Featured Reviews, VOLUME 6

Michel Cool – Francis: A New World Pope [Feature Review]

[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”0802871003″ locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51zb%2BL0rPlL._SL110_.jpg” width=”71″]Page 2: Michel Cool – Francis: A New World Pope

What confounds so many about Pope Francis, it seems to me, is precisely the consistency of his Catholic views. Catholic social teaching has long affirmed the importance of caring for the poor and oppressed, something Pope Francis clearly demonstrates. The Church has also been dogmatic in its opposition to abortion, a position Francis holds firmly as well. Both convictions stem from the belief that all people—rich and poor, born and unborn—are created in the image of God and are therefore worthy of dignity, respect, and care. Yet holding these twin convictions with integrity makes it difficult for the press to decide whether the new Pope is liberal or conservative, the polarizing terms used to categorize people in society at large.


Cool’s description of Francis as a “new world” Pope refers, of course, to the fact that he is from the Americas, as opposed to the “old world” of Europe. But the term also seems to poignantly represent the reality that Christianity is expanding most rapidly in the Global South, a phenomenon that is reshaping both Protestant and Catholic churches alike. It is significant that the Catholic Church now looks to a representative of the Global South for spiritual direction. Those of us belonging to Protestant traditions would do well to likewise consider who our Global South leaders and teachers might be.


If this book’s greatest strength is its warm accessibility, its greatest weakness is that it’s quite disjointed. Each chapter can more or less stand on its own, and less than half the book is actually written by Cool himself (though his brevity is understandable given how quickly after the Pope’s election it has appeared). The rest of the book consists of excerpts from Francis’s sermons and writings, and reflections from a dozen or so Catholics who express their fervent hopes for his papacy.

In a chapter on ten hot button issues Pope Francis will need to address, ranging from moral crises to interfaith dialogue to economic concerns, I was reminded of the moment in which St. Francis of Assisi discerned his calling. As the story goes, Jesus told him, “Francis, go and rebuild my Church, which you can see has fallen into ruin.” Francesco immediately set about dirtying his hands with bricks and mortar, but eventually it became clear that rebuilding the church would in fact mean getting to work with “living stones”—the people of God.


Pope Francis seems to recognize this, as his spur-of-the-moment phone calls to single mothers and his washing of the feet of addicts make clear. One need not belong to the Roman Catholic Church to share in the hope that his efforts to rebuild the Church will be fruitful. But in the words of Belgian priest and writer Father Gabriel Ringlet, quoted near the end of the book, “Let’s give him a little time to show us what he’s going to do.”
Tim Høiland is a writer, editor, and content strategist at changegoat and is co-director of communications for Lemonade International. You can follow him on Twitter @tjhoiland.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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