Pope Francis greets Christians as he leaves St. Peter's Square

March 28, 2018

The Pope Concedes Positive Aspects of Tattoos, Like Helping People Connect

Pope Francis met with a group of about 300 young people in Rome on March 19th, prior to a meeting of the Synod of Catholic bishops that will happen from June 11-13, 2018. The Synod is a meeting of the bishops who act as the advisory body to the Pope. Since the Synod will be focused around the topic of Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation, the Pope wanted to address some concerns of young people from around the world.

Pope Francis’ Assertions About Tattoos

The topic of tattoos came up as a response to a question from a Ukrainian student priest about how to respond to present-day culture. The pope responded that tattoos were not necessarily a bad thing, and that we should not be afraid of them, as reported in this article by The Telegraph.

Not only did Pope Francis insist that tattoos are not bad, he said that it allows for a talking point between a priest and an individual. It also provides a chance to engage with and try to understand the culture of the youth. Since Tattoos signify things that people value or connect with, a person’s choice of ink offers a chance to find out more about them and their beliefs. It is often a way for people to fit in within a certain community or group, and that is another question the clergy member can ask about: which community membership are you expressing?

Christian Views on Tattoos

This assertion from the pope is important, because Christians are divided on whether tattoos are acceptable, and there is no clear-cut teaching on the topic. This will hopefully allow more conversation, and less judgment, around this topic, as well as other “controversial” topics.

The only thing that could be a mention of tattoos is in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, which includes the command: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you.” Some Christians take this as forbidding the use of tattoos. Others say it was only relevant to the cultural context of the day. The verse does appear alongside other commands which are generally no longer followed, such as telling men not to shave the edges of their beards or cut the hair on the sides of their heads.

What Pope Francis wants the clergy, and Christians, to take away is to not be afraid, either of the people, or addressing the issue, because within everything is “ something that will bring us to some truth.” Not discussing a topic or person you are wary of, is not how to bring about change or allow people to express their opinions.