Note the exclusivity in Jesus’ words; this love is reserved for the disciples and is contrasted with “all”, a reference to current non-followers. This exclusivity obviously bothers Pope Francis who decided to reinterpret the passage in a recent address:
“Why does He call it a ‘new commandment’? The old commandment of love became new because it was complete with this addition: “as I have loved you,” “love one another as I have loved you.” The novelty is all in Jesus Christ’s love, that with which He gave his life for us” (link).
The true novelty is the exclusivity expressed in the command. On the following Sunday, God would raise His Son from the dead and the Church would be born; the Holy Spirit would descend on Her and a new family would exist in Christ. The sacrificial love that characterized Jesus’ relationship with His disciples would be the example of the love to be shared within the mystical Body of Christ.
The Pope is determined to conflate the “New Commandment” with the old one, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which is a universal love. In the same address he makes this clear:
“We all have people – I do not know if they are enemies – but that do not agree with us, who are ‘on the other side.’ …Love opens us to the other, becoming the basis of human relations. It makes us capable of overcoming the barriers of our own weakness and our prejudices. The love of Jesus in us creates bridges, teaches new ways; triggers the dynamism of fraternity.”
The Pope tried this before in paragraph 161 of his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, even referring to Jesus’ new commandment as the greatest commandment:
“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 15:12). Clearly, whenever the New Testament authors want to present the heart of the Christian moral message, they present the essential requirement of love for one’s neighbour: ‘The one who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the whole law… therefore love of neighbour is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom 13:8, 10)…”
Pope Francis’ doesn’t like the idea there is special love that is only shared among Christians. Perhaps it’s due to his devotion to Liberation Theology, open immigration, or religious pluralism; but a pope should not get away with twisting Jesus’ own words.
“Greet one another with a kiss of love” (1 Peter 5:14).
“Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss” (1 Thess. 5:26).