On Five years, Pope Francis has changed the face of the Church

This Tuesday, March 13, 2018 marks the 5th anniversary of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio at Peter’s Seat.

Five years ago, on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis was elected. His pontificate was particularly marked by the publication of two encyclicals (Lumen Fidei, on faith, which reproduced what had been prepared by Benedict XVI, and Laudato Si ‘, on the care of the common house), two apostolic exhortations (EvangeliiGaudium, programmatic text of the pontificate for an outgoing Church, strongly missionary, and Amoris Laetitia on love in the family), 23 Motu proprio (notably on the reform of the Roman Curia, management and economic transparency, the reform of matrimonial nullity proceedings, or on the translation of liturgical texts).

The two synods on the family and the Jubilee of Mercy also marked this pontificate, as well as his 22 apostolic trips that led him to visit 30 countries, not to mention his 17 pastoral visits to Italy (the 18th will take place this Saturday 17 March in Pietrelcina and San Giovanni Rotondo, in the footsteps of Padre Pio), his eight Wednesday morning catechesis cycles (on the profession of faith, the sacraments, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Church, the family, the mercy, Christian hope, Mass), the nearly 600 homilies at St. Martha, not to mention the innumerable speeches, messages and letters, and the millions of faces crossed and embraced.

A Church with open doors:  The first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope to come from the Americas, chose the name of Francis of Assisi because he wanted a Church with open doors that knew how to announce to all the joy and freshness of the Gospel.  A church that is likely to be “rugged, hurt and dirty” instead of being in the middle of people, “rather than a church sick with closure and the comfort of clinging to its own security.”

The Holy Spirit confuses:  Francis launches an invitation to be surprised by the Holy Spirit, the true protagonist of the Church, who continues to speak and tell us new things. Francis had pronounced one of his strong words in Istanbul in November 2014: the Holy Spirit “confuses” because he “sets in motion, he makes walk, he pushes the Church to go forward”, whereas it is much easier and safer to “cling to one’s own static and immutable positions”.

Pope of right or left? :  At first, everyone spoke positively about Francis, then little by little arrived the critics. Good news, given what Jesus said “Beware of you when everyone says good things about you”. The right accuses the pope of being communist, because he defends the poor and the migrants, and attacks the current liberal economic system: “it is unfair at the root,” says François, who was confronted with the economic crisis in Argentina, “this economy kills”, it makes prevail “the law of the strongest”, which “devours the weakest”.

For its part, the left accuses the Pope of remaining firm on ethical issues: he defends life, opposes abortion and euthanasia: “It is not progressive to pretend to solve problems by eliminating a problem. Human life “. He defends the family based on the marriage between a man and a woman; he condemns the theory of gender. He is concerned about violations of the right to conscientious objection, and notes the proliferation of claims to individual rights, which are not concerned with the duties inherent in life in society, and do not solve any of the essential problems of life. Like hunger, which still affects hundreds of millions of people.

Internal critics:  The Pope is also attacked inside the Church. There are even those who accuse the Pope of being a heretic, of breaking with the secular Tradition of the Church, who oppose it to the previous Popes. And yet, Benedict XVI had already invited to reflect on the discernment for the access to the communion of divorced-remarried in certain particular cases. And yet, Saint John Paul II had already answered Archbishop Lefebvre 30 years ago, explaining the true meaning of the Tradition which “has its origins in the Apostles, progresses in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

Open sites:  Two actions impelled by the Pope at the beginning of his pontificate are still on the way: the reform of the Roman Curia, and the fight against sexual abuse. While some members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors have resigned, denouncing the inertia in the Vatican to address this urgent problem, Francis has renewed his confidence in this commission by extending it to new members, and by renewing the mandate from the President, Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.

The diplomacy of peace:  François promotes the culture of encounter in the ecumenical and interreligious realm, on the social and political front, and on the human level. It moves to unity, but without canceling differences and identities. His role has been central in the thaw between the United States and Cuba, as in the peace process in Colombia and Central Africa. He attacks those who manufacture and sell weapons. At the same time, he strongly denounces the persecution of Christians, “in the complicit silence of so many powers”, who can stop them. He cries out againsthuman trafficking, “a new form of slavery”.

The time of mercy, but to a certain extent:  There is no doubt that the central word of this pontificate is mercy, but it has a limit: corruption. The corrupt is the one who refuses divine mercy. And God does not impose himself. There is a last judgment. The Pope therefore always proposes chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew: “I was hungry and you gave me food”. In the evening of our life, we will be judged on love.

Less clericalism, more space for lay people, women and young people:  Francis criticizes clericalism, because the pastor must “serve” and have “the smell of sheep”. He asserts that lay people must discover their identity more and more in the Church: they must not remain on the margins of decisions. He values the role of the woman, but looking towards her mystery, and not towards her practical role.

Evangelizers with the Spirit:  The Pope asks all Christians to be “evangelizers with the Spirit”, to “announce the novelty of the Gospel boldly, aloud at all times and in all places, even against the current”, touching “The suffering flesh of others”. “If I succeed in helping one person to live better, this is enough to justify the gift of my life,” insists Pope Francis.


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