As the pope moves from his summer palace to his usual palace, writes guest blogger Kevin Considine, maybe he should consider a more radical change of address.
Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor Blessed John Paul II, has made evangelization of culture one of his top priorities. In other words, he calls the church to spread the gospel among the more secularized European and North American societies in a way that transforms them to more faithfully reflect the Church’s vision of God in Jesus Christ.
This is a worthy goal. The best way to witness and evangelize, however, is by example. It is through discipleship. We see this in the life of Jesus and the works of the apostles. We know God most intimately not through institutions or knowledge per se, but through example, experience, and sacrament.
This is why the pope should move to the ‘hood. Imagine, for a moment, the following scenario and the powerful witness to Jesus Christ and his God this would proclaim. First, the pope sells the summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, liquidates half of the assets of the Vatican and gives it to the poor, retires the papal robes, donates the popemobile to charity, and abolishes the pomp and circumstance surrounding the papacy.
Second, after emptying himself of these accoutrements, in a way similar to Christ, the pope and the Curia move into the ‘hood. That is, they take up residence in a shack in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in a housing project on the South Side of Chicago, in the gang territory of East L.A., or in the Muslim ghettos that surround the city of Paris. There, he and the Curia attend to the needs of the community and live in complete solidarity with the poor, the abused, and the oppressed. They celebrate Mass among the people, without the beauty and luxury of the Roman cathedrals and residences, yet they reveal Jesus’ presence nonetheless.
There is a strong precedent for such self-emptying service in Catholic history. But I am not aware that a pope has ever done such a thing. If the pope moved to the ‘hood, wouldn’t that be the most powerful witness to Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith? I realize that this is a pipedream. And I am young enough to still entertain such dreams.
Yet, imagine if this is what true evangelization looked like. Imagine if the "highest" within the institutional church renounced everything to become the "lowest." Perhaps the world would more clearly see the face of Jesus in a secular culture.