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Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Time got it right with Pope as Person of the Year

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Published:   |   Updated: December 12, 2013 at 10:23 AM

You don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate what Pope Francis has done for the cause of goodness. I can say that with certainty because although I am not one of the planet’s 1.2 billion Catholics, I love what this man is all about.

I also know I am not alone.

He scolds the selfish. He ministers to the poor and needy. He puts others ahead of himself.

He lives what many others only preach, and he does it with a smile. He is not afraid to challenge what he called the “small-minded rules” of the religious establishment.

In a September interview with Jesuit publications, he warned the faithful that holding on to strict dogma might cause the church to “fall like a house of cards.”

He has been known to simply pick up the phone and call ordinary people in need. Instead of embracing the trappings of his office, he lives modestly and practices charity.

The pope also removed a bishop in Germany who spent $26 million on a residence for himself, including $12,000 on a bathtub. That kind of money could have helped a lot of people.

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No wonder they call him “The People’s Pope.”

No wonder Time magazine just named him its Person of the Year.

The Bible can be used as a weapon of fear and control, or it can be used as a manual of service and compassion. In too many churches today, it’s the former. They are institutions of judgment and condemnation, living by the motto of “thou shalt not.”

Then you layer on things like the molestation scandals that inflicted great damage on the Catholic church, and it’s no wonder millions of people have turned away.

This pope wants to bring them back.

It seems to be working, although his message isn’t universally embraced. For some, it is still better to condemn than receive.1

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Take the mouth-breather from Fox News, for instance, who opined, “My fellow Catholics should be suspicious when bastions of anti-Catholicism in the left-wing media are in love with him.”

Just curious, but how is ministering to the poor part of the mysterious, godless left-wing agenda?

What’s wrong with showing ordinary people they matter?

Where’s the sin in challenging the uber-wealthy about greed, if they acquired that wealth by exploiting the poor?

Is there a problem when he extends a hand to those whose lifestyle has been previously rejected by the church?

It reminds us that believers are called to lives of service and love, not simply acquisition.

Christians worldwide are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus this month.

That was a night the Bible says began in a stable, where dinner likely was modest at best.

Somehow, I think this pope would have felt right at home.

Yeah, he would have.

On this one, Time magazine got it right.

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