Chaput: Francis’ motorcade mob “a frightening moment”

Enthusiastic crowds blocked Pope Francis' car (the silver one in the middle) as his motorcade moved through Rio de Janeiro July 22.

John Allen has an interview with Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia over at the National Catholic Reporter in which he discusses how Pope Francis’ pontificate has been received by the public so far, as well as some of the archbishop’s expectations for World Youth Day 2013. Speaking to Allen in Rio de Janeiro, Archbishop Chaput also expressed some concern over the surging crowds that blocked Pope Francis’ motorcade as he made his way through the streets of Rio yesterday. While Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ downplayed worries about Pope Francis’ safety during his stay in Brazil, barricades and rubber bullets were employed later that day before and after a ceremony welcoming the Pope, as police attempted to control crowds protesting, not the Pope’s visit, but the Brazilian government.

Enthusiastic crowds blocked Pope Francis' car (the silver one in the middle) as his motorcade moved through Rio de Janeiro July 22.

From Allen’s interview with Chaput:

Did you watch any of the motorcade last night?

No, but a lot of people have been commenting about it. The people I’ve talked to were horrified by what happened. They talked about their families back home calling them, being very concerned about the safety of the pope. I think it’s very important for all us who are in public life to listen to our handlers, who take care of our security. It seemed like a frightening moment. It would be a disaster for the church if something happened to the Holy Father, and it would be a huge embarrassment to the people of Brazil. There has to be some distance between the general crowds and the Holy Father just to protect him.

Chaput also talked about public perceptions of Pope Francis and his pontificate so far, noting that while most of the responses he’s observed have been positive, there have been some negative reactions as well:

Do you think there will be a moment of reckoning when the honeymoon wears off?

We’ll see what happens. The pope may have a way of managing all of that will be extraordinary, I don’t know. I would think that by virtue of his office, he’ll be required to make decisions that won’t be pleasing to everybody.

This is already true of the right wing of the church. They generally have not been really happy about his election, from what I’ve been able to read and to understand. He’ll have to care for them, too, so it will be interesting to see how all this works out in the long run.

Commentators have pointed out that during his first 120 days, Francis hasn’t used the words “abortion,” “gay marriage” and “euthanasia.” Is that troubling to you?

I don’t know how anybody can make judgments so quickly about a pontificate on any of those things. I think the pope has spoken very clearly about the value of human life. He hasn’t expressed those things in a combative way, and perhaps that’s what some are concerned about, but I can’t imagine that he won’t be as pro-life and pro-traditional marriage as any of the other popes have been in the past.

Some read his remarks to the Italian bishops to mean he’s going to let local bishops deal with those issues rather than doing it himself. Is that your understanding?

I think what he said to the Italian bishops is that he’s not going to become involved in political issues. For me, issues such as abortion and the meaning of marriage aren’t political issues; they’re doctrinal and moral. We all as bishops, including the bishop of Rome, have to talk about those things. It would be very strange to think you can make that separation. It usually comes from those who want to claim that those two issues are political, which is often what happens in the States. We’re told to keep our nose out of politics, when really, our nose is in morality.

That usually means staying out of politics someone doesn’t like, correct?

Sure. The church has been clear on universal health care, on immigration, and we don’t get criticized from the left on those issues but from the right. On abortion and the meaning of marriage, the left criticizes us and the right is very pleased. I think a bishop worth his salt takes up all the teachings of the church and doesn’t play to a crowd but plays to the truth.

Read the full interview here.

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.