“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound.”
“What a Jesuit; what a Pope; what a man!”
Erudite, thought-provoking and a robust advocate for justice in Australia, Fr Frank Brennan SJ, delivered the 2013 John Wallis Memorial Lecture, Pope Francis and Australia’s Social Justice Agenda, in Tasmania in October. The John Wallis Foundation in association with Guilford Young College, in Hobart, and the Emmanuel Spirituality and Pastoral Centre, in Launceston, presented the lecture on October 24 and 25, respectively to almost 200 people.
Fr Brennan skilfully wove the diverse strands of the Missionary Sisters of Service, the John Wallis Foundation, justice, the Australian context, Pope Francis and the Jesuits into a masterful address of inclusiveness and universality that left the audience uplifted and enthused, strengthened and supported.
“It’s still early days in Pope Francis’ pontificate, but I think he has opened up a vast new panacea and not just for Catholics,” Fr Brennan said.
“Francis is theologically orthodox, politically conservative, comfortable in his own skin, infectiously pastoral, and truly committed to the poor (but) before we canonise Francis too quickly, let’s concede that he was a divisive figure in his home province of Argentina when was made Jesuit Provincial at the age of only 36. …He is a man who has learnt much by his mistakes; he is a sinner who has grown and thrived through his experience of the Lord’s mercy.”
Fr Brennan predicted, “We are in for an exciting ride with this Pope.”
He concluded: “Our credibility as Church has been enhanced with this new pope. We see in him many of the finest aspects of our presently battered and ageing Church. In the end we will only be as credible in the public square as we are credible with each other – pilgrims on the way who take radically seriously Jesus and his call, together with our varied life experiences and authentic reflections on those experiences.
“We will only be credible as an institution if we and especially our leaders are seen to be attentive and respectful to the competencies and insights of others.
“Our Church is presently a strained, outdated social institution with a hierarchy and clergy even more male dominated than an Abbott Cabinet. But it is also the privileged locus for us to be called to the banquet of the Lord sharing theology and sacrament which have sustained the hearts and minds of similar pilgrims for two millennia.
“Thank God for Francis who is showing us the way, putting a fresh spring in the step of all those Catholics holding in tension the prophetic and the practical, the theological and the humanist, the tradition and the contemporary reality.
“In the tradition of the Missionary Sisters of Service, let’s commit ourselves afresh to serving the poor and proclaiming with joy the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst.”