On Faith: A Pope for Many Peoples
Francis Inspires Christians of All Types
By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy
Pope Francis has been touching hearts and minds far beyond his Catholic flock since his election last year. I say this not only as a Roman Catholic woman, but also after countless conversations with mainline Protestants and evangelical Christians on Francis' impact on contemporary Christendom.
Last December, when the pope endorsed a global day of prayer to end hunger, Bread for the World shared that news widely and invited our ecumenical partners to join it. This was met with broad ecumenical support. When Christians can come together, the entire Christian body becomes more unified and stronger — a clearer representation of God at work in the world.
Some of us at Bread have been reading The Joy of the Gospel, Francis' Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today's World, which he released in November 2013. Two aspects from my recent reading of the exhortation struck me as powerfully relevant to Bread’s mission to end hunger because they resonated with our recent strategic planning process: that our advocacy efforts must be grounded in God's love and that we must redouble our efforts to influence our nation’s hunger- and poverty-focused policies.
Bread was founded 40 years ago. Its mission to end hunger was born out of a conviction deeply rooted in a Christian hope. Bread members have shared this lofty vision and pragmatic goal, especially with political decision makers. I believe Christian hunger and poverty policy advocacy is an important way to be Christians in the world.
The Joy of the Gospel describes how political leaders have a special role to play in addressing root causes of poverty. Politicians have an important role to pursue the common good.
"I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!" Francis' exhortation says. "It is vital that government leaders and financial leaders take heed and broaden their horizons, working to ensure that all citizens have dignified work, education and healthcare. Why not turn to God and ask him to inspire their plans?"
Another section of the exhortation reads: " ... anyone who has truly experienced God's saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love." One of the ways Bread describes its work echoes this: God's grace in Jesus Christ moves us to help our neighbors, whether they live in the next house, the next state, or the next continent. We at Bread believe that it doesn't take anything special to approach our nation’s decision makers, and doing so can have an impact that reaches far.
Working for an ecumenical organization has taught me that there are many wonderful expressions of Christianity that are represented in the collective Christian voice of Bread for the World. Our members are the voice of the faithful who fervently believe that hunger doesn’t have to be a reality. I am humbled by the simplicity and conviction of Pope Francis and how it has inspired Christians. I am emboldened by how his words resonate with the work we have been doing together through Bread for four decades.
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy is the interim director of Bread's church relations department.
Photo: In his short time as pope, Francis has quickly turned the church's attention back to the issue of poverty through his actions and writings. Photo by Edgar Jiménez.
See also: Pope Francis and Obama: When Faith and Government Meet from Bread Blog.