The Pope is a sinner!

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Yes, you read that right: The Pope is a sinner. He said so himself. When asked once who he was, he said “I am a sinner. That is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

Lest you think that I am claiming any moral superiority over the Supreme Pontiff, I should say here and now that I, too, am a sinner. I have failed far too many times in my life to be able to claim to be better than anyone reading these words. That’s not the false humility of a Uriah Heap speaking. It’s the truth. It’s at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. “If we say that we are without sin we deceive ourselves…”

But that’s not the whole story. As that great letter-writer, Paul of Tarsus, wrote: “This saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.”

One of the oldest and greatest prayers used by Christians over the centuries, the Jesus prayer, puts it very well: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Christians believe in second chances. And second chances change us, and so those who seek to follow Jesus Christ and who really understand what it is to be forgiven, through the Grace of God, tend to become people who can act with forgiveness and understanding towards others who fail.

If we admit that we often get things wrong, we should surely be generous to others when they get things wrong – whether they’re our friends and neighbours or our politicians and leaders.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could approach the coming election in that way? Wouldn’t it be good if politicians could confess to having made mistakes without being pilloried, or change their mind without being accused of doing a U-turn? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear leaders in all walks of life admitting their fallibility and being generous when others fail?

After all, as Einstein said, the person who never made a mistake never did anything new.

A version of this article appeared first in the Newham Recorder

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