credited with several moral milestones.
Importantly, Benedict XVI is known to be strongly against the evils of consumerism and materialism afflicting the world and is known to have penned down several masterpieces.
His many publications are spread out over a number of years and these great thoughts most of which are original are said by Vatican historians to constitute a point of reference for many people especially for those interested in entering deeper into the study of theology.
In 1985 he published his interview-book on the situation of the faith (The Ratzinger Report) and in 1996 "Salt of the Earth". On the occasion of his 70th birthday the volume "At the School of Truth" was published, containing articles by several authors on different aspects of his personality and production. He remains one of the finest theologians the World has ever seen.
Of the three, Pope Francis has become the most talked about living human person on the internet because of a number of moral revolutionary steps he has adopted on assumption of the papacy to wrestle the church from entrenched dominance of certain centrifugal and centripetal forces.
Pope Francis is also a reformer who has quickly moved against all Clergymen identified or suspected to be worldly and corrupt. But the Francis effects are far from the Nigerian Church weighed down by some of these forces of corruption and abuse of office by some clergy.
However, the usually critical secular writers have also unleashed torrents of praises on Pope Francis for what they identified as his conspicuous humility, kindness, willingness to engage with critics and admirers alike.
These critics known for their strident verbal attacks directed at the hierarchy of the church institution and authority have however in recent times moderated their voices of criticism because of the inspirational lifestyle of the current Pope.
Francis's modus operandi (mode of operation) and Modus Vivendi (mode of life) are simply amazing and delightful so much so that critics have come up with a name for the impact he is making on the church and society which they nicknamed the “Francis Effects”.
Peter Weber writing in The week of November 12th 2013 said that Pope Francis is greatly loved and admired because of his apparent lack of verbal inhibitions, and relaxed doctrinal orthodoxy which in his words make for a big stylistic change from his two predecessors and their combined 25 years as Pope.
Peter Weber listed some of the “Francis effects” to include the fact that the Pope is filling back up the pews especially in Europe, that Pope Francis is taking pruning shears to the Vatican bureaucracy to sweep away all traces of corruption and abuse of office and that Pope Francis began a revolution never seen before in the over two thousand years church following his new practice of writing letters and making phone calls to strangers and people in far places who have sent letters to the Vatican.
Pope Francis's crusade against corruption has however sent out security alert in Italy following the intelligence leaked to the media that the mafia is plotting to kill him for daring to change the status quo of official corruption.
Such is the prize for fighting entrenched corrupt practices but Pope Francis has remained focused, resolute and resilient in the face of these emerging threats to his life and has vowed to proceed with his anti-graft war, the type unknown in Vatican's history.
Perhaps angered by the fact that “the World has achieved brilliance without conscience and that ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants” apologies to Omar Bradley, Pope Francis is determined to stamp his moral authority to seek to check the moral free fall that is afflicting the globe.
But as crusaders for positive changes have witnessed in times past, those reactionary forces whose “axis of evil” are being systematically stripped naked by the overwhelming superior moral courage, conviction and authority of Pope Francis will surely fight back.
The greedy war lords are indeed seeking revenge against this new world moral leader-Pope Francis.
From the Guardian.comof Wednesday November 13th 2013, the Italian Chief prosecutor is quoted to have warned that Pope Francis's attempt to bring transparency to Vatican is making mobsters agitated.
Nicola Gratteri said that Pope Francis is dismantling centers of economic power in the Vatican and that his anti-corruption battle has made him a target for Italy's all powerful mafia clan.
Nicola Gratteri, who has battled Calabria's shadowy 'Ndrangheta mafia, said on Wednesday that Francis's attempt to bring transparency to the Vatican was making the white collar mobsters who do business with corrupt prelates “nervous and agitated”.
He told the Italian daily II Fatto Quotidiano: “Pope Francis is dismantling centres of economic power in the Vatican.
“If the bosses could trip him up they wouldn't hesitate. I don't know if organized criminals are in a position to do something, but they are certainly thinking about it. They could be dangerous.”
Francis, who has called for “a poor church”, has backed reform at the Vatican's bank, which has been suspected for years of being a channel for the laundering of mob profits. This week police impounded a luxury hotel on Rome's Janiculum hill-formerly a monastery-which the 'Ndrangheta allegedly purchased from a religious order.
In a fiery sermon on Monday, Francis railed against corruption and quoted the bible's advice that practitioners be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck.
“The mafia that invests, that launders money, that therefore has the real power, is the mafia which has got rich for years from its connivance with the church,” said Gratteri. “These are the people who are getting nervous.”
Pope Francis is not the first moral leader who is fighting corruption that has come under considerable attack because the Nigerian anti-graft history is rich with dare-devil accounts of how certain good people in government positions in the past were almost assassinated for their principled stand against corruption because as we all know if you fight corruption, it will fight back so viciously.
Nuhu Ribadu, whose controversial exit as chairman of the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in not too distant time, narrowly escaped assassination on his way to Jos, Plateau State for standing firmly against powerful corrupt government officials.
But as we have learnt from Pope Francis, we cannot give up the struggle against corruption if we ever hope to emancipate Nigerians from poverty and mass destitution caused by official corruption.
The World Bank has just released a damaging report showing that over 100 million Nigerians out of the estimated 150 million populations live in destitution.
This is a huge challenge for the current Nigerian government and my simple advice is that President Jonathan should borrow a leaf from the “Francis Effects”, and ruthlessly deal with corrupt officials who are having field day in the corridors of power.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head; HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA; [email protected];www.huriwa.org.