Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Thoughts on the new Pope

I try to avoid religious issues; I'm a lapsed Catholic and think of myself as non-religious now. When Pope John Paul II died, however, I did mark his passing with a note of respect. There are numerous harsh criticisms of him out there which I mostly agree with. But there are 1.1 billion Catholics out there - most of them probably not practicing - but nevertheless it's still an important issue for them. For the rest of us is the curiosity of a new Pope.

Because like it or not, the Pope has a lot of influence and authority. It saddened me to see that for the last five years Pope John Paul II was completely immobile. I can't help but feel that people found it easier to ignore him now he was no longer the jetsetting Pope he used to be. He was strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, and it's a distinct possibility that if he was more vocal and able to attract more media attention by being mobile, he could have caused great embarassment to George Bush.

So in that respect, I'm glad the Catholic Church has a new leader who can travel the world once more. I think we should wait and see as to where his faith takes him on the issues of orthodoxy, but his background means we shouldn't expect much reform.

Yet - there is one thing that the Church can do. Even though the Pope lives in luxury, and the Church sits on assets of billions of pounds, it can promote and further the cause of social justice. If that's just one thing the new Pope can continue to encourage, then that will be a great step. From my point of view it's a shame that in some cases we need religion to encourage people to strive for social justice, but the end almost justifies the means in this case.

We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan. There are still good people out there, but I feel that the culture of excessive individualism is taking over the world. We should all be allowed to make up our own minds, preferably free of the influence of religion. But if that individualism turns into us closing ourselves off from our own communities, and becoming excessively suspicious of that single mid-aged man over the road because he "looks a bit funny", then we turn into a very paranoid bunch of people.

The Church has some noble goals that we can all agree on, religious or not. I can only hope that Benedict XVI will work on them for the good of everyone. Let's wait and see what happens.


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