Pope Francis at 10 years: a learning curve of a reformer, plans

VATICAN CITY (AP) – So much for a short pontificate.

Pope Francis celebrates the 10th anniversary of his election on Monday, far exceeding the “two or three” years he once envisioned for his papacy and shows no signs of slowing down.

On the contrary, with an agenda full of problems and plans and is no longer burdened by the shadow of Pope Benedict XVI.Francis, 86, has shied away from talk of retirement and recently described the papacy as a lifelong job.

The first Latin American pope in history has already made his mark and could have even more impact in the coming years. Yet a decade ago, the Argentine Jesuit was so convinced he would not be elected pope that he nearly missed the final vote while talking to a fellow cardinal outside the Sistine Chapel.

“The master of ceremonies came out and said, ‘Are you coming in or not?'” Francis recalled in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I realized later that it was my unconscious resistance to entering.”

He was elected the 266th pope at the next poll.


Francis had a steep learning curve on clergy sexual abuse, initially downplaying the issue in ways that made survivors wonder if he “got it.” He had his awakening five years after his pontificate after a problematic visit to Chile.

During the trip, he discovered a serious disconnect between what the Chilean bishops had told him about a famous case and the reality: Hundreds or thousands of Chilean faithful had been violated and molested by Catholic priests for decades.

“That was my conversion,” he told the AP. “That’s when the bomb went off, when I saw the corruption of many bishops in this.”

Francis has since passed a series of measures aimed at holding the church hierarchy accountable, but the results have been mixed. Benedict has fired about 800 priests, but Francis seems far less eager to oust abusers, reflecting resistance in the hierarchy to efforts to permanently remove predators from the priesthood.

The next frontier in the crisis has already raised its head: the sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse of adults by the clergy. Francis is aware of the problem – a new case concerns one of his fellow Jesuits – but there seems to be no will to take firm action


When the history of the pontificate of Francis is written, entire chapters could be dedicated to his emphasis on “synodality”, a term that has little meaning outside Catholic circles, but could be one of the most important contributions of the Francis church.

A synod is a meeting of bishops, and the philosophy of Francis that bishops must listen to others and the laity came to define his vision for the Catholic Church: he wants it to be a place where the faithful are welcomed, accompanied and understood.

The synods held during his first 10 years produced some of the most significant and controversial moments of his papacy.

After listening to the situation of divorced Catholics during a 2014-2015 synod on the family, for example, Francis opened the door. to allow divorced and civilly remarried couples to receive Communion. Calls to allow married priests marked his 2019 synod in Amazon, although he ultimately rejected the idea..

Its October synod involved an unprecedented survey of the Catholic faithful about their hopes for the church and the problems they faced, prompting demands from women for a greater leadership role, including ordination.


Catholic traditionalists were wary when Francis emerged pope for the first time on the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica without the red cape that his predecessors had worn for formal events. Yet they never expected him to reverse one of Benedict’s signature decisions re-imposing restrictions on the old Latin Mass, including where and who can celebrate,.

While the decision directly affected only a fraction of Catholics who attend mass, his recovery of the Tridentine Rite has become the call to arms for the conservative anti-Francisco opposition.

Francis justified his move by saying that Benedict’s decision to liberalize the celebration of the old mass had become a source of division in the parishes. But traditionalists took the renewed restrictions as an attack on orthodoxy, one they saw as contradicting Francis’ “everyone is welcome” mantra.

“Instead of integrating them into parish life, the restriction on the use of parish churches will marginalize and push to the suburbs the faithful Catholics who want to worship alone,” lamented Joseph Shaw of the branch of the Latin Mass Society in the Kingdom United.

While the short-term prospects for Francis’ abdication are not great, traditionalists have time on their side, knowing that in a 2,000-year-old institution, another pope who is more friendly to the old rite could come. .


Francis’ jokes about “female genius” have long made women cringe. Women theologians are the “strawberries on the cake,” he once said. Nuns should not be “old maids,” he said. Europe must not be a barren, barren “grandmother,” he told European Union lawmakers — a remark that earned him an angry phone call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But, it is also true that Francis has done more to promote women in the church than any pope before him, including appointing many women to high-profile positions in the Vatican..

That is not saying much given that only one in four Holy See employees is female, no woman heads a dicastery, or department, and Francis supported church doctrine that prohibits women from the priesthood.

But the trend is here and “there is no possibility of going back,” said María Lía Zervino, one of the first three women named to the Vatican office that helps the pope select bishops around the world.


Francis’ insistence that long-marginalized LGBTQ Catholics can find a welcome home in the church can be summed up by two statements that have ended his papacy to date: “Who am I to judge?” and “Being gay is not a crime.”

In making these historic statements, Francis has made outreach to LGBTQ people a hallmark of his papacy more than any pope before him.

He ministers to members of a transgender community in Rome. He counseled gay couples trying to raise their children Catholic. During a 2015 visit to the United States, he published a private meeting with a former gay student and the man’s partner to counter the conservative narrative. that he had received an anti-same-sex marriage activist.

“The pope reminds the church that the way people treat each other in the social world is of much more moral importance than what people can possibly do in the privacy of a room,” said Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry. , which supports a larger. acceptance of LGBTQ Catholics.

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