This week, Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church have begun the process to appoint a new pope to lead the church. The unexpected conclave, which will begin once all cardinals arrive in Rome, comes following last month’s resignation by Pope Benedict XVI due to health concerns.
In the days following Benedict’s resignation, much has been said or written about the issues facing the church, especially several sex abuse cases and internal issues. Coupled with the increase usage of social media sites to report news and the religious and societal importance of the papacy, the upcoming conclave could be the most watched, and scrutinized, in history.
This makes the call of selecting of new pope increasingly more important. With that, the Catholic Church has the opportunity to do something special for the entire church.
I believe our friends in the Catholic Church have an opportunity to look outside the norms and to select a pope that reflects the current state of the church. It is my hope that the church moves outside of Europe and appoints a leader from a region where the church is growing, such as Latin America and Africa.
To do so would send an important message not just to Catholics, but also to Protestants of the faith. The message is that the church should reflect the church’s global nature and to allow the areas where the church is growing to assist the regions where the church is not as strong, such as Europe and North America. A pope from a growing area would help the average church member, both Catholic and Protestant, to embrace new ideas and leadership that has helped to foster a revival of the church in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
The church, both Catholic and Protestant, must see itself as global in nature. Our leadership must reflect the global church. While this is recognized by leaders in the church, it is not always recognized by members. This is understandable. We see what is in front of us and focus on what surrounds our communities. However, a move by the Catholic Church to look away from a European pope would make real the church’s global nature of the church for the member who is busy trying to maintain their jobs and families, while also striving to grow in their faith.
Of course, we must wait and see who will be named the next pope. My prayers are with our friends in the Catholic Church. This is an important time and comes as questions surround the church’s leaders. My prayer is that the leader will be holy and seek to embrace the church’s global nature.