View From Rome
21 April 2016
View from Rome
For many leaders, high office can feel like a burden and even a constraint on their freedom. For Jorge Bergoglio, his election as Pope has led to something of a liberation. Yes, he has to navigate the Vatican carefully, but being the Bishop of Rome has given him a global platform to follow his own agenda. And it has freed him from the constraints of the tense politics of Argentina where he constantly had to watch his step. Francis knows how to wield the levers of power and for him that means getting involved in politics: whether it is visiting refuges in Greece or criticising Donald Trump for trying to build a wall to stop migrants entering the United States.
Last week was one of the most political of Francis’ papacy. Before he got on the plane to Lesbos, he briefly met Bernie Sanders, the democratic presidential candidate who had attended a Vatican conference on Catholic Social Teaching. It was a short “hello” but this was enough to concern some that the Pope was somehow endorsing a political candidate. Francis rebuffed such a suggestion, saying that those who think his meeting with Sanders was political need to see a psychiatrist.
Also taking place last week was a Vatican-backed gathering, organised by Pax Christi International, which called on the Church to revise just-war theory and for the Pope to write an encyclical on non-violence (see Philippa Hitchen, page 12).
The meeting was backed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who said he would lobby Francis on the matter. He also strongly hinted to participants that the Pope was sympathetic to their position.
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