Cardinal KASPER, Pope Francis' Revolution of Tenderness and Love: Theological and Pastoral Perspectives. New York: Paulist Press, 2015. Pp. 117. $16.95 ISBN 978-0-8091-0623-3.
Pope FRANCIS. Morning Homilies. In the Chapel of St. Martha's Guest House. (March 22-July 26, 2013). Trans. Dinah Livingstone. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2015. pp. 205. $18.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-62698-111-9. Reviewed by Jayne L. WILCOX, La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA 1914.
Pope Francis continues to defy the expectations of both liberals and conservatives since the beginning of his papacy in 2013. As the first Jesuit and Latin American pontiff, Francis conveys a style that seemingly stands in theological contrast to that of his predecessors. Cardinal Kasper sets out to demonstrate that the difference in style has little to do with a change in theology and much more to do with the non-European context in which Jorge Mario Bergoglio was formed. Consequently, Cardinal Kasper suggests that the pope may very well disappoint conservatives, who want to avoid reform, as well as liberals, who “expect feasible, concrete solutions right here and now.” (92)
In Pope Francis’ Revolution of Tenderness and Love, Kasper draws from several university lectures to compile a concise 100-page ‘apologetic’ for Francis’ new papal style. In twelve brief chapters, the Cardinal highlights the pope’s theological and pastoral approach. Though perceived by some Catholics as a break in tradition, Kasper argues that at the heart of Francis’ theology is an Argentinian flavor of liberation theology, which sets apart his papacy from former popes shaped by a European context. Pope Francis, though bearing the title “bishop of Rome,” is an outsider, and as such “sees many things from the periphery more clearly and distinctly than we Europeans, who somehow still believe we are at the center of the world events.” (93)
While the pontiff’s pastoral practices are perceived as contrary to the more typical European approach, it is a matter of emphasis rather than an indication of change in the church’s theology. As the former bishop to Buenos Aires, Francis practiced “a theology of the people and of culture,” (16) a method which seeps into his papacy today. His style is marked by tangible practices over abstract principles, by listening over lecturing, and by an experiential and pastoral praxis over a by-the-book praxis. This shift toward a more pastoral approach, however, does not come at the neglect of orthodoxy, according to Kasper; rather, the pope’s style draws our attention to his pastoral concerns for the people and the challenges of faithful living in a given context. His message is grounded in a call for a “revolution of mercy,” indicating a radical return to the Gospel. In the end, Kasper notes that Pope Francis prefers a Gospel as living message and proclamationâ€”a “kerygmatic theology”â€”whereas Benedict XVI conveyed a style that was much more “didactic” in nature.
The impact of a contextualized theology, Kasper concludes, does not change Church doctrine; it does, however, change the way we adapt the method and style that communicates a lived faith in a given space and time. He adds, while Francis and Benedict both desire reform, both also are guardians of the continuity of tradition.
Similarly, Morning Homilies by Pope Francis offers an illustration of the nature of Francis’ pastoral and kerygmatic style through a sampling of his early homilies. The daily entries are drawn from morning Mass in the chapel of St. Martha’s Guest House. In the introductory chapter, writer Inos Biffi notes an emphasis on three prevailing themes identified in Francis’ earliest homilies as pope: God’s kindness and tenderness, the discipleship of being a Jesus follower, and the nature of the Church as a “love story” and “a mother.” One should note that while each entry captures the central point of the day’s homily along with an occasional direct quote from the Pope, those who desire a verbatim of his homilies might look elsewhere.
Both books are light, engaging, and informative reads, especially for those who have been captivated by the papacy of Pope Francis. They would serve both conservative and liberal-minded Catholics equally, offering an opportunity to move beyond the current dichotomous thinking present in the church today.