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‘I have seen three Popes in my lifetime’
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‘I have seen three Popes in my lifetime’

Nnadozie OnyekuruThree Popes have emerged as leaders of the Catholic Church in the last twenty years, writes Nnadozie Onyekuru, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Maiduguri in Nigeria. Each one presents a unique perspective to lead more than a billion members of the Church.

I grew up in the shadow of Pope John Paul II, a gregarious man who traveled more than any other pope in history. As a leader, he also had the ability to shop for talent.

He brought the developing world into the administration of the church. He also tapped a brainbox theologian, the then-Cardinal Ratzinger, into the most powerful religious post in the Vatican.

The same Pope created the World Youth Day celebrations for young people of all faiths and cultures. Pope John Paul II was a man more inclined to asking “Why not?” instead of “Why?” During his funeral at St. Peter’s Basilica, the crowd chanted, “Sanctus! Sanctus!” the Latin word for Saint.

His successor was less charming to those who did not understand him, but he stirred my young mind. Reading Pope Benedict XVI’s books, interviews and encyclicals was like diving into an ocean of ecclesial and secular history in search of diamond truths. During his pontificate, I was provoked to read his predecessors’ works and pay some attention to the controversial personalities like Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit paleontologist.

Benedict XVI tried to use his papacy to end the debate between faith and reason. He wanted men to dwell on the united purpose of the two worlds rather than their divergent evolutions. In doing this, he was assertive yet humble. His final public act of humility was to give way to another time.

Now that we have Pope Francis I, there is so much excitement and anxiety. Every move of his is interpreted, calculated and translated by cable news pundits. They know that he is also a humble man.

When he visited his predecessor, he declined kneeling alone on the papal kneeler. He said to the Pope Emeritus, “No! We are brothers, we pray together!” They know that he loves the poor. In his inaugural mass, the new Pope dwelt on the church’s responsibility to the poor.

The pundits of our Apple age exacerbate the crisis of the Catholic Church as if the ancient institution would crumble tomorrow. They however follow up with a reminder that Pope Francis chose his name in honour of an Italian saint who was called to rebuild the Church. What they forget is that St. Francis of Assisi was also the man who tamed the wolf of Gubbio.

Pope Benedict XVI once said, “Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” The wolves might be all the problems bedeviling the Catholic Church, such as the tyranny of secularism, the relapsing pain of the sexual abuse scandals etc. Whatever they are, the Pope Emeritus need not worry. He is the person that prays now for the new Pope. In the monastery at Rome, he would pray that his brother Francis should tame all the wolves. And that would not be too much to ask of God for the world’s first ‘eco-Pope’.

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/26114656@N08/8585798941/”>Christus Vincit</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>

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About me:

I am a Nigerian student. I love books. I am young and restless with firm dreams that are only tempered by Christianity. I dream of a world where people, inspired by their common humanity, engage in a global wheel of ideas and do not use history as a tool for blame game but as a lesson for the future. In my spare time, I write stories, speeches and participate in activities that advance the respect of human dignity.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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