• Pope sends clear signals for reforms

    Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on January 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO

    Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on January 15, 2014. AFP PHOTO / VINCENZO PINTO

    VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has looked beyond the usual Vatican circles for new cardinals and overhauled the governance of the Vatican bank at the start of a year that heralds key reforms for the Roman Catholic Church.

    Even some measures that appear limited in scope, like the curtailment of the honorific “monsignor” title and a cut in costs for sainthood applications, are being seen as signals of a will to overhaul the Vatican.

    The new cardinals, who will be formally appointed next month, include several from relatively minor dioceses in developing countries and with a reputation as pastoral figures—far from Vatican power games.

    The nominations have knocked a few noses out of joint in the Vatican, where becoming a cardinal has previously been seen as an appointment traditionally associated with particular high-placed posts.

    “Without starting any revolutions, this choice clearly shows an interesting reasoning,” said Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican expert who knows the Pope personally and interviewed him for the La Stampa daily last year.

    “In all his public comments, in all his reign so far this Pope has shown he wants a Church in which the clergy is not seen as a cast apart,” Tornielli said.

    Tornielli said the Pope has shown particular attention to reforming the clergy, frequently upbraiding priests for not being close enough to their communities and condemning the “shame” of child sex crimes by clerics.

    In one oft-repeated comment, he said priests should be shepherds “with the smell of their sheep on them”.

    He has also criticized “smarmy priests who worship Narcissus” and “butterfly priests who live in vanity”.

    Joseph Xavier, an Indian priest from the Pope’s own Jesuit order and a lecturer in theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, said Francis has shown he “prefers a Church in motion like the people of God”.

    The Argentine Pope has led by personal example in emphasizing that priests should reach out to the needy, washing the feet of prisoners as part of an Easter ritual and baptizing the child of a single mother.

    In just a few months, he has also sidelined some of the most powerful conservative figures in the higher echelons of the Church, including Italian cardinal Mauro Piacenza and United States cardinal Raymond Burke.

    Observers see this as a form of preparation ahead of important decisions he will have to make later in the year when a council of cardinals he has appointed to advise him issues a list of reform proposals.

    At the same time, the 77-year-old pontiff has also shown that while he is willing to break with Vatican tradition he will not alter some of the most controversial tenets of Catholic doctrine.

    This month, he issued his strongest condemnation yet of abortion, calling it “frightful” and a symptom of a “throwaway culture” that placed little value on life.

    His critics in the Church have spoken of him as a “populist Pope” who has created confusion with his multiple pronouncements on a range of issues and say his words could lead to more lax attitudes.

    But Tornielli rallied to the Pope’s side, saying: “People, ordinary faithful understand and find in the Pope a credible witness of faith who lives what he preaches and evangelizes by example”.



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    1 Comment

    1. Yes, Pope Francis is an excellent Supreme Pontiff of the Christian Church. But let’s hope media reports about him such as this one by Agence France-Presse do not make readers think the previous great popes were inferior to him. All popes popes — except those who were elected by fraud or force, and therefore were not elected validly by the cardinals — are choices of God the Holy Spirit. They are therefore all excellent for their time and for their particular period in human history.

      Thank God we have Pope Francis, whose popularity and populism (without being opposed to the doctrines of the Church) is convincing Catholics, who have, in their ignorance and pride, turned away, that even if they are divorced, or have had abortions, are using artificial contraceptives, and have doubts about the soundness of the Church itself, they are still loved and have rooms for them in the Church that God Himself, Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, founded.

      Eddie de Leon
      Makati City