Jan 1st 2014
6.45 pm Nigerian time
'Pope Francis call for Global Peace is the most relevant message for the year 2014'
Pope Francis was TIMEs person of the year for 2013. And if TIME magazine doesn't find a worthy winner for 2014, the first latin american to become pope may be named TIMEs person of the year again for 2014.
Happy New Year.
Its still too early to say if the pope's charm will overwhelm the world till the end of the year 2014. But the following have set him miles apart from his predecessors.
1. His choice of the Moniker Francis
Every great leader starts out by associating himself with an ideology or guiding principle. Political leaders like Obama chose Change... Mandela chose non - violence... Ghandi chose non - violence... Martin luther chose civil liberties... Jonathan chose Humility... Pope Francis chose to associate with St. Francis of Asisi. Francis was the 13 th century saint who condescended to be associated with the poor and down trodden in society rather than the high and mighty. By choosing that Moniker, the pope has decided to shun the fortune and status of his office to live humbly among the poor. By so doing he has effectively over a one year period changed the way the world sees Christianity. Now every one is asking ... Is this Pope a socialist?
The lesson to learn is that you will secure a surer place in history if you insist on identifying with he downtrodden. My favorite moment of 2013 for instance was when my Uniben Demonstration Secondary School set of 2000 decided to tone down the hard partying that accompanies our yearly re-union. We visited an orphanage/motherless babies home instead, giving back so much to society in the process. If all Alumni Associations give back to society this way wouldn't life be a better place?
2. His choice of apartment
He chose to live in a modest guest house adjoining the Apostolic Palace rather than in sumptuous papal apartments which other popes before him had lived in.
There is nothing wrong with living like a glorious leader of over 1 billion faithful but that doesn't cause any radical change in the way people see leadership. What moves people to their foundations is a man who has the opportunity to live flamboyantly but chooses to live simply. Those are the sort of leaders who move humanity in new directions
3. His choice of transportation
Most times, he ditches the papal convoy refusing to be chauffeured in that flamboyant motorcade. He can be seen carrying his own brief cases when he steps down from his vehicle. He lives such a simple life you would think he's a regular bishop of some obscure diocese.
Furthermore, he sneaks out at night to feed the poor and phones ordinary people who need his help. These are all traits of a neo -Socialist.
As expected, much of the world especially American conservatives, who are quick to write off anything communal or anything that tends towards socialism are yet to embrace the pope and endorse his choices. This is because some people see the simple life as a life meant for the wretched of the earth. Some people see a life of condescension as one in total contrast with wealth and privilege. But how wrong they are.
Isnt it beautiful to be stupendously wealthy and yet to associate with the poor, less privileged and down trodden? Isn't it a more glorious life to be born into fortune and fame and yet choose to live in a simple apartment or drive simple cars? Isn't it a better approach to be a leader of millions or even billions of people and yet to set a day aside to at least pick up your phone and speak with those that need reassurance from you, telling them that their lives will be fine? Or setting a day aside to reply your mails personally and append your signature showing that the reply wasn't done by an aide but with your own hands?
I should issue a disclaimer at this point and say that the pope isn't a socialist in the true sense of the word. I may even argue that he isn't even a socialist at all going by the understanding of what it means to be a socialist. But if you listen to him closely and look at his actions critically, you will see how he deftly shows us that we must learn to be more critical of the sort of materialism that led to the global economic meltdown a few years ago in the first place. We must reject the crass Capitalism and total disregard for Community that drives Western investment and businesses. We must be more compassionate and humane. We ought to give our policies a human face and establish safety nets that would catch those brow beaten by harsh economic realities.
I remain a conservative at heart and wouldn't suggest any radical shift towards state control. Neither is the pope a dangerous radical who harbors socialist thought. However, we are not afraid of Change and that's one ideology we share!
A neo-socialist is one who isn't afraid of changing the way a materialistic world views power, property and people. We believe that one exists because of the other and none can exist without the other. So power, property and people must be treated with utmost and equal respect.
Happy New Year
Iroko Obasi ND