I continue to be overwhelmed by the extremely positive responses of so many people who are ordinarily the most critical of the Roman Pontiff, regardless of who that person happens to be (Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, etc.). Two of these figures are significant theologians that have received, at different times and for different reasons, critique from the Vatican for their scholarly work: Leonardo Boff and Hans Küng.
In an earlier New York Times article seeking various reactions about the election of Pope Francis, Boff (a former Franciscan friar), was recorded as saying:
““I am encouraged by this choice, viewing it as a pledge for a church of simplicity and of ecological ideals,” said Leonardo Boff, a founder of liberation theology. What is more, Mr. Boff said, Cardinal Bergoglio comes from the developing world, “outside the walls of Rome.”
Recently, on his blog, Boff wrote:
Why did Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio choose the name Francis? I think it’s because he realized the Church is in ruins because of demoralization due to the various scandals that have affected the most precious thing it had: morality and credibility.
Francis isn’t a name; it’s a plan for a Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power. It’s a Church that walks the way together with the least and last, that creates the first communities of brothers and sisters who recite the breviary under the trees with the birds. It’s an ecological Church that calls all beings those sweet words “brothers and sisters”. Francis was obedient to the Church and the popes and at the same time he followed his own path with the gospel of poverty in hand.
Perhaps even more surprising than Boff’s response to the election of Pope Francis and the pontiff’s choice of pontifical name, is Hans Küng’s enthusiastic, if at times cautious, reaction. He has a powerful interview (in English) with CBC Radio: “Hans Küng on Election of Pope Francis.” The ten-minute interview is well worth the listen.
My hope is that this rather old pope lives a long enough life, short though it might be as Bishop of Rome, to inaugurate the reform he has signaled in the small and pastoral moves he has already made.