First a declaration that I am not of the Catholic faith. But that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to Pope Francis – especially when I hear him saying what I (and lots of other people) have been saying for years.
A few days ago British newspaper – The Telegraph – informed us the Pope’s Christmas sermon “threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled.”
The world, said His Holiness, “which has chosen war and hate” has made a charade of Christmas, the once sacred time dedicated to peace on earth, goodwill to all men. Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes…it is all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars everywhere and hate.
“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it.”
And the Christmas tree was then unveiled to show tinseled, bauble-dressed testimony and confirmation of his message.
It reminded me of Studdert Kennedy’s epic poem Indifference written when he was known as “Woodbine Willie” the wartime Padre best known, as he himself said, as the Priest who “put off with a cigarette” wounded soldiers he should have “been offering Gods’ grace.”
Kennedy wrote in the 1914-48 war to end wars: “When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged him on a tree, they drave great nails through hands and feet….For those were crude and cruel days and human flesh was cheap….
“When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by, they never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die for men had grown more tender, and they would not give him pain, they only just past down the street, and left him in the rain…..
“The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see – And Jesus crouched against the wall and cried for Calvary.”
So, again, I am not a Roman Catholic, nor do I embrace any formal religious group. But that doesn’t mean I can’t understand the difference between war and peace, between hate and toleration, between genuine faith and a faith deeply buried by indifference.
And it doesn’t mean I can’t wish Pope Francis success with his reminder that the Christmas spirit should be more than a well acted charade; and Kennedy’s warning that indifference can be our greatest shame.