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For a Lady Pope

A hundred days of Pope Francis

A hundred days of Pope Francis

On 13 March 2013, the Argentine Jesuit Cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope at the age of 76 under the name of Francis, the name chosen in honour of the engagement of St. Francis of Assisi in the fight for the poor and for peace. After one hundred days, we should have an idea of his main principles, even more so because, at his age, we can imagine that his philosophy, if not to say his religion, is deeply founded and therefore he knows exactly in what direction he wants to go.

Can we make an initial assessment? While some feel that this initial assessment is premature, it is worth remembering that John XXIII, when he was 78, convened a council in January 1959, after a reign of only three months.


Closer to the poor

Regarding François I, it is undeniable that the Pope has caught the people’s imagination by saying that he wants a Church closer to the poor. He didn’t just say it though, he has also shown it. He has met with disabled children, resumed his pastoral outreach by visiting a parish, visited the detention centre for minors, Casal del Marmo, on the outskirts of Rome, to celebrate the Mass of the Supper and to wash feet. He appears humble and close to the people.

He has denounced "the fetishism of money" and the dictatorship of a "faceless economy." He has criticized global imbalances, be they economic, social or other, and demanded they be reduced. He has called on governments to adopt "effective initiatives" to ensure the rights of men, women and children, refugees and victims of human trafficking. He has also invited the faithful to be "builders of peace."

The Pope, in a recent meeting in Rome with three hundred Italian bishops (most of whom arrived in limousines), told them to pull their socks up (there are indeed trousers under the cassock) and he warned against careerists and the adulation of money. This approach was roundly appreciated.

In his everyday life, Pope Francis has distanced himself from his predecessors in both manner and lifestyle. He doesn’t want to live in the papal apartments, cut off from the people. He continues to live in the House of Ste Marthe, sharing his lunch with everyone.


And so he reassures the faithful who, given the history of the Vatican, have feared that they would never see principles of humility and restraint being actively applied. Undoubtedly, he is sensitive to the word of the late Jesuit Cardinal Martini who said about the Church: "our rituals and our clothes block up the pipes."


More collegial

Moreover, the Pope wishes to govern in a more collegial manner. He has formed a Council of eight cardinals from around the world in order to receive suggestions and advice on the reform of the Church. He’s taking his time though, as the first meeting is scheduled for October, six months after his election.

The missions of the Pope to improve the image of the Catholic Church are vast. As far as the acts of paedophilia in the clergy go, even if has asked that the recommendations given by Benedict XVI be followed, he is not yet out of the woods (today Australia and Poland are in the spotlight). Power struggles in the Curia are unlikely to make the Church appear more humble. Finally, the scandals and lack of transparency offered up by the Vatican Bank (IOR) are also unlikely to enhance the prestige of the Church.


Ultimately, all these problems, even if they are annoying, do not directly affect the daily lives of the faithful. A large part of the faithful were waiting for something else, at least some sort of sign of heralding real changes.


Classic conservatism

Under the façade of conviviality does the Pope himself envisage doctrinal and ethical changes? Unfortunately, it seems unlikely. He hints at classic conservatism, far from the wishes for reform of Mgr Martini. On the major issues of sexuality, the beginning and end of life, the sexuality of priests and the role of women in the Church, the divorced and remarried, we know him to be conservative and it looks like he’ll remain so. Does the church need to refer to the encyclicals of another age to talk about conjugal sexual morality? A type of morality that the faithful no longer believe in.

The Leadership Conference of Religious Women (LCWR), representing 57,000 American nuns and in many ways representing all voices calling for reform, has clearly been invited to obey authority. Rome reproaches them for their dissenting positions on subjects such as the ordination of women, homosexuality, abortion and euthanasia.


In addition, the odds are low of seeing the Pope give larger missions to laymen even though he is faced with a haemorrhage of priests in Europe.


Short-term visions

Moreover, during Mass on May 27, Francis I criticised Catholic couples who only have one child for reasons of "comfort", such as "going on holiday" or "buying a house". When we know about the financial difficulties that many households currently endure, this exhortation is breath taking. Surely it is time for the Vatican to leave its short-term visions behind and focus on the very long-term problems of overcrowding, which are and will be the cause of many environmental calamities. Leading researchers in this regard are still being ignored.
If Pope Francis has raised the flag of evangelical humility and simplicity, which is good to see, will he also show signs of compassion, tolerance and visionary?

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