April 4, 2014

Reflection / Mike Krokos

Having faith to change hearts through common ground

Mike KrokosIt had been nearly five years, but the backdrop was a familiar one.

There was the Swiss Guard standing at attention outside, and inside were the TV cameras, still cameras and entourages for both men.

There were the pleasantries exchanged by two of the most powerful leaders in the world.

There was the traditional exchange of gifts.

And behind closed doors, Pope Francis and President Barack Obama spent 50 minutes together in a private meeting on March 27, agreeing that more needs to be done to combat human trafficking, help the poor and marginalized of the world, and properly address immigration reform in the U.S.

Though we are not certain if these issues were discussed among the leaders, we know the two do not see eye to eye where religious liberty, traditional marriage and life issues like abortion and stem-cell research are concerned.

The smiles shared while the cameras were rolling for the public may have been replaced by a more serious tone for the matters at hand shared privately.

As Catholics, and as Americans, we can draw parallels between this meeting and the one held in July 2009 between then-Pope Benedict XVI and Obama. Instead, we should be grateful that both our spiritual and temporal leaders made it a priority to sit down and discuss the challenges that both see as paramount in today’s world.

We only need to look at what has happened in Ukraine and Venezuela in recent weeks, and at other unsettling global situations, to understand that now was providentially an opportune time for the Holy Father and president to discuss things that are vitally important to the well-being of so many.

As people of faith who look to the magisterium for wisdom and guidance as we try to live the Gospel mandate each day, the Vatican seemed an appropriate place for this meeting of the minds. Pope Francis may reciprocate and visit the White House if he makes a trip to the U.S. in September 2015 for the eighth World Meeting of Families being held in Philadelphia.

Sadly, these gatherings don’t take place often enough, but when they do, they present a unique opportunity for the participants to better understand why the other says what he says and does what he does, and what the other believes and why. There are indeed differences, but there is also common ground.

Common ground, we have learned, can lead to dialogue, and dialogue between parties who don’t see the world through the same lens presents an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to help them work through differences. In a perfect world, dialogue would be commonplace, but unfortunately, in today’s imperfect world, it is not.

Though we may never know the exact words shared during their nearly hourlong conversation, we can only hope and pray that all that was said will be taken to heart, and pray that through God’s grace it will bear fruit.

Can convictions and hearts be changed overnight? Most would answer with an unequivocal “no,” but, as people of unwavering faith, we know that with God, all things are possible.
 

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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