One needs not be Catholic to pray for Pope

Well, color me surprised!

I went home at noon to get a sandwich; what I got was a ringside seat at a historical moment.

I don't need 24-hour news, and I think our world and our society in particular would be better off without the endless repetition. We talk too much anyway.

But I'd flipped on the TV for about 24 seconds worth of news, just to see what was being endlessly repeated at that particular time.

As it happened, I'd turned on the tube about five minutes before the exact moment when the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI officially went into effect. With millions of others, I watched as the Swiss Guards, for centuries the official guardians of the Pope, stood down and, for the first time in 598 years, a Pope actually resigned.

It's not necessary to be Catholic to recognize such a moment as hugely significant and historic.

And it won't be necessary to be Catholic to find what is now beginning, the process of choosing a new Pope, extremely interesting. Along with a good bit of the world, I'll be watching for the right color of smoke! It's not necessary to be Catholic to consider Pope Benedict's decision to lay down his position and his duties because of his belief that he could no longer perform them at the appropriate level, selfless and impressive.

It's not necessary to be Catholic to pray that the cardinals now charged with the task of choosing a new Pope will do the job well. May they choose a humble man who will wisely lead the over a billion Catholics under his charge and, by so doing, bless lots of other folks, even Protestant pastors in little West Texas towns.

It's not necessary to be Catholic–in fact, you can be Protestant like me, which simply means that you "protest" some of the teachings and practices of the Roman Church even though you love many friends who are Catholic–to pray that the sovereign and holy Father of us all will use what is happening in all the world, including the fascinating bit of history being played out right now in Rome, to bring about His glory and further His purposes for all who love Him.

I guess I'm "protest-ant" all the way through, because I see plenty to "protest" in my own tradition, along with a boatload of stuff in modern American mega-consumer religion. Perfect "church" is not a choice in this fallen world. Surprise.

It's not necessary to be Catholic to pray that many learn from and be blessed by the selfless action of rare leaders, religious and secular, whoever and wherever they are, who choose to lay down power and authority for the good of those under their charge, rather than to hold onto it at all costs.

And if you think Protestant churches don't desperately need an influx of just that kind of leader, and if you think churches of every brand under the sun haven't seen more than their share of power plays and could benefit from a big dose of the kind of humility it seems former Pope Benedict has displayed, well, then the new pope won't be Catholic and chickens have lips.

No, it's not necessary to be Catholic to pray for God's will to be done

"on earth as it is in heaven." I figure "earth" includes Rome.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at:

ckshel@aol.com

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