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Monday, July 22, 2013

Global Faith - Want Proof? Invite the Pope

World Youth Day and Pope Francis 

Although millions of religious skeptics and agnostics abound, throughout the world, the Roman Catholic Pope still makes front page news, even while HRH Princess Kate happily delivers the next King of England.

Regardless of where the Pope appears or who he happens to be, his presence attracts millions.  Add the international media attention focused on the Pope and he attracts the world.

It's impossible to explain the magnetic attraction of the Pope.  Our current Pope Francis I was a very modest Church Cardinal in Argentina less than a year ago. He rode public buses and lived in a small apartment.  Today, less than a year after his installation, his presence draws millions.  This ability to convene people everywhere is mystifying, especially in our modern scientific age, where evidence of faith seems lacking in our ambitious and materialistic world. My husband and I witnessed the Pope's charisma when we attended Midnight Christmas Mass at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.  Although we attended this Mass to witness the splendor of the event, the fact is, Pope John Paul II was the draw - the experience had little to do with the venue - it was clearly "Papa" the crowds came to see.  

But these days, let's face it, it's not a particularly good time to be the Pope.  Gaps between the rich and poor aren't closing, war kills thousands throughout the world, terrorism is a threat to everyone (especially the Pope) and the Roman Catholic Church has suffered irreparable damage resulting from sexual scandals.  Still, the Pope draws the attention of the world. Millions of people of all faiths will pay attention to his presence at the World Youth Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week.

Risks to the Pope and his followers have already manifested in Rio, as a heinous bomb was found in a restroom in a major Shrine the Pope will visit during his Rio stay.

Certainly, it will be an extraordinary tragedy if any terrorist incident occurs during the Pope's visit.  Perhaps, the discovery of a bomb will create even more diligence to protect him and everyone in Rio from terrorist violence.  It's a horrible shame that we're worrying about somebody who wants to hurt either the Pope and/or the people who follow him.  Nevertheless, fear of violence is the new normal in all walks of life and in every public event.

This bomb is probably planted by someone who wants to scare away the Pope's faithful followers.  It won't work.

People in Rio are not naive.  In fact, they will probably be more determined than ever to see him.  

Frenzied crowds of Roman Catholics mobbed the car carrying Pope Francis on Monday when he returned to his home continent in South America for the first time as pontiff, embarking on a seven-day visit meant to fan the fervor of the faithful around the globe.

During the pope's first minutes in Brazil, ecstatic believers forced the closed Fiat to stop several times as they swarmed around during the drive from the airport to an official opening ceremony in Rio's center. A few security guards struggled mightily to push the crowd back in scenes that at times looked alarming.

Earlier, there was a safety scare when a homemade explosive device was discovered near a Brazilian shrine the pope was scheduled to visit Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported. The military said the device, found in the bathroom of the parking garage of the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida between Rio and Sao Paulo, was destroyed after its discovery.

It's impossible to ignore the religious, economic and political impact of the Pope's visit to Rio, as well as every visit he makes. 

Throngs of people follow the Pope's events.  Why?  There's no reason whatsoever why Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio should suddenly draw the attention of millions of people.  

Obviously, as Pope Francis I,  "Jorge Mario" is now a charismatic religious leader who became a super star, literally overnight, without the help of any  publicists or advertising campaigns.

There's no explanation for Papal charisma.  It just "is".

For the faithful, the Pope's charisma is a symbol that faith is alive and well, even in an increasingly skeptical world.  

Those who ignore the Pope's charisma are missing out on the joy shared by millions who crave to be in his presence.  

To those religious skeptics who ignore the presence of faith in the world, just invite the Pope to your community and watch the reaction. Even if the Pope can't accept the skeptics' invitations, the gesture  alone will draw attention.  

In other words, invite the Pope and draw millions.  

Although the Pope can't fix the world's agony or convert the skeptics, his presence is evidence that faith transcends evil with an unexplained energy. Just invite the Pope and see this evidence for yourself.

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