We don’t have a pope. I am a Lutheran. And if you know anything of the history of Martin Luther and the time of the reformation, you’ll know there was no love lost between him and the pope of his day.
Name-calling and references to bodily functions were all too common from Luther’s side, and excommunication and threat of death were the not-too-measured responses from Rome.
Despite Luther’s harsh criticism of the Roman Church of the time, his hope from the beginning was the reform of his church and not the dividing of Christianity into the many sects that we have today.
But that is history. And what we now have are many expressions of Christianity, sometimes identified as Roman Catholic and Protestant — note that root word is “protest” — sometimes further divided into “reformed” and (more common today) “evangelical.” Those who try to identify the number of Christian denominations or groups can’t keep up.
So as part of that “protest” group, alongside the whole eastern expression of Christianity, which has another rich story of its own, we don’t have a pope, even though many within these ranks may still identify the Pope of Rome as a spiritual leader for them, too.
As the cardinals begin the process of electing a new pope, my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, along with many in the world, watch with keen interest to see who will emerge as the new spiritual leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world.
I am watching, too. And I have to admit I do so with a certain hope and prayer that whoever it is, he will look on the whole diverse family of Christians as children of the same God and followers of the same Christ.
And while there are significant differences in beliefs and practices to be taken seriously as well as celebrated, we need to acknowledge that we have much in common, and there is more we can do and be, together, for the sake of a better world.
And it doesn’t stop with other Christians. My hope and prayer is that the new pope also sees this vast world of diverse peoples of many faiths and spiritualities as sisters and brothers.
I pray he’ll remember that even with profound differences in beliefs and practices, we share a common humanity. And at our best, we share a vital concern for the planet we inhabit together, and hope for a more compassionate world for the sake of all, including those who come after us.
My hopes don’t arise out of a criticism of previous popes. (As someone who is not Roman Catholic, I have no right to criticize or expect anything.) My hopes and prayers for the new pope are an indication to me of the significance of the pope’s place and role in this world, and the potential of this great spiritual leader to foster unity and peace for the good of all.
Even as a Lutheran, that’s my hope and prayer for our new pope.
Lyle McKenzie is pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross of Saanich and part-time chaplain in Multifaith Services at the University of Victoria.
This post was first published in the Faith Forum column of the Times Colonist on Saturday, March 9.
You can read more articles from the multi-faith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE