By Werombi Towradji
Pope Francis is no stranger to controversy, having been a frequent target for criticism by the radical and extreme right. His Holiness, the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ, recently held a banquet at the Vatican. It was unlike any in the entire history of the Roman Catholic Church. Unlike other elite Vatican events, this one had a very unusual guest list, including prostitutes, drug addicts, unwed mothers, undocumented migrants and the homeless. Pope Francis defended the banquet, citing Matthew 9:11-13 from the Bible. The verses read:
“And the Pharisees seeing it, said to his disciples: Why doth your master eat with publicans and sinners? But Jesus hearing it, said: They that are in health need not a physician, but they that are ill. Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.”
“It is time for the church to enter the real world. We must recognize that real people are complex. No one is perfect, least of all me” Pope Francis observed. Referring to himself as the “Chief of sinners,” Pope Francis said “We have all sinned. It is not my job to judge anyone, it is only to share God’s boundless and infinite love. You cannot claim to truly love another if you also judge them at the same time. Do not forget Matthew 7:1-3. As pope, I have a special responsibility to seek after those souls that are most in need of my help. Shall I with one hand draw the person near and with the other push them away? This is hypocritical, it is not sincere. Being judgemental is unloving.”
In a very controversial speech that is reverberating around the world, Pope Francis stated that “I have no right to judge a prostitute, an unwed mother, a troubled youth, a drug addict, a homosexual with AIDs, or an atheist. The undocumented migrant has committed no crime, and no one has a right to judge him! All too often, I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) I desire not to merely reform the Catholic Church, but to create a church that lives up to the admonitions of Christ. A church that truly loves the poor, cares for the orphan, the widow, and yes, also the unwed mother, also the prostitute, the undocumented, the beggar and the homeless. In the early church, Christians would bring their wealth and food to pool it together, to be divided equally among all.”
Pausing to take a sip of water Pope Francis read aloud from Acts 4:32 “And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed, was his own; but all things were common unto them.” Pope Francis noted that “Too often we think of our personal property as belonging to us exclusively. In reality, nothing belongs to us exclusively, for all property should be held in common. The Pope admonished his flock to give to anyone who asks, and to give them even more than they asked for, quoting Matthew 5:40 the Pope noted “And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him.”
The Pope’s banquet, which took place last Saturday, featured a team of gourmet European caterers from Italy and France. It included a five course meal with perfectly paired wines accompanying each individual course. It is believed the total cost for the banquet was well over $5,000,000.00. While such elaborate banquets have been held at the Vatican in the past, though rarely, their guests of honour were always heads of state, prominent religious leaders, wealthy businessmen or celebrities. This banquet may be the first of its kind in the world. Another unique feature of the banquet was that the usual Vatican waiters and household staff were given the day off. Cardinals and bishops were ordered by the Pope to serve the homeless themselves, carrying their plates, and refilling their solid gold wine goblets on request.
The Pope’s dinner guests included shabbily dressed, unwashed and disabled area homeless men, women and children. One guest, a migrant who spoke no Italian and only an unidentified African tongue, drew attention to himself as he walked away from the dining table to relieve himself on a small potted plant in plain view. Some guests were allegedly observed openly pocketing the expensive silverware and gold plates and goblets. One homeless African was allegedly so loaded up with treasure, that he could barely move. Forks and knives fell from his pockets as he attempted to walk, leaving a trail behind him.
As security moved in to stop the theft of priceless and irreplaceable dinnerware, Pope Francis was said to have risen from his seat stating, “it is alright. Accept the plates; they are my gift, please keep them. Remember Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away.” As Pope Francis overheard some Bishops complaining about the stench from the guests, he rose from his seat again to sternly denounce them for their rude behaviour. Francis is said to have ordered the bishops to leave the banquet, asking them also to fast for a day, so as to better appreciate the plight of those who are less fortunate.
Before the banquet began, Pope Francis insisted on personally greeting each individual guest as they arrived, a process which took over four hours. Hugging the individual warmly, Pope Francis told each guest “You are a loved child of God. Peace be with you.” As the guests ate, Pope Francis, who abstained except for a single small piece of stale bread and a glass of water, spoke of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness for every person, regardless of class, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Pope Francis insisted that “God is not a respecter of persons. (Romans 2:11) He loves all of his children equally. He is available to everyone, regardless of class or status in this world.”
Correcting himself, Pope Francis noted that, God actually loves the poor, illegal aliens, the disabled and prostitutes more than people of privileged circumstances. “In God’s Kingdom you are the aristocrats, you are the nobles and the upper classes.” Pope Francis then quoted Jesus Christ in Matthew 20:16, “So shall the last be first, and the first last…” Raising his voice and wagging his finger sternly, Pope Francis quoted 1 Corinthians 1:27 “But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong.”
After the banquet, some undocumented migrants and homeless left while others stayed and spoke with Francis. Francis invited several to stay at the Vatican, moving them into lavishly furnished guest rooms. Several Bishops openly objected to this move. Pope Francis then quickly and sternly ordered them to be silent. Several security guards were seen whispering to Pope Francis, evidently advising strongly against his generous invitation, attempting to dissuade him. Pope Francis was heard shouting “Silence, they cannot steal that which belongs to them already. This is not my house, it belongs to all equally.” Meaning that the Vatican is the collective property of the people and not of church leaders. This bold statement has even led some radical rightists to suggest that perhaps Pope Francis may be losing his sanity. Some have stated that only a lunatic or a mentally ill man would invite illegal aliens and homeless strangers to share his home.
Reaction to the Pope’s banquet has been mixed. Some Catholics and other Christian have praised Pope Francis for his love and Christian charity, while others have bitterly denounced him as an irresponsible and senile fool who has opened the Vatican to vandalism. They argue that the pope is enabling and encouraging the looting of its priceless treasures. One Catholic said “Finally, I feel we have a Pope who is truly striving to embody a spirit of love and charity. He is a true Christian. He is a saint who takes Christ’s words to heart. He’s not another hypocrite like the rest of them!”
One critic of Pope Francis, Cardinal Turkson of Ghana objected to the banquet. “This is insane, they robbed us blind! Already these so-called ‘guests’ have pocketed hundreds of thousands of Euros of church property, openly stealing with Francis’ approval. Several priceless artifacts, and rare antiques owned by the church, were crassly destroyed by these criminals and hoodlums. If things continue this way, soon the Vatican will be looted of all its treasures. I myself saw a young punk carving his name into the papal throne! This is insanity. These people are not noble and virtuous simply because they live in poverty! I come from Africa and I can that testify many homeless and beggars are blood thirsty criminals with violence and evil in their hearts!”
In his very negative, bigoted and utterly closed minded rant, Cardinal Turkson added that “Women in immodest dress, short skirts and tight clothing, obviously prostitutes, unwed mothers, beggars, Gypsies, illegal immigrants straight off the boat from Africa, this is madness. These ‘guests’ are too much. Several of the homeless and the illegal aliens have pocketed entire bottles of wine. Some hooligans were seen destroying gilded chairs and defacing priceless paintings and statues, many hundreds of years old, for their own amusement. They have covered the walls with profane graffiti. The stench from the homeless was unbearable. These people represent the lowest dregs of society. Let us not forget Christ’s other words; do not cast your pearls before swine! (Matthew 7:6) Let us also remember 1 Corinthians 6:9 Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers. Being homeless or in unfortunate circumstances does not make you somehow a saint, as too many today think. Illegal aliens are still criminals too by definition! Let us not be naive or deceive ourselves.”
The Pope’s critics, unfortunately, are continuing to stir up dissension and trouble out of their irrational hatred and jealousy of Pope Francis. Bishop Ambrose of Milan alleges he was stabbed with a broken crack pipe by one guest. He was treated at the Vatican hospital and suffered from severe blood loss, evidently passing out for several hours before he was discovered on the floor behind a sofa. It remains unclear exactly how Bishop Ambrose was injured. It appears likely that his story was contrived, being a harsh critic of the Pope. Several commentators believe he deliberately advanced a conspiracy to undermine the Pope’s bold and brave banquet, likely stabbing himself so that he could prove actual wounds to advance his ugly deception!
Anonymous online sources report that prostitutes used several rooms in the Vatican during the banquet to practice their trade with guests, and even a few priests and bishops. It is believed these unsubstantiated rumours originate with ultra-conservative reactionaries within the church who are opposed to the progress being made by Pope Francis. These enemies of progress will simply stop at nothing to attempt to turn back the clock, hoping to return the church to the dark ages and to bring back the inquisition and the pogroms.
Some allege that the Dalai Lama, also in attendance as a guest of Pope Francis, was seen fighting an unseemly and uncharacteristically angry tug-of-war with one homeless man over his own robes. According to the unsubstantiated rumour, the homeless man only stopped after the Dalai Lama’s security guard, who was permitted to accompany him at his request, tasered him. The Dalai Lama was alleged to have said “Pope Francis lost his mind inviting these people. They are just riff raff. It’s worse than when we had those rude Chinese generals over in ‘51.” Vatican guards were called out by some of the bishops in attendance in response to alleged violence, only to be sent away by Pope Francis, who told them, quoting Christ in Matthew 26:52, “All that take the sword shall perish with the sword!”
Since the banquet, Pope Francis has not been seen publicly. Some ultra-conservative Catholics are speculating that he may have been injured or harmed by one of the several hundred homeless men he had invited to take shelter in the Vatican. The Vatican refuses to comment on the Pope’s status. Progressives attribute Pope Francis’ absence to his occupation with charitable works, and believe he will appear shortly in public again, unharmed and well.
Progressive Catholics believe that the allegations of violence and theft at the Pope’s banquet were fabricated by his far-right reactionary critics. Progressives and even non-Catholics around the world have hailed Pope Francis as a true man of God, possessing a Christ-like spirit of meekness, humility and compassion. He is the first pope in my life time to inspire my praise and reverence.
Several people, who once rightly derided and attacked the Catholic Church as a haven for repressed sexual deviants, pedophiles, child-molesters, self-righteous, and pompous hypocrites, and uptight celibate religious fanatics, are now converting to Catholicism under the church’s new and more enlightened pope. Many who once shunned the church or loudly condemned it, are now considering entering the church and making it their spiritual home.
Gone forever are the days when Catholics used to torture Pagans, Jews and Muslims into converting, Pope Francis refers to proselytizing as “pious nonsense.” Gone are the days when Catholics tortured scientists because they believed the earth orbits the sun. Pope Francis is an evolutionist, he explicitly rejects a literal-fundamentalist reading of Genesis, thank God! He recognizes the truth, worth, equality and dignity of every religion, including indigenous and pagan religions.
We all worship the same God, Goddess or Gods. It matters little how we choose to perceive the divine, whether as one God, a Goddess, or many Gods, perhaps male and female, or hermaphrodite. It’s all the same. Pope Francis gets it. God is infinite love. His or her name and appearance are just window dressing, visual aids and mere language to make the divine more accessible to humankind. With a noble and progressive shepherd like Pope Francis, we can only predict that the Catholic Church’s future will be bright indeed.
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