The recent visit of Pope Francis, the religious head of world’s 1.6 billion Catholics, is being celebrated by the media outlets across the world due to the timing of the visit; he is visiting two countries in the East Asia which are hit by one of the worst ethnic cleansing in the world history. Whereas the world is listening to know whether he will make any mention to the Rohingya’s, the diplomatic community wants him to be silent so that he status quo will be maintained in the region. This is not the first time that the Papal Visit, which is largely a religious event, is being observed by the world with a lot of fascination and curiosity.
Since his elevation into one of the most powerful positions way back in the year 2013, he is one of the focal points of media attention for his behavior and respect for his down-to-earth approach. For instance, immediately after his election while addressing the gathering, he requested them to pray for him, as opposed to the tradition of new Pope blessing the faithful. He stunned the world when he decided to move into a simpler apartment rather than staying in the luxurious Papal Palace. The amused the world when he decided to wash the leg of twelve common men and women, one of them being a Muslim. It is the style of Pope Francis; simple yet elegant, authoritative yet down-to-earth, faithful yet open-minded. It is this approach that helped him to place in the center of global polity, unlike many of his successors.
Pope Francis also has to his credit, easing the tensed relationships between USA and its arch enemy, Cuba. He played a crucial role in bringing these two parties around the table, who otherwise had a troubled relationship for the past 40 years. It was Pope Francis who was instrumental in bringing the Syrian refugee crisis into the world’s attention. His empathy with the Syrian refugees helped the leaders of the Europe to proceed with their plans to rehabilitate the refugees against the growing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Thus, Pope Francis is not just a power-figure but he is also the centre of a larger ripple effect that is hitting the world.
The recent papal visit to Eastern Asian countries is also marked with importance and global attention as world is eagerly waiting to see how is going to handle the Rohingya issue and what would be his reaction to those thousands of Muslims who are forced to leave their native places due to the growing attacks from the pre-dominant communities in the country.
Now what would this mean to the rest of the world? Is it the growing influence of the religion in the social sphere? Is it the convergence of the Church and the State which is otherwise expected to be separated from each other? Though there are no clear answers for these questions, one thing that could be verified for the time being is that the impact of this growing convergence is essentially positive. Rather than separating the opposing forces, this religious interference is indeed bringing the different poles of power around a table to discuss and sort out mutual ways of cooperation. In his own words,
“…………. I say that politics is the most important of the civil activities and has its own field of action, which is not that of religion. Political institutions are secular by definition and operate in independent spheres.”
While he uses the religious authority that is vested in him, he is also equally careful in not to influence the global polity using his religious image; rather than politicizing the religion, he is secularizing the politics with the power of religion. Though this sounds a little bizarre, it is what he has been doing since he become the pope. Indeed, this method proves to be more successful than his predecessors, who were often blamed for interfering in the politics through backchannels and undue means.
Whether be it the past Syrian Crisis or the recent Rohingya issue or some future developments that may unfold in the coming years, Pope will have a say in it as the world listens to him carefully. Indeed, he is creating a ‘Pope Culture’ of his own, with a huge fan following.
-Contributed by Jiss Palelil
Picture Credits: timemagazine.com