A friend mentioned to me the significance of the papal pilgrimage to Canada – that, regardless of what we think of the current occupant of the chair of Peter, there is still the ‘shadow of Peter’ that follows him whither he goes. The phrase was at first off-putting to me, for, like many readers, I have a certain ambivalence about Pope Francis, that can easily devolve into antipathy. There is good, and there much that is not so good. That said, I only know him from his writing and speaking, and what others have written and said about him, but that is enough to gain some measure of the man.
But it’s not so much the man with whom we are concerned. As I alluded in the recent podcast, it is the office, whether its occupant be a saint or inveterate sinner, or, like most of us, somewhere in-between. The papacy itself is a kind of sacramental, a charism through which God works, regardless of who sits on the Chair. A saint may amplify God’s will, a sinner may attenuate, even distort it, but the Almighty can work through both.
Hence, prescinding from whatever was done or said on Francis’ penitential pilgrimage to Canada, and how people use such for fair ends or foul – and more on that anon – we should take some comfort and strength that the shadow of Peter has come to our land. May grace and conversion, healing and reconciliation, in ways mysterious and unwitting, spring therefrom.