Bravo – Pope Francis!

EDITORIAL, 23 Sep 2013

#291 | Johan Galtung, 23 Sep 2013 - TRANSCEND Media Service

The Catholic–meaning universal–Church matters to all of us as a major part of Western civilization.  And the Pope lives up to both his Jesuit heritage and that of his great namesake St Francis–see this column six months ago, 18 Mar 2013, when he was elected.

We shall permit ourselves to extrapolate a little from what he told in an interview to the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica (IHT, 20 Sep 13). The Roman Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. The church should become a home for all and not a small chapel. “We have to find a new balance”, the Pope says, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the gospel”.

Turn the page of that issue of the International Herald Tribune and on p. 2 Muslim Salma Yacoob, a former Birmingham Council woman, raises the same type of question: “Is this (the veil) the biggest issue we face in the U.K. right now?” Maybe there are other issues, like ending the “special relation” of subservience to a USA with no other answer to international conflict than violence, the US obsession, increasing inequality, misery, loneliness, unsettled relations to Scotland, Wales and Ulster–a culture that cannot live on the past cashing in on Shakespeare but has to be in search of renewal?

“The freshness and fragrance of the gospels”. Jesus had answers to deep problems beyond some aspects of human sexuality; to violence, to misery. His answer to violence was non-retribution, taken up by the Quakers and by Tolstoy in his The Kingdom, and developed much further by Christ-inspired peace movements. And his answer to misery was to live among the poor, driven by his compassion, his conscience and his Samaritan ministry-and developed much further, also by the Church, by the Western State, by countless NGOs.

A major concerns today, climate change, was not on Christ’s agenda.  But here the Pope has another source of inspiration, the saint he chose as his namesake, St Francis of Assisi.  He besouled the universe–wolves, death and all–made them brothers and sisters, all his concern, all his Thou, not It.  Pope Francis knows this better than most; no doubt behind his choice of name.

He also has recent predecessors like John XXIII, the otherwise doctrinaire John Paul II, both very explicitly denouncing war and promoting dialogue. And his immediate predecessor, devoid of any critique of war but filled with that “obsession” Pope Francis has denounced, was sidetracked into early retirement; better than the assassination that may be a threat for the present Pope.

There is much social power involved.  We can read the earliest history of the Papacy as sidetracking a Jesus who had ascended and retired to Heaven on the 40th day, having the Father send the Holy Spirit ten days later to take his abode in what was to become the Pope, with apostolic succession, infallibility and all that. The Church took on its own life, indeed.  The road to salvation no longer passed through the faith in the Son in John 3:16, the Little Bible, but through the church, extra ecclesiam nulla salvus, outside the church no salvation. What a tool for controlling people!  But then you need something where most invariably will go wrong according to some doctrine, one way or the other: sexuality. The obsession was there from the beginning, other issues soon paled in comparison.

Imagine they had chosen food instead of sex and held people against current norms for healthy eating habits. And people would confess excessive intake of salt and sugar, fat and fiberless foods, or other more updated lists. There would be enough sinners for control purposes, enough forgiveness for those who repent and change. Good food habits might have been the result, not very limited sexuality.

There is much world power involved. The Roman church was the center of a Western world emerging from the Roman Empire, on a planet that was the center of the universe with the Sun paying its tribute by circling the earth as everybody could see. In comes not only the heliocentric universe with the planet paying tribute to the sun by obediently circling it, but also the demotion of the whole solar system to one among countless in one of countless galaxies, with the possibility of life everywhere. Giordano Bruno reduced the central position of the church even more than Galileo Galilei, and was treated accordingly.

It is all about Center-Periphery, perennial western themes–and not only Western.  The history of the Church is about being dethroned, losing one center after the other, clinging to the obsession with sexuality as the ultimate control. When the present Pope challenges that, History is unfolding for our eyes.

But he does not do that to make the church lose its last hold on power, but rather to make it regain its universality by addressing universal issues. Why not? Imagine a church with cardinals, archbishops, bishops, arch-priests and priests all addressing the concerns of those leading popes, the light-houses, demoting the annual liturgy cycle with Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Whitsun (Pentecost) and all of that to a secondary role? Inspired by Jesus and the greatest, and there are many, like Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckehardt.

That neo-Roman church would inspire religious institutions all over, turning churches, temples, synagogues into shelters for the poor and the asylum-seekers, into “hospitals in a battlefield” as Francis says. But it would also threaten powers that be, the Curia, unless they are wise enough to see the new openings: less Center-Periphery, more equity between world views religious and secular, Church and non-Church, between social classes and world classes. In dialogues for a better world for all–inspired by the greatest among us.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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8 Responses to “Bravo – Pope Francis!”

  1. As I come from Argentina and have many friends there who have know the new Pope for many years, unfortunately, dear Johan, I don’t share your enthusiasm. Even without friends over there, I cannot forget Pope Francis’ friendship with the most murderous and savage military Junta Argentina has ever seen.I cannot forget his friendship – to collect fortunes for the Church – with the richest families in the country, some of them excellent families, no doubt, but some who’ve made their fortune in very dishonest ways.

    Knowing the history of The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) – the Vatican’s CIA – also does not prompt me to love or admire this man.

    As for what the Pope says in his interview with the Jesuit controlled journal, there are the typical words of a politician.

    “The church should become a home for all and not a small chapel” “We have to find a new balance”, the Pope says.All this means is “everybody should join the Catholic Church”

    ….. “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards”…. Francis speaks of “moral edifice” although he’s more concerned with the “Banking” edifice. People leaving the Church means less money coming their way.

    I don’t understand your statement “The history of the Church is about being dethroned, losing one center after the other…..” unless you refer – but don’t say it – to ALL Churches. In fact European history is all about Churches being dethroned. The Protestant Church dethroning the Catholic Church and viceversa.

    And well before Protestantism came into being and before Islam dethroned Catholicism from several countries, the “dethroning” was done among themselves. 5th and 6th Centuries battles were between the Army of one Bishop, Archbishop or Cardinal against the Army of a rival powerful clergyman.

    “…..clinging to the obsession with sexuality as the ultimate control.” this can be said also of Judaism and Islam. Luckily for Hindus, their obsession is with happiness and if this means lots and all kinds of sex, so be it.

    You say “When the present Pope challenges that, History is unfolding for our eyes.”, but history has already unfolded for our eyes, thanks to the Protestant Church. All Pope Francis is doing is trying to get back all the gay Catholics who converted to other more liberal and updated religions.

    You correctly say “But he does not do that to make the church lose its last hold on power”. but then you add “… but rather to make it regain its universality by addressing universal issues.” regain what universality? long before they reached many corners of the planet, rival religions came about. They all claim universality.

    You think it’s wonderful all those Catholic clergymen being “Inspired by Jesus…..” will you then ask the Pope to stop once and for all asking people – including the poorest – to give to the Church and ask the Church to give to the people? there is no richer Religious Corporation in the world than the Vatican. Not only in Rome, but wherever they are, Cardinals and Bishops live like Kings and Queens, eating and drinking the very best and most expensive, surrounded by gold (much of it stolen on their behalf by Spanish pirates 5 and a half centuries ago.

    Is this how Jesus lived? is this illegally obtained wealth something that Jesus would approve of?

    Yes, Pope Francis knows World War III is in the making (as his predecessor of 70 years ago Pio XII knew about World War II. This is why he envisions “churches, temples, synagogues, etc, turning them into homes for Refugees (he politically calls them “poor and home-seekers” and into “hospitals in a battlefield”.

    You say “good news”. To me this is all very “Ominous news”

    • Dear Alberto, besides your thoughts about the church, the Vatican the role of the Jesuits, etc. etc. there is one point that is absolutely wrong: “I cannot forget Pope Francis’ friendship with the most murderous and savage military Junta Argentina has ever seen. I cannot forget his friendship –to collect fortunes for the Church– with the richest families in the country…”
      You are obviously misinformed, Pope Francis never had friendship with the people of the Junta, neither with rich people from he could get money for the church. Everyone who knew him -and I don’t mean closely- knew his commitment just with his pastoral work and no further meanings as you’ve mentioned. Many people like this Pope, many people don’t, and it is OK. Diana

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  3. Dear Diana,

    As I was close to a few “desaparecidos” and murdered innocent people, perhaps I know a bit more than what you know. Among the tortured and killed there were a few priests who asked for Bergoglio’s intervention. The man told the Junta “carry on, they are left-wing priests”.

    I lived through Peron’s dictatorship and remember how he was ousted by a military coup in 1955, basically because he committed one sin: to oppose the Church. Opposing the Church, in any country, is the equivalent of “political suicide”. I never understood, as a child, why during military parades I’d always see a Cardinal, Bishop or Monsignor accompanying the troops, let alone why he blessed the arms !!!! I understood everything once I studied the history of wars. I learnt how most of them were concocted by religious corporations – or by monarchs, on behalf of the Church they represented -.

    My interest on the subject resulted in friendships with priests, imams and rabbis. My curiosity, after learning of the “torture” chambers in the Vatican, led to the deepening of my interest and research. Much of what I learnt can be found in The Vatican Assassins, by John Phelps. The Whore of Babylon (La puta de Babilonia) by Colombian writer Fernando Vallejo is also an enlightened book.

    Jesus is probably turning in his grave, if he could see what has been done on his behalf (Inquisition, Crimean wars, the Crusades, the invasion of the American continent, the North part mainly by the Protestants and the Latin part by the Roman Catholic branch, etc, etc.

    Members of the Vatican have assassinated their own Popes. Pope Francis represents one of the most powerful and belligerent mafias in the world. (explainable why the fortunes of the Sicilian Mafia were kept in the Vatican’s Bank)

    Dear Diana, it is not a question of liking or not Pope Francis and saying “it is OK”. It is a very serious problem and one that we need to face if we wish to see a better world.


  4. claudio says:

    Dear Alberto, your personal experience and the books you read have blinded your mind. Bergoglio confesses he is a sinner and his biography reveals that he was not responsible for the death of those priests – he himself has said it. In any case, if what you say is true, are you not prepared to give a man the chance to move out of the shadow of his past to begin again? I mean ‘any man’ – not just Bergolgio. If you are not prepared to do so, and are adamant about your point of you, what are doing on a ‘Transcend’ website?

  5. Claudio, you haven’t read me properly, if you think that I don’t give Bergoglio “another chance”. However, giving another chance is very different from “denying the past”. By the way, I mentioned books, because that is quicker than writing my own experiences of the Church (assassinations, protection of criminals, money and drug laundering, sex abuse, espionage, etc, etc)

    Furthermore, if you think the books I read were written by outsiders, opponents of the Church, try reading Via col vento in Vaticano, written by a group of Vatican Cardinals and Bishops; or, God, a Biography, written by Jack Miles, a Jesuit.

    As for Bergoglio, a “lover and defender of the poor” (clever ruse of the Church: “Jesus loves the poor”; “the poor have Paradise guaranteed”), why doesn’t he live like a poor man? he refuses the flat in the Vatican Palace, so his friends can stay there) and lives in a 5-star Hotel which is costing a fortune to the Vatican Administration.

    A fortune to us, not to the Vatican, the richest country and corporation in the world. And here I stop, before I start writing on the multi-billion property portfolio of the Church (in addition to all their Churches, Chapels, Cathedrals, Palaces, etc). By the way, the Church’s investments in the Military Industry, are another clear indication that, no matter how “perfect” Mr Bergoglio is, he is clearly NOT working for a world of Peace.

    The same applies to the Church of England (another heavy investor in the weapon industry), as well as to the Hindu, Muslim and Jewish Corporations.

    who have to pay his 5 star Hotel?

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