With the church at a crossroads, Catholics look to Pope Francis for guidance. Former Vatican ambassador Miguel Díaz says the new pope must embrace the church’s diversity.
In his pastoral visit to the United States in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI recognized that the world stood at a crossroads marked by two contrasting characteristics: “It is a time of great promise, as we see the human family in many ways drawing closer together and becoming ever more interdependent. Yet at the same time we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown in the very foundations of society: signs of alienation, anger, and polarization on the part of many of our contemporaries; increased violence; a weakening of the moral sense; a coarsening of social relations; and a growing forgetfulness of Christ and God.”
As our nation and our world continue to wrestle with the ancient but ever present question of how to relate “the one with the many,” the effort to build human bridges has never been needed more. In a world that is more interrelated than ever—as a result of globalization and the revolution of social communications—and yet in need of reconciling diverse experiences and perspectives related to culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, privilege, power, socio-economic status, and political affiliations, Catholics need a compassionate pastor and a thoughtful leader unafraid to creatively, constructively, and critically embrace this global reality.
These times call for deepening reasoned conversations between the faith and traditions of the church on the one hand and the world’s many different experiences and encounters with beauty, goodness, and truth on the other.
Encountering this diversity also means addressing the most salient human experience of our time: global migrations. Today one out of every 33 persons in the world is a migrant. The reasons for this widespread global experience include socio-political unrest, violence and war, economic crises, climate changes, natural disasters, and human trafficking.
As the human face of societies changes as a result of internal and external factors, the shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics has available within this church a rich “catholicity” to address this reality. A pope’s vast network of schools, humanitarian agencies, and health care organizations can provide leadership in a world in great need of fostering oneness and right relationships in diversity.
My prayer and hope-filled expectation is for Pope Francis to engage and expand this network by welcoming and increasing the expertise of Catholic coworkers and other men and women of good will. Listening to success stories of diverse peoples who have worked together in promoting collaborative and diverse efforts to address the challenges that confront the human family is the only fitting response to the signs of our time and to advance the common good.
This essay is part of a collection of experts’ advice to the new pope. To read more on how Pope Francis might address some of the pressing issues in today’s church, click here.
This article appeared in the May 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 5, page 18).
Image: Photo courtesy of the University of Dayton