The Gospel not Catechism: Pope’s message to Kenya

By David Onjili From the choice of his name, Pope Francis, after the selfless and humble Saint Francis, to his earlier life, Jorge Maria Bergoglio seems to have been prepared for his position by earlier events in his life. A janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher, pope Francis learnt to ply his trade just like the “Former radical, “ Jesus, who had no office. Unlike Jesus, a mere lumpen carpenter from Jerusalem with a radical message who left more than half the world his followers, Pope Francis is breaking barriers and being loved by both Christian insiders and non-insiders for his message. Is he different from his predecessors or he is just an extrovert. Pope Bennedict XVI was more of an introvert whose contribution to the church was more in writings. Is there really a difference in message or just a difference in the way the messenger is putting out a similar message? We are a society known to miss a lot of knowledge from the mere fact that we do not love reading (if you want to hide something from the masses, put it in a book). Is it true we would have celebrated Bennedict XVI more if we spared time to go through his work or was the timing of Pope Francis God -send? A new way of doing things Immediately after ascending to the papacy, the direction he intended to steer the church was self-evident. Whereas his predecessors chose to reside in the isolated Vatican Suites, Pope Francis continues to sleep in the humble quarters with his colleagues. During his first Holy Tuesday, rather than wash the feet of the usual priests, he washed those of a dozen young people from a juvenile detention center, two women and yes… two Muslims. This symbolically stated a new shift from the Vatican, whether it was by design or default but the foundations were being laid. The Gospel and not Catechism was the way, dogma was to be done away with. The way of Jesus was the only way; that of humility, selflessness and service. But, was this new or had it just been hidden from the eyes of the public? We live in a meritocratic society, and Kenya obviously is no exception. Yet, scripture is very clear about what God thinks about this… Ecc 9:11 «I returned and saw under the sun that – The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.» The Catholic Church in Kenya, as is all over the world, has failed in its mandate as a moral compass for her faithful and the nation at large. Under her watch, society continues to fall and worship at the feet of corrupt politicians and state brokers. What matters is your wealth and like «BOOM on the amplifier», the Church worships you, your offering especially when large matters more despite the fact that your name features prominently amongst the most corrupt land grabbers. Some of their clergy have been present at so called prayer rallies for leaders who have court cases with charges of crimes against humanity. The said prayer rallies have themselves been avenues to further tribalism. The clergy have not stood for service to Christ. They have not condemned evil and advocated for peaceful living. Pope Francis on the other hand is a foe wrapped in a happy package of tough love for the ruling elite world over. His stands on attacking Syria and climate change show a bold man. The purveyors of the status quo that worship money fear him. He is a friend of the poor. He uses the Gospel to mediate, condemn evil bluntly whereas the Kenya Church flip-flops and takes no bold and open stand. Where is it all going wrong? Confronted on whether it was right or wrong to pay taxes, Jesus simply replied that Caesar was to be given what belonged to him and God given his dues. In any case, it was the portrait of Caesar that was on the coin. Pope Francis› message is simple, he is here to serve Christ and not worship man, yet the actions and words of the local Catholic Church have shown an inclination to serving the rich ruling class. The Catholic clergy has never come out boldly to condemn corruption; they have not stood up against tribal appointments in the Jubilee administration? Neither have they voiced an eyebrow against government persecution of those who check its excesses. What happened to the church being the salt of the world? The gap between the rich and the poor in Kenya is getting wider by the day as evidenced by the numerous high end malls sprouting up, growing high end private schools for the rich just to mention a few. On the contrary, there is a subsequent increase in the number of Kenyans who cannot afford two meals a day. Healthcare is a mirage to the majority. Women are dying while giving birth and hospitals lack drugs due to graft. The rich are not helping the poor yet it in the Gospel and scripture, God is very clear of what He expects the rich to do with their wealth. Luke 14:13 – 14.»But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.» Mat 19:24 «And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.» If this is so, why does the church give hero status to those who give huge offerings, drive big cars yet are corrupt? Does the Kenyan Catholic church read from a different bible from that of the Pope? There has been raging debate in the Catholic Church both locally and abroad on their stands on abortion, gay rights, use of contraception and abstinence. Whereas the stands of the Church and the he Pope have not been glaring divergent, it is in the parallel manner with which the Pope and the Kenyan Catholic Church (and probably all over the world) is tackling it. The Pope’s thinking on the above pertinent issues shows just why he stands shoulders above… «Faith and traditions can be harsh, they drive away everyone but the self righteous scold, or they can indulge in therapeutic comfort and manufactured joy that they seem like a chartalan›s game.» Trust our systems While it is easy to see what the Pope is doing and turn a blind eye to what the Catholic Church has done, it would be unfair. The Kenyan Catholic Church has played her part well in part. A closer look at education sector shows just how many catholic run institutions continue to perform well in national examinations. The medical sector has been a major beneficiary of the Catholic Church, too. We have hospitals, clinics that were set up by missionaries and continue to be run by the Catholic Church. Yes, there are stories and cases of institutions being poorly managed but as in any society you do expect a few rotten apples in the basket. It should however, be a major concern for the church as this adversely affect her standing. If the church cannot manage or handle her own affairs then how does she expect to take care of her flock? There seems to be a general consensus that the Church has been quiet in condemning societal evils. They are comfortable in their parishes yet Jesus lived like a fugitive because his straight talk annoyed the rulers of the time. It is high time the Kenyan Catholic church stops being ‘politically correct’ and condemn evil.

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