Catholic-atheist meetings end with Pope Benedict appeal to youth [What is Pope Francis doing?]

What is Pope Francis doing? That is the question on many Catholics’ minds, especially after the last two interviews given by his holiness over the last few weeks. I must admit his words troubled me and I have always been a supporter of Vatican II and the changes it brought to the church. But Pope Francis seemed to be going too far. Yet every time I researched anything that bothered me, I discovered that he was only stating what was in the Catholic Catechism. For a second opinion, I also searched through the writings of Pope Benedict. Each time, I discovered that Benedict had said the same things, often in a more “extreme” manner. So, the problem had to be with all of us who could not make out what Pope Francis was doing.

My answer came to me as I read the following quote from his latest interview.

Vatican II, inspired by Pope Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with non-believers. But afterwards very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something."

At first I had misunderstood what he was saying and thought he was critcising Pope John Paul II for not following through on Vatican II. But as I reread the quote, I realised he was speaking about building on the work of John Paul II and Benedict and extending ecumenism to non-believers (atheists).

At this point, everything he has said over the last few weeks fell into place for me. Pope Francis is approaching atheists with an attitude of unconditional love because he believes that this is the only hope of returning these lost sheep to the fold. He has said that three of his favorite artistic works are the writings of Dostoyevsky, Fellini’s movie La Strada and Puccini’s opera Turandot. The one common thread between all three works is that each depicts the salvation of nihilists through the unconditional love of a believer. So if you want a better understanding of Pope Francis, a good way to start would be to read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (shorter and an easier read than the Brothers Karamazov).

The final piece of this puzzle, for me, was that as always, Benedict had shown the way.

*Pope Benedict urged French youths on Friday to help put God back into public debate, either as Christians sharing their faith or as non-believers seeking more justice and solidarity in a cold utilitarian world. In a video address from the Vatican to an evening rally outside Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris, the pope also urged them to “tear down the barriers of fear of the other, the foreigner, of those who are not like you” that mutual ignorance can create.

Benedict’s address, projected on a large screen in the square, came at the end of two days of a Vatican-sponsored dialogue between Roman Catholics and atheists, part of a drive to revive the faith in Europe that is a hallmark of his papacy.
“The question of God doesn’t endanger society, it doesn’t threaten human life!” he told the crowd during a break in its evening of modern and ancient Christian music. “The question of God must not be absent from the great questions of our time.*”

Nailed it! :thumbsup:

I agree and I would add that Our Pontiff’s provocative statements,have drawn many Catholics’ out of their lull,to actually look into his comments further,thus resulting in a better understanding of our Catholic Faith The Holy Spirit is at work,we need to open our ears,hearts and minds to His plan,through Pope Frances:)

Great post.

Great Pope, too.

Reality is a very humbling experience for all of us … and a good reminder against immediate knee-jerk reactions.

Ditto :thumbsup::thumbsup:

What a truly excellent post. You have it in one my friend :smiley:


No, I don’t think there is a problem with all of us. It’s a matter of adjusting to a new style.

I was one of those shaking my head whenever someone called Pope Francis “groundbreaking” or “taking a whole new direction” since so much of what he says is exactly what his two immediate predecessors said.

The difference is in the rest of the delivery. Popes John Paul II and Benedict were both eloquent and scholarly in their writings. They took great pains to build every teaching document or address on a firm foundation of Scripture, Tradition and tradition. This was very comforting to Catholics, especially more traditional Catholics. Pope Francis’ style is to “lay it out there” without the preamble. I am not sure if he expects that we already know all the “background” and that he doesn’t need to repeat it or if he thinks that his main audience is those for whom the background doesn’t matter. It takes a little getting used to. :o


I’m curious if all of the Catholics that are worried, or have been worried, about Pope Francis’s comments are all long time Catholics, or at least long time Christians.

During my atheist years and even my protestant years, I used to complain about everything the pope is addressing now. I see so many Catholics freaking out over his comments, and I’m so confused, because my response to his comments (not the misrepresentations of his comments) is always “Yes, yes, yes!”

It’s just a thought, but perhaps those who have never been away from the faith, or have been in the faith for a very long time, are not seeing what he is doing right away because they don’t understand the outside perspective? Because from my perspective, if every pope talked like Pope Francis, I probably would have come back to the church a long time ago.

Another superb post :thumbsup: Being a cradle Catholic who has never strayed from the bosom of Holy Mother Church, I cannot say that I share the (alarming) distress that many of my brothers and sisters on CAF seem to have towards our Holy Father. I too am saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”.

I’ve been waiting for this pope :smiley: (I loved the last two as well, of course. Benedict’s theological works will always have a place in my heart, as will his brave social encyclical for which he got a lot of undeserved flack from Catholics on here, too, might I add!!)

By engaging atheists, Pope Francis is fulfilling Vatican II. Whenever he speaks, I hear the Holy Spirit speaking through him. I hear the same words I heard from my Catholic school Religion class as a boy. We must not wait but act. Each of us is to carry on the evangelical work of the Church and speak the Truth.


You speak from a perspective most of us, cradle Catholics, do not have. Those of us raised in the 50s and 60s are often burdened by a lot of misinformation which was taught by well meaning people. Many of my friends went the opposite route you’ve taken, they went from belief to atheism. It has been a tough process to watch. If Pope Francis is able to bring any of them back, it will have been worth all the time he has caused me to spend reading through the catechism and the huge list of pope Benedict’s writings. :slight_smile:

Well I tell you. Sure those meetings will be polite, otherwise they wouldn’t occur. Let him get online using a pseudonem and he will see just how far he gets.



As I said elsewhere, we’ve been blessed with great Popes!

Thank you for sharing your insights. I particularly loved these points ^. Hhmmm… I think it’s time to reread Crime and Punishment.

You know, I’ve wondered that, too. No way to do a scientifically accurate survey, but the Face Book friends I have who are absolutely over the top in their negativity towards this pope are longtime Catholics.

Catholics are a widely diverse lot. Around here last year we had a large very active group working to get Obama reelected while others were shocked that any Catholic would do such a thing. There will always be diverse opinions.

I loved the OP. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

My belief is that those Catholics who are having allergic reactions to Pope Francis may have one or more of the following issues at work in their subconscious and they don’t know it.

  1. The very fact that he’s a Jesuit causes them to see red flags everywhere.

  2. The fact that he’s Hispanic brings out the bigot in some people. “He can’t possibly be as smart as John Paul II or Benedict.”

  3. They forget how they hated John Paul II, even going to the extreme of protesting his beatification when Pope Benedict announced that it was going to happen.

  4. They forget all the nasty things they said about Pope Benedict when he would not cave in to the SSPX. He was a modernist, a liberal, a puppet of the Roman curia and other not nice things.

  5. They’re having a hard time transitioning, because Benedict is alive. If Benedict were dead, the transition would be easier.

  6. Benedict made one big mistake that has not helped. He should have returned to being Cardinal Ratzinger. This way, Benedict XVI would be officially dead. By keeping up the name and the title, it creates the illusion of two popes and we get to choose which one we like. It’s an illusion, obviously. There is only one pope. Our minds are not that sharp all the time.

  7. Many people don’t know or have forgotten what Cardinal Bergoglio stood for. He and the president of Argentina almost put on the boxing gloves on two occasions.

a. Legalizing abortion
b. Legalizing same sex marriage

  1. The Holy Spirit does not light a little flame over his choice for pope as he did over the Apostles on Pentecost. However, He does inspired the Cardinals. He helps them to discern the kind of man that needs to be elected. From that point forward, it’s up to the cardinals to find a man that matches the qualities that the Holy Spirit whispered in their ear. Cardinal Bergoglio’s manner and positions did not change or surfface when he became pope. My Argentine friends tell me that this is who he has been as long as they can remember. In fact, one of our brothers, who is from Buenos Aires and knows him personally said the other day, “I’ve never seen him so happy. He was miserable as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.” Put together the fact that the cardinals were given a list of qualities by the Holy Spirit and they had to find the man who matched that, put that together with the fact that Bergoglio was well known among the College of Cardinals. He was a runner up in the last election. Can anyone doubt that this is the man who fits the description that the Holy Spirit gave the cardinals?

  2. Another problem with Pope Francis is that he is a public relations nightmare. Public relations is not something that he has ever been to concerned about. From the perspective of many Catholics and some people inside the Vatican, they cringe when he shows his face in public, because they don’t know what he’s going to do or say. He makes very little use of the machinery in the Vatican. There are 20 or so people whose job it is to tell the pope what to say, when to say it, how to say it, to whom he should say it. By schooling the pope before he speaks, they can save others the headache of having to sweep up after him. I’m not saying that he should use this machine. I’m saying that it exists and pope have usually used it. My personal opinion is that the machine has been broken for a long time, because popes have gotten in trouble and blamed for things that they never knew were happening or had been said until after the fact. Yet, people read all kinds of things into what the previous popes said.

  3. Some Catholics are treating Pope Benedict like the good mother who has gone to heaven and Pope Francis is the wicket stepmother. It’s almost funny if these folks were not so distraught.

And I, for one, love it!

The Catholic Church is not a business and the pope is not the marketing director.

Actually, the fact that we have two popes is God’s subtle dig at Christopher Hitchens, who made a statement in one of his debates that he couldn’t wait for Pope Benedict to die because, during that short period of time waiting for a new pope to be elected, there would be no human alive claiming infallibility. Mr. Hitchens was clearly in error because instead of no pope, there are now two. God has a sense of humour. My hope is that Mr. Hitchens has seen the light(heartedness.)

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