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Dr. John Martens is Professor of Theology at St. Mark's College/University of British Columbia. He will deliver his lecture on the current theological thinking on Pope Francis’s pontificate, "Walk This Way: Pope Francis and Accompaniment"

From the beginning of the pontificate of Francis, he has focused on God’s mercy, what Micah Kiel in his book Reading the Bible in the Age of Francis called, “the surprise people do not want because it means they have no way of predicting what God will do and to whom God will do it.” Pope Francis has invited us into this surprise of mercy by accompanying our neighbors along the way, which has taken ecclesial shape in the synodal path that the Church is currently walking. In his General Audience of January 4, 2023, Pope Francis said that the one who accompanies the neighbor “walks alongside him or her, encouraging them to interpret what is stirring in their heart, the quintessential place where the Lord speaks.” The one who walks alongside is also the one able to enact Francis’s vision of the Church as “field hospital,” to be present for those in need. Yet, some Catholics have found Francis’s vision of accompaniment destabilizing, creating a mixed sense of surprise and fear. He will argue, Francis’s challenge to the status quo of being Church, by demonstrating an evolving respect for all people, especially those who have been marginalized,  is a necessary return to the mission and ministry of Jesus.


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