Once noted for his pithy, folksy style (‘Bona Sera’ said the newly elected Bergoglio from the Vatican loggia) the Pope has clearly been taking lessons in circumspect circumlocution. His recent meeting with the Archbishop of Uppsala, German-born Antje Jackelén, is a case in point. Passing tactfully over Jackelén’s denial of the Virgin Birth, Pope Francis chose to concentrate on attitudes to human sexuality.
‘It would be a pity’, he said, ‘if new confessional differences be consolidated around questions of life, sexuality, family and marriage’. You can say that again, Frank.
‘Key contemporary questions of the dignity of human life, family and sexuality must not be ignored,’ Francis went on. ‘out of fear of endangering the ecumenical consensus that’s already been achieved.’ Well, perhaps. But is that quite what you meant?
He concluded on what was clearly intended to be an upbeat note: ‘While there is still much work to be done, I hope that the 2017 commemoration of the Reformation and the recent joint document “From Conflict to Communion” may encourage Lutherans and Catholics to take further steps towards full unity of sacramental life and ecclesial ministry.’ But no one should hold his breath.
To be fair it probably all sounds more plausible in Italian.
While Lutherans the world over were wondering if this bewildering self-contradictory concatenation of content-free rhetoric meant anything at all, Mrs Jackelén will have been relieved that her attitude to Islam and to the uniqueness of Jesus went unmentioned.
[In the recent election for the post Archbishop Jackelén received 55.9% of the vote -Ed.]