17 Nov 2015, 18:00 (London Time)
Pope Francis seems to be an easy character to come to terms with. Frugal, transparent, down-to-earth, he is one of the most popular public figures around the globe. What about the theological vision that permeates his papacy?
In order to have a glimpse inside of Francis’ spiritual horizon, one needs to take his Jesuit identity into account. In spite of the kind manners of the man, a certain anti-protestant attitude lingers in the Pope’s mind and heart, especially as far as Luther, Calvin and the Puritans are concerned. Although he does not seem pushing a dogmatic outlook of Roman Catholicism as his precedessor, he nonetheless has his own “dogmatic certainties” and they are not what one may expect them to be. The insistence on one’s own conscience and the pervasiveness of God’s grace in it is paramount to approach his overall view of the relationship between God and human life. This explains why so many secular people resonate with what he is saying. They don’t feel challenged but affirmed.
Furthermore, his insistence on “mission” needs to be grasped within the whole of his theological framework. The use of the same word by other Christians does not necessarily imply the same meaning. Mission is the outworking of Francis’ program and fits his own personal interpretation of the papacy. Since catholicity is what Roman Catholicism stems from and look for, Francis’ version of catholicity is perhaps the most significant mark of his papacy.
Leonardo De Chirico is the pastor of Breccia di Roma, a church that he helped plant in Rome in 2009. Previously, Leonardo planted and pastored an evangelical church in Ferrara, Italy, from 1997 to 2009. He earned degrees in History (University of Bologna), Theology (ETCW, Bridgend, Wales) and Bioethics (University of Padova). His PhD is from King’s College (London); it was published as Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. In 2015, he published A Christian Pocket Guide to Papacy through Christian Focus. He is a lecturer of Historical Theology at Istituto di Formazione Evangelica e Documentazione in Padova, Italy. Additionally, Leonardo is the Director of the Reformanda Initiative, which aims to equip evangelical leaders to better understand and engage with Roman Catholicism, and the leader of the Rome Scholars Network (RSN).