One of the signs of Pope Francis’ pastoral impact on the church and on the world is the readiness of people to listen to what he is saying, whether by gestures or by words. Even within the church, individuals and groups that have habitually said we should ignore papal teaching, even in its solemn form of an encyclical, are now saying we should listen to Pope Francis. This is no small improvement and no meager pastoral victory!
Despite the newfound willingness of former despisers of the papal office to listen to Pope Francis, there remains a deeper challenge to what he himself would desire. Before his election, Cardinal Bergoglio warned his brother cardinals about the danger of a “self-referential” church, a self-absorbed church that speaks more about itself than about Christ. Today, ironically, it seems that many are speaking more about the pope than about either the church or Christ!