Message from Pope Francis could get Lost in people’s Celebrity Perception of the Pontiff
Some people's perception of Pope Francis to almost celebrity-like status could overshadow the purpose of his visit in the coming days to New York City and Philadelphia.
With so much hype about obtaining tickets to see the Pontiff, it's almost become much in the way one goes about trying to buy tickets to a sold-out rock concert.
Media spin and being able to translate the true meaning of the Pope's message will become the challenge of many local clergy.
Father Scott Shaffer, a pastor with Saint Joseph's Parish in Toms River said the message of the gospel is always a challenge to those who believe, but believes Pope Francis brings an expression of the gospel.
"I think he's encouraging people to get back to the very basic, simple belief in Jesus Christ and the life style Jesus espouses," said Father Shaffer.
Father Shaffer compared excitement over the Pope's upcoming visit to the excitement disciples probably experienced when they would follow Jesus from town to town, according to the gospels.
"What we have in Pope Francis is a very charismatic leader, and I think for so many people, who I guess have been disenchanted with the church as an institution, what they see in Francis is a humanization of the message, a humanization of their perception of the church and the leadership in the church," Father Shaffer said. He also noted, "His ability to smile and reach out to people, and to break some of the traditions, with what he's wearing and how he dresses and where he's living, I think is all appealing to many people."
Father Mark Kreder, Pastor at Saint Justin's Parish in Toms River, agreed the Pope's visit is highly anticipated and agreed it's good for the church, the country and even non-Catholics because Francis is respected around the World.
"He's coming as an Apostle, a messenger, and a successor of Saint Peter," said Father Kreder. He noted, "I think everything he says is going to be scrutinized, whether he says it scripted or unscripted. Sadly, I think both political parties are going to try to tweak his message."
It will be up to religious leaders to translate that message without the political spin.
At Saint Joseph's, Father Shaffer is encouraging students of the church's grade school and Donovan Catholic High School students to be open to the Pope's message.
"Not to listen with a prejudice or a prejudgement of what he's going to say, but that we would pray to be able to hear the truth and to embrace the message as it is offered to us," said Father Shaffer.
Father Shaffer noted students will watch the Pope's address to the Joint Congress on Thursday and live-stream his Mass Sunday at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph's.
Father Kreder joked he'll be watching the Pope on television "Like the rest of the flock."