Critics said it was just a publicity stunt. But that was not how I felt when I watched the video of Pope Francis washing and kissing the feet of prisoners who included women and Muslims. I felt a lump in my throat as tears welled up in my eyes.
I am a Buddhist and know very little about Christian rituals. But what Pope Francis did on Good Friday last week was an expression of profound humility and compassion that talks to anybody of any faith. This is what all prophets taught _ a life of humility and indiscriminate compassion. This is how all prophets lived _ a life of service to the downtrodden. This is what the followers of all faiths expect of their monastics. Yet most priests and monks in organised religions have allowed themselves to be bound by the trappings of wealth and power while becoming blind to what should have been their goal _ to ease others' suffering and to liberate oneself from all forms of prejudice and illusions.
The shock resignation of Pope Benedict, which required the election of a new pontiff, put the spotlight on many problems plaguing the Catholic Church. Child abuse by priests and the culture of impunity. Financial problems at the Vatican Bank. Corruption in the Vatican exposed by Vatileaks. The declining number of churchgoers who consider the church irrelevant given its opposition to gays, contraception and female ordination.
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