News / Europe

Pope Francis Seemingly Set for Reform

Pope Francis waves as he leaves after the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 24, 2013.Pope Francis waves as he leaves after the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 24, 2013.
x
Pope Francis waves as he leaves after the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 24, 2013.
Pope Francis waves as he leaves after the Palm Sunday mass at Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 24, 2013.
Reuters
Francis of Assisi began his saintly career following what he said was God's command: "Rebuild my Church." The new pope who took his name heard the same message from the cardinals who elected him.

The 13th-century Francis toured the Italian countryside repairing dilapidated chapels before realizing his mission was to change the whole Roman Catholic Church.

At 76, Pope Francis does not have as much time to get to work.

What the first Jesuit pope has is management experience in his native Argentina as head of the Jesuit province and chairman of the national bishops conference. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he dealt with everything from poverty to national politics.

"He's been at the top of the organization, but he's not been tamed by that," said Rev. James Hanvey, a Jesuit theologian. "In management speak, he's held to the core values. He wants us all to refocus on the core values."

Jorge Bergoglio's record shows he has strong convictions and is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Jose Maria Poirier, editor of the lay Catholic monthly Criterio in Buenos Aires, said Church staff there described him as an "attentive, human and considerate" boss who also is demanding, has little patience for bureaucracy, and appoints talented assistants.

His predecessor Benedict's failure in this regard was partly to blame for the infighting that crippled the Curia bureaucracy and came to light in leaked Vatican documents last year.

Shakeup in the Curia

The first hint Francis gave of plans to change the Curia came three days after his election when he reappointed its top bureaucrats temporarily rather than permanently, as Benedict did after being elected in 2005.

With his humble style, the pope has begun deflating the imperial side of the Vatican, which resembles a Renaissance monarchy with an absolute sovereign, a coterie of close advisers and Curia departments that answer to the pope but often don't talk to each other.

Francis's references to himself simply as the bishop of Rome - the position from which his papal authority flows - hints at a willingness to involve the hierarchy around the globe in running the world's largest church.

Hanvey said a first step would be to call heads of national bishops conferences around the world to meet regularly in Rome as advisers. This was proposed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), but Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI used it so rarely that some bishops complained they were being "treated like altar boys" rather than senior colleagues.

The Curia needs regular cabinet meetings, more international staffers to overcome its domination by Italian clerics and a full work day rather than schedules that end in early afternoon, U.S. theologian George Weigel said.

It has only two women in senior posts, another aspect of the Curia that critics say needs to be changed.

One overlooked fact is that the Curia, with slightly more than 2,000 employees, is actually understaffed. "They're overwhelmed," said one senior figure from another religion in contact with the Curia, who asked not to be named.

Waiting for other signals

The opaque operations at the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Works of Religion [IOR], were widely discussed among cardinals ahead of the conclave. Francis has criticized globalization and unfettered capitalism in the past, so he may take a critical look at the bank, but he has not indicated his plans.

The book His Holiness, which published the leaked Vatican documents last year, detailed alleged corruption, inflated prices for work in the Vatican, and clashes over the management at the bank.

The Council of Europe and the Bank of Italy have criticized the Vatican bank for lax anti-money-laundering controls and oversight, two areas where the Vatican says it is improving.
       
Critics also say the Church has not compensated victims of sexual abuse enough or held  bishops sufficiently responsible for covering up cases. Francis would quickly tarnish his compassionate image if he did not go beyond the apologies and meetings with victims that Benedict pioneered.

Reputed to be a theological conservative, Francis has criticized Argentina's government for legalizing same-sex marriage, opposes abortion and women priests, and defends the celibacy rule for male clergy. But he has also upbraided priests who refused to baptize babies of unmarried mothers. He has admitted to being "dazzled" by a young lady while in the seminary, and said he helps priests who struggle with their vow of celibacy.

All this suggests a softer edge to some of his positions.

"Benedict was clearly labeled" as a doctrinaire conservative, said Italian theologian Massimo Faggioli. "It will be easier for [Pope Francis] to say things without the audience having a ready response."

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid