For the longest time, the Church has been seen as a symbol of power, authority and even of wealth. There were many who could not see the face of Christ in her. Now, this seems to be slowly changing as Pope Francis proclaims to the whole world the authentic meaning and joy of the gospel – Gaudium Evangelii.
In the world meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia, the Pope asked forgiveness for all the wrongs that the Church has committed against the indigenous people in Latin America. I am reminded of my own native Philippines where for the most part of our three hundred years as a Spanish colony, the friars were often the face of oppression, hypocrisy and corruption.
Visiting a violent and overcrowded prison in Bolivia, the Pope declared that he was as much in need of repentance and penitence as the inmates there. He did not condone their crimes but he joined them in their sinfulness. And meantime in the Vatican, the first ever child sex abuse trial will begin next month against the Pope’s former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski.
Today’s secular society has practically driven the Church out of the mainstream where it used to be. She has long been out of the legal and social mainstream because of the separation of Church and State. The Church is out of economic and financial circles because she often poses difficult and often impossible to answer questions to bankers and businessmen. The Church has often been seen as an enemy of science and technology because of the narrow-mindedness of many fundamentalist-believers.
But in the process of being sidelined into the peripheries, the Church has also encountered the billions that the present world systems have driven into the peripheries and out of the mainstream as well. The Church is now where it should be – with the underprivileged and underserved, with the poor and the oppressed, with the last, the least and the lost, with those who long for land, lodgings and labor.
Now, I am indeed starting to see the face of Christ anew in His Church.