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TEXAS FAITH 108: What relevance does Pope Francis have beyond the Catholic Church?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Pope Francis made quite a splash when he said last week in response to a question about a priest being gay: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

As you may expect, there has been plenty of discussion about what the pope meant. Was he speaking personally? Was he speaking as head of the Catholic Church? Or was he speaking as both?

Beyond those remarks, the pope has received ample attention for the simplicity of his lifestyle, his attitude toward the poor and his humility in washing the feet of criminal offenders. In fact, those are just some of the areas in which the pope has gained attention, as this Washington Post editorial indicates.

Of course, his remarks, attitude and approach have a special audience among Catholics. But what relevance do they have to non-Catholics? The Catholic Church may be the world’s largest body of Christians, but what about other Christians and the many other faith traditions? What difference do comments from the pope make to them — as well as to non-believers?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

In the Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa states, “Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.”

Having a leader for the social body is like having a head on the physical body. It is of utmost importance. A leader cannot teach principles that he/she does not imbibe and exhibit. Such a leader is called an Ācārya. A spiritual leader must not only be a living example but he/she must also not manufacture rules and ideas against the principles of the words of God. Thus a leader’s instructions reveal God’s instructions, rather than their own inventions.

Any leader who can impart the message of Bhakti, purely loving God without motivation by their own example, is relevant to all people of this world.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here.