Photo by Alan M. Dumoff
Dr. Patrick Clark of the University of Scranton gives a presentation on Pope Francis Jan. 23 at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro.
GIBBSBORO – “The defining vision for Pope Francis is going out of oneself and encountering people where they are.”
These were the words of Dr. Patrick Clark on Jan. 23 at St. Andrew the Apostle Church here during his lecture to address the question, “Who is the Real Pope Francis?”
Assistant professor of theology/religious studies at the University of Scranton, Dr. Clark spoke of the mission Pope Francis has for the church in creating “a culture of encounter, a priority of presence over ideas and speech,” to bring others to conversion in the Catholic faith.
“The first thing that Pope Francis offers is his personal presence,” Dr. Clark argued, “as a matchmaker for us and God’s mercy.”
The speaker also provided background on the pontiff’s own conversion story. Growing up in Argentina, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio was attracted to the faith through the “concrete” witness of such individuals as his grandmother, Rosa Margherita. Soon, the young man who spent time after school assisting the priest at Mass became a priest, then cardinal and, last March 13, the Bishop of Rome.
Inspired by Pope Francis, we are all called to “mediate an encounter between God” and those we meet, Dr. Clark said. “The privileged focus of encounter is the caress of mercy,” he said.
As well, he emphasized that Catholics should not just be focusing on their own, comfortable social circles in conversion, but “the church is called to go out to the periphery.” “You can’t have faith and keep it to yourself; you have to pass it on.”