Pope ‘seeks to shape’ a church ‘capable of shaping world,’ says priest

bryan hehir

Pope Francis “seeks to shape a practical ecclesiology — a church capable of shaping the world,” Father J. Bryan Hehir told an audience at Georgetown University in Washington Nov. 12.

Bryan Hehir, a professor of religion and public life at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, delivered an annual lecture sponsored by the university’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

Titled “Vatican Diplomacy: Three Models,” the lecture compared the diplomatic engagement styles of Pope Pius XII, St. John Paul II and the current pontiff.

Afterwards, Hehir made a prediction about a future pope, given the demographics of Catholic growth. “My guess is an African pope would not surprise me. And it would have a lot to support it.”

He also praised Francis for his interactions with President Donald Trump concerning immigration and the southern border wall.

In March, before his May 24 meeting with Trump, the pope warned that border-closing politicians “will become prisoners of the walls that they build.” After his meeting with Trump, the pope attacked the president’s policy of separating families at the border: “It falls into the greatest cruelty. To defend what? The territory, or the economy of the country, or who knows what?”

“I think this pope has handled the president of the United States very well. Very well,” said Hehir, who also is secretary of health and social services for the Archdiocese of Boston. “He just will not take the bait to get into a shooting match with President Trump.”

In his lecture, in talking about Vatican diplomacy during the Pius XII papacy, which spanned World War II, the pope was a supporter of the just-war doctrine, and once “said no Catholic could be a pacifist,” Hehir said. “That wouldn’t be said today, but it was said in his time.”

By contrast, when St. John Paul took office in 1978, he encountered “the Cold War in full run.” “He shaped a view of morality that then carried over into his diplomacy,” he said. Continue reading

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