Christians all over the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus today, Good Friday. Jesus, in all probability, did not intend to found a new religion; he wished to reform his own religion, Judaism. This is the opinion of many well known theologians like Hans Kung. In his brief history, The Catholic Church [Phoenix Press, 2002], Kung says, “... he (Jesus) did not seek to found a separate community distinct from Israel with its own creed and cult, or to call to life an organization with its own constitution and offices, let alone a great religious edifice. No, according to all the evidences, Jesus did not found a church in his lifetime.” (page 12)
In Dostoevsky’s novel The Karamazov Brothers, there is a Grand Inquisitor who asks Jesus who appeared in Russia teaching people freedom and love, “Why do you come to disturb us?”
Will Jesus be a nuisance to the Church and its leaders if he comes again today? Will the priests seek a way to eliminate him? After all, wasn’t it the Jewish priests who really got rid of Jesus?
Perhaps, we should not be so cynical. The latest issue of The Economist carries an article titled The Francis Effect. The article argues that Pope Francis is doing his best to make the Catholic Church a meaningful religion. “One of his first decisions,” says the article, “was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile-detention centre. He got rid of the fur-trimmed velvet capes that popes have worn since the Renaissance, swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.”
There has been some controversy too about the Pope being a socialist of some sorts. The very mention of words like socialism and communism brings wrinkles on the foreheads of present day intellectuals. Those ideologies may have become defunct. But the world cannot go on for long as it is going today, flying on the wings of aggressively acquisitive capitalism. Someone has to apply the brakes and say, “Slow down, there are more important things which we are missing while rushing thus.”
Can Pope Francis do that? Isn’t he doing it already?