In an effort to be more accessible to the people, Pope Francis has forgone much of the security that the Vatican recommends and that his predecessors used with regularity, including bullet proof vehicles and large numbers of highly visible security personal.
This has resulted in some tense moments for church officials, including last week’s papal visit to South America:
When Pope Francis’s motorcade took a wrong turn on his inaugural drive through Rio de Janeiro earlier this week, crowds rushed the car to get a glimpse of the popular pontiff. Francis seemed unfazed, rolling down his back-seat window and even reaching out for babies to kiss through his open car window.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi brushed off the incident. “His secretary was afraid, but the pope wasn’t,” he told reporters at a briefing after the pope’s car was rushed. “We have full confidence in the authorities. Today was the first experience, a learning experience, and we will see what happens in the next few days.”
While I find the pope’s desire to be more accessible to the people admirable, I’m less inclined to attribute his willingness to tempt fate to any amount of courage of his part, as has been suggested by various media outlets.
After all, he’s the pope.
If anyone is certain that Heaven exists, it’s the pope.
If anyone is convinced that he is going to Heaven, it’s the pope.
If anyone is absolutely sure that Heaven represents a state of eternal and total bliss, it’s the pope.
It would be a tragedy if the pope was killed as a result of this newfound accessibility, but in his mind, the consequence of an assassin’s bullet is Heaven.
Death still stinks, but it’s a pretty good consolation.
On the other hand, it only makes sense that the pope’s secretary was afraid when the pope’s car was rushed by crowds last week. The secretary has not been deemed by a conclave of the highest of holy men as the closest human being to God.
He’s just a guy. Full of uncertainty, doubt and sin.
In short, he’s not the pope.
While I’m sure that the pope isn’t anxious to die anytime soon, there can’t be any doubt of eternal salvation from someone in his position. In his mind, he’s already punched his ticket to Heaven. The possibility of nonexistence and the threat of eternal damnation have been all but eliminated.
He’s the pope. If he doesn’t believe in Heaven, the Catholic Church is in some serious trouble.
The man’s passage through the Pearly Gates has been all but assured. It sort of diminishes the opportunity for bravery a bit.
Unless of course he follows in the steps of such predecessors as Pope Stephen VI.
Pope Stephen VI hated his predecessor, Pope Formosus, so much he had his rotting nine-month-old corpse dug up, redressed in his papal vestments and seated on the throne to be tried.
The man put a corpse on trial.
Not surprising, the rotting remains of Pope Formosus were found guilty. As punishment,, Pope Stephen VI ordered that the three fingers Pope Formosus used to give blessings be cut off. He was then stripped of his sacred vestments, dressed as a layman, dragged through the streets by horses and dumped in the Tiber River.
Pope Stephen VI probably had some legitimate concerns regarding the possibility of his eternal salvation, even with the protection of his papal title.
But Pope Francis? Probably not.