This is a feature in the special commemorative issue of America celebrating Pope Francis and his five groundbreaking years. Purchase a copy of Pope Francis: Five Groundbreaking Years here.
Pope Francis’ penchant for cold-calling Catholics has become a well-known sign of his warmth, candor and attention to individuals. And although not everyone can expect to receive a personal phone call from the pope it does not hurt to be prepared. So we asked a few members of the faithful: What would you say if you had five minutes with Pope Francis?
‘I’d say, what do you do to get that smile on your face in the morning? I remember hearing about Mother Teresa saying: Get up in the morning and smile and say yes.... But the pope seems so happy. I was wondering: What’s your regimen in the morning? What are you doing? What’s your five minutes getting out of bed in the morning.”
Stephen Colbert was host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central from 2005 to 2014. He has been named the next host of "The Late Show" on CBS, starting in September. This response is excerpted from a video interview by America with Mr. Colbert, the full version of which can be found at here.
A Diverse Meeting
Thank you for the generosity with which you have responded to papal ministry—your trust in and openness to the Holy Spirit as well as in the prayers and sense of the faithful; your example of how to live into and with the responsibility with which you have been entrusted; and the joy, compassion and mercy you radiate in our world. Thank you for keeping the poor alive in your heart and for nudging us as a church to attend to our sisters and brothers lovingly and practically. Thank you for your regard for those who may not share our faith, but who share our quest for the living God. You know how to listen to and to meet poor women in their homes and in their need, so I ask you to meet face-to-face with women of our church—a diverse gathering from various continents and countries, differing socioeconomic situations, cultures, races, sexual orientations, personal opinions and theological questions. Please.
M. Shawn Copeland is professor of systematic theology at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Saving Humankind From Itself
Holy Father, I am delighted that you have chosen to address the moral questions raised by environmental degradation in your second encyclical. As you
know, climate change is very often seen as a political issue, not a scientific one, here in the United States. Yet we know from science that we are, in fact, changing the chemistry of our atmosphere and leaving a perilous future to our children. At the same time, science tells us how humankind came to be through billions of years of evolution. Is there a way to use this knowledge of our scientific and spiritual origins to advance a more hopeful dialogue about our future? How might the church help our society move beyond the left-right politics of the climate issue to a place that offers a more realistic assessment and a practical program to save humankind from itself? Thank you for your wisdom and witness.
Dan Misleh is the executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, an agency for education and action on Catholic teaching on climate change in the United States
If I had five minutes with Pope Francis, I would spend four of them listening rather than talking. In my remaining minute, I might thank him for being a witness to the sanctity of life, the dignity of the poor and the importance of gender complementarity within marriage. If I had any time left over, I would suggest that American Catholics could stand to hear more about what a blessing the sacrament of reconciliation is.
Ramesh Ponnuru is a columnist for Bloomberg View, based in Washington, D.C, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor for The National Review.
An Example of Merciful Priesthood
I would tell him that these last two years have been the happiest ones of my 33 years as a priest. I am proud to be a Catholic priest today because our pope is for the promotion of mercy, routinely places daily ministry to the poor at the heart of the church, is learning slowly but surely about the ongoing leadership of women in the church, hates clericalism, makes with every appointment an option for the global South and lives the life he calls us to lead. I would add that despite the comments of a few influential bishops and well-placed journalists, most Catholics in the United States thank God everyday for your election. Finally, I pray for your health, your consolation and your wisdom; and I hope you are with us longer than you suggest. That you are a Jesuit is, to use your own words, “strawberries on the cake.”
James F. Keenan, S.J., is Canisius Professor and director of the Jesuit Institute at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Searching for God’s Love
Holy Father, I do not believe God loves me. No matter what I do, how much I pray, how much I serve the church, I will never deserve God’s love. I know this is not what Jesus teaches, but this is what the church taught me. When I told my parents I am gay and a leader in pastoral ministries to gay and lesbian people, they told me I would probably go to hell and they would not pray for me. I am in my 30s, but this is also the story of Catholics in their 60s and 70s who spent their lives believing God does not love them. This is the story of kids in their teens and 20s, taught they will never deserve to be loved and are beyond even God’s grace. Words matter. Please tell our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers that God loves us all. Maybe wounds will heal and we will believe this message.
Arthur Fitzmaurice is senior fellow and managing director for L.G.B.T. engagement at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and resource director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.
Recognizing Women in Theology
First, thank you. Thank you for leading with mercy and focusing on poverty, for reforming the curia, for taking sexual abuse seriously. Thank you for coming to the United States, for unblocking Oscar Romero’s canonization. Thank you for smiling genuinely in your audiences, for drinking mate in St. Peter’s Square, for washing the feet of prisoners (even women and Muslims!). You have invigorated the church, breathed new life into the disaffected, the young and the marginalized, and for that I am grateful.
But I have a favor to ask. Stop inquiring after a theology of women. In fact, please drop the phrase “theology of women” from your repertoire. To suggest that a particular theology needs to be done (by whom?) about women implies that women cannot reflect on theological topics. From the moment Mary of Nazareth sang the Magnificat, women have been doing profound, creative, orthodox theology. We come from all over the world and write on all aspects of Catholicism in many languages. We discern the signs of the times, as men do, from a particular perspective, but not one that is uniform. Let this diversity of voices inform the church. We do not need a new discipline, we need space and an attentive ear.
Natalia Imperatori-Lee is associate professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, New York.
A Message of Gratitude
Thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your trust in the Holy Spirit. Thank you for being the Jesuit spiritual director to the world, modeling a discernment of the spirits for all the world to see. It’s the only way for a Christian to live and is the only evangelical strategy worthy of its name. We’ve had such gifts in our recent popes, and you are no exception. I am praying for you and with you. Thank you for leading the way so that more might follow Jesus Christ truly—willingly, completely, mercifully, confidently, truthfully, counter-culturally. Thank you, Holy Father; you challenge me daily in the way of the Lord. And from the looks of it, you do it because you live in the Trinity and love Mary as your very own mother. Thank you for that. Would that we would all.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow of the National Review Institute and editor at large of National Review Online. She is a founder of Catholic Voices USA and co-author of the upcoming revised edition of How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice (Our Sunday Visitor).