Bernardo M. Villegas
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Pope Francis As Movie Director

           His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle titillated the local media when at the height of the last Extraordinary Synod on the Family, he characteristically remarked “The drama goes on.”  Actually, a famous U.S journalist and author, John Allen, likened the recent Synod to a suspense movie.  I asked one of our young professors at the University of Asia and the Pacific, Robert Cortes, who is now taking up doctoral studies in Rome to elaborate on this metaphor about the Synod being “a moving picture full of drama and emotion with  an ending that was anything but predictable.”  The following are direct quotes from the answer he sent to me.

          The film hasn’t ended; the suspense continues.  Even now, opposing voices continue to resonate.  Invariable all fall, in varying degrees, on the “movie director” who set everything in motion:  Pope Francis.  Perhaps with reason “conservatives” express feelings of deep concern, even anxiety.  Some mention pressure groups pushing to change Church teaching.  A cardinal remarked recently that now “the Church is like a ship without a rudder.”  A prominent American layman issued as well a heartfelt lament that despite the more sombre tone of the final document, “the lasting worldwide damage is done.”

          Perhaps with reason “liberals” are disappointed but/or hopeful.  One online news website quoted a cardinal very vocal about allowing divorced Catholics to receive Holy Communion as more than hinting that the Pope is supportive of his views.  Another called the final document a “diluted family document” deploring that “Pope Francis…the Vatican’s great reformer and moderniser suffered a setback.”

          All these suggest that the Synod was and is much more than a discussion on the Family:  it has become a crucial lens through which Francis is being scrutinized as Pope.  Is he the “progressive” who conservatives fear will redefine Church doctrine, or he the “conservative” with whom the progressives will end up getting disappointed?  And should we be concerned?

          Mr. Cortes wants us to consider the following data:

          -Because the Family is in crisis, Pope Francis called for a Synod on the Family.

          -Desiring sincere openness, he exhorted bishops to speak “without polite deference, without hesitation…(but also) listen with humility and welcome.”

          -Desiring fairness, he placed two “conservatives” in the drafting committee when there was a perception it only had “liberals.”

          -Desiring transparency, he ordered a full disclosure on the Synod:  discussion, final text, votes, and all.

          -He beatified Paul VI, a pope attacked for his conservative ideas, to cap the Synod.

          -He called for mercy as he rejected both “traditionalists” and “progressives”.  He still does.

          -In the end he made “one of the finest” speeches of the Papacy, addressing all concerns and meriting a four-minute standing ovation from everyone.

          Is it possible he’s neither progressive nor conservative?  Thus perhaps the confused mix of reactions during the Synod and its aftermath is due to a failure of understanding who Pope Francis is?

          Perhaps there’s reason to think he’s one or the other.  But what if he’s simply the Pope taking to heart the Petrine ministry to which he was called?  If we take him at his word on everything he has said from the beginning of his Papacy until now, would we not see a person simply allowing the Holy Spirit to work, fearless of where He leads?

          So maybe this Synod is indeed a suspense story where we need to pray to allay our fears.  But maybe it’s one where we don’t have to be anxious about how things will turn out.

          Thanks to Mr. Cortes, many of us are better prepared to hear the messages that the Pope will address to us on the occasion of his visit to Tacloban and Manila on January 16 to 18, 2015.  We can think of the Pope as a movie director and the Holy Spirit as the Script Writer.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia