Certainly, Francis feels the weight on his shoulders more profoundly than before Trump was elected.
His homily at the Midnight Mass in the Vatican broadcast in the wee hours of Christmas morning this week was overflowing with counter-references against the core of what Trump, or the oligarchic Trump-Putin Axis, stands for.
The world was so graced and enhanced by the occasion when Pope Francis and President Obama met for the first time in September 2015 at the White House. Obama welcomed not just the Pope as a person, but the Pope’s “call to put ‘the least of these’ at the center of our concerns.”
That is, our measure as a society “is not determined by wealth or power or station or celebrity, but by how well we hew to Scripture’s call to lift up the poor and the marginalized, to stand up for justice and against inequality, and to ensure that every human being is able to live in dignity because we are all made in the image of God.”
Pope Francis’ Christmas homily this week harkened back to those sentiments, transcending the most recent two and a portion years, when the Trump thuggery prevailed in the Republican primaries and, despite a minority of votes in the election 13 months ago and through 11 months of presidential rule in the U.S.
How our skies darkened almost the day after that Obama-Francis meeting, and now they’ve hastily worsened in a devil’s revelry of degeneracy, selfishness, greed, hate, duplicity and gross mendacity from then on.
The Pope used his Christmas words this week to hold up “the Light of the world,” in a child who was carried by his parents, forced to set out from their home with “their steps weighed down by the uncertainties and dangers that attend those who have to leave their home behind.”
To make his point even clearer, he said:
“We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones…this departure that can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.”
Francis called us “to make space for a new social imagination, and not to be afraid of experiencing new forms of relationship in which none have to feel that there is not room for them on this earth. Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity, into power for a new imagination of charity.”
“In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us.”
“He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned…”
“In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become the sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors.”
“Shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering,” Francis petitioned. “May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.”
With a record 65.3 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people in the world, as the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees reported this week, Pope Francis’ words could not be more poignant.
And sadly, in no greater contrast to the hateful posture of the U.S.’s current president and those whose prejudices he’s exploited for his rule.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].