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What clergy are hearing from Francis: ‘Presence, mercy and service’

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Over the last month, I’ve had the chance to interact with a fairly wide cross-section of Catholic clergy from around the world. I spent two weeks in Krakow, Poland, covering World Youth Day, then several days in Toronto at the annual Knights of Columbus convention, and last week I was in Santa Barbara, California, spending some time with Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron and his crew.

One thing about Catholicism that’s sometimes a little hard for the outside world to understand is that although politics are certainly part of the Church’s life, that’s hardly all there is. Catholics, perhaps clergy in particular, also have a spiritual lens for assessing the vicissitudes of life, including the leadership of whoever the pope happens to be at a given moment.

Naturally, Catholics have their own personal political outlooks, which inevitably shape how they see papal pronouncements or gestures. Most, however, also believe that a pope is there because God wanted him to be in charge, and thus they try, within the limits of their own instincts and worldviews, to listen carefully and to follow his lead.

As I met clergy over the last month – from the States, from Europe, from Australia and the U.K., from Africa and Asia and Latin America, and from the Middle East – sooner or later, I’d ask the following question: “What impact is Pope Francis having on you?”

Many priests told me they see Francis as a confirmation of what they were already trying to do, in terms of being pastors close to the experiences of their people, and they rejoice that he’s touching the hearts of the world and appealing to those distant from the faith. For them, this is what Catholicism is supposed to be.

Read more at Crux.

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