Pope Francis: Possible message for Pyeongchang Olympics

The New Pope, is welcomed internationally, and the Catholic Church enters a new era by choosing a Pope from the remotest part of the World (AnNahar Newspaper, Friday, March15, 2013).

The Pope, was welcomed internationally, and the Catholic Church entered a new era by choosing a Pope from the remotest part of the World (AnNahar Newspaper, Friday, March 15, 2013).

The Catholic church’s brand refresh

Growing up in Italy affects people in many ways: the idea of beauty, love for food, the guilty feeling of wasting it, the importance of art and culture, and much more. There is also an Italian saying that led my life: where three people can eat, four can eat too (literal translation). It means that if there is enough food for three members of the family, you can always add a person to the table. It basically means that people should renounce to something in order to keep it for a new arrival. This is most likely a thought that is kept within the Catholic church. In fact, Vatican City is situated inside the Italian borders and the bond between religion and Italian people has always been very strong. Over the centuries, the Catholic church influenced the fortunes of Italy and the world too. In particular, the role of the Pope is something that can have an effect on global politics.

The current Pope is someone who is trying to drastically change the system of the Church. The 80-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is the first Pope to have come from South America (Argentina). He was born in Buenos Aires on 17th December 1936, as the son of Italian immigrants. He took his papal title after St. Francis of Assisi, highlighting his vision for the poor. Pope Francis’s mission is to create a welcoming and modern Catholic church in which people can find their identity. He is the perfect man for the rebranding of the Church because he is able to connect traditional aspects to modern core values. In fact, in December 2013, Pope Francis was named “Person of the Year” by Time magazine because of his humility and outspoken support of the world’s poor and marginalized; and his involvement in political diplomacy and environmental advocacy. Pope Francis even has a Twitter account with over 10.5 million followers around the world, allowing him to spread his message more effectively.

Apologize and beg for forgiveness

“The Catholic church and other Christian communities must apologize to gay people and too many groups they have let down or offended throughout history,” Pope Francis said. In addition to a more open position about homosexual people, he made declarations regarding other controversial topics. He also faced topics such as divorce sacraments, directly addressing Catholics who he deemed were “living in irregular family situations”.

He also urged Catholics not to have more children than they could properly support and he is open to married men becoming priests. Moreover, Pope Francis asked affected families for forgiveness for the Church’s role in the Rwandan genocide. Dozens of Catholic priests are believed to have been complicit in the killings of some 800,000 people by Hutu extremists in 1994.

Old and new contradictions

Quartz newspaper said that when viewed through a historical lens, the ever-polarizing Catholic Church continues to confound world leaders with its position on family planning and disease prevention. It is notable that the Pope chose to address the use of condoms when it came to the Zika virus after rebuffing a similar question regarding condoms and the spread of HIV. Moreover, Pope Francis’ resounding “No” to women becoming priests may come as a surprise considering that he is seen as a reformer of the Roman Catholic Church.

He also addressed other issues in a conservative way. In fact, he declared that the political movement for gay marriage is “the envy of the Devil, by which sin entered into the world, which cunningly seeks to destroy the image of God,” and gay adoption is discrimination against children: “What is at stake here is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother”. Moreover, he spoke out against abortion, saying, “Defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you. No child should be deprived of the right to be born, the right to be fed, the right to go to school” (Quartz). Pope Francis then also upheld the Church’s opposition to birth control (Quartz).

Pope Francis and political diplomacy

In 2016, Pope Francis denounced the ideologically twisted and planned “so-called genocide” of Armenians by Ottoman-era Turks a century ago (The Guardian). “Sadly that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples,” he said.

Moreover, in 2016, Pope Francis sent a letter to the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, appealing for “An end to the violence and the peaceful resolution of hostilities” in the country. He also expressed the growing global phenomenon of the populism: “Crises provoke fear, alarm. In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933. Germany is broken, it needs to get up, to find its identity, a leader, someone capable of restoring its character, and there is a young man named Adolf Hitler who says: I can. And all Germans vote for Hitler. Hitler didn’t steal the power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people.”

North and South Korea

Catholics first brought Christianity to Korea more than two centuries ago. However, the majority of Christians in South Korea belong to Protestant denominations, including mainline churches such as Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist churches and various Pentecostal churches. On the other hand, it is not clear how many Catholics are in North Korea. A UN Human Rights Council report released in February 2014 said that apart from the few organized state-controlled churches, Christians were prohibited from practicing their religion and were persecuted (BBC).

In 2014, Pope Francis visited South Korea “to lead a Mass to beatify 124 martyrs directly in front of the palace of the old Korean dynasty that killed them more than a century ago”, the New York Times reported. In that occasion, Pope Francis urged dialogue between the two Koreas instead of “displays of force”. He also said that the reconciliation of the Korean peninsula had implications for “the stability of the entire area and indeed of the whole war-weary world”. Since he already asked for reconciliation between North and South Korea, there is the chance he will reiterate this concept during the Winter Olympics games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


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