St. Peter took his vision back to the other apostles at the Council of Jerusalem—recorded in Acts chapter fifteen. The inspiration for change did come to St. Peter, and it was validated by the other apostles. This sets the pattern for change within the Catholic Church. As the innovation came through Peter and was confirmed by the apostolic church, so authentic change in the Catholic Church comes through the successor of Peter working in harmony with the successors of the apostles—the bishops of the church. Any change which does not come through the successor of Peter and is not validated by the bishops is not authentic.
Pope Francis, therefore, must always balance the changes he wants and the “surprises” he envisions with the counsel and wisdom of the whole body of bishops around the world. While the Pope is the chief apostle, his ministry is rarely exercised alone. Instead he listens to the God of Surprises—the Holy Spirit—working in and through the whole church.
It is therefore part of Pope Francis’ role to, on the one hand, encourage us to be open to the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit’s leading while, on the other hand, exercising caution and restraint. He is always listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit while also testing all things to see if they are of God. So with the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of the whole church he encourages us to live that faith which is both “ever ancient and ever new.”
Read Fr Dwight Longenecker’s blog, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com
Pope Francis: Faith Ever Ancient Ever New
AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia
Fr Dwight Longenecker - published on 05/04/15
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