Now, having said all that I have said over the last couple of days, there are some things about the Pope that I admire. Not least amongst these is the fact that he goes out and says things that are worth engaging in. He is not frightened of using the office that he has inherited in order to engage fully with the world. Oh,I know that there will be a whole army (city?) of speech-writers and theologians and secretaries and what not having an input into what he says. However, it is clear that he has ideas of his own (which as we’ve seen, I don’t necessarily agree with him) and he gets them out there into the world. That I admire.
I remember that not long after I took up my current position, someone else who runs a Cathedral (one of the great Benedictine Houses of Prayer) said to me that it is important to remember that Deans and Provosts and the like are not significant people but rather symbolic people people because of their role. Its an important distinction to make and it helps to make it bearable when one says things that one feels have to be said but which will never make one popular.
I admire the Pope’s tenacity and ability to use the media more than I admire some of the messages that delivers. And as I saw pictures from Lambeth and Westminster of the rank on rank of bishops (all male, natch) I wondered why we hear so little from so many of them these days. So very many of them would be quoted and debated and engaged with if they only chose to use the symbolic significance with which people endow them.
One of the messages that the Pope has brought with him is that the churches should engage more in public life, whatever might be thought about that by those who proclaim no faith. As it happens, on that point, I agree with him. And I admire his own ability to walk what he talks.