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The good pastor will put in practice ‘the new way of interacting with the world’

Monday, July 22nd 2013 - 06:50 UTC
Full article 6 comments
“He doesn’t seem to be interested in the kind of symbolic things that hold him at the center” “He doesn’t seem to be interested in the kind of symbolic things that hold him at the center”

Pope Francis’s response to the challenges of the Catholic Church has been to help find “an entirely new way to interact with the world” by the manner in which he communicates, said Sao Paulo Cardinal Odilo Scherer, one of two Latin Americans named to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization created in 2010.

“The church, Christianity, the Catholic faith cannot be apart from the world,” Scherer said. “It must be a part of the world, inside of it, and it must interact with modern society if it hopes to have repercussions and influence.”

The soccer loving Francis has moved quickly to build a more everyman approach to his office.

He still refuses to sign his name as pope, rarely refers to himself as pontiff, and thinks of his role more as a good pastor - and a good role model for other pastors. Once a priest who rode the subway to work, he is now a pope who spurns the ornate symbols of power: He passed on the red papal shoes for his old black ones and shed the fancy papal residence and gold pectoral cross.

Recently, Francis skipped a concert held in his honor in the Vatican auditorium, something unheard of among popes. Instead, he left his white papal chair empty as the concert went on without him.

“He doesn’t seem to be interested in the kind of symbolic things that hold him at the center,” said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a fellow conservative Jesuit and head of U.S. publisher Ignatius Press.

Still, he hasn’t shied from flexing his papal authority.

Francis’ audacious decision to canonize Pope John XXIII was evidence that he knows full well how to wield papal power. Francis bypassed Vatican rules that require confirming a second miracle to John’s credit before he could be declared a saint, skipping that formality so he could canonize both the liberal “father” of the Second Vatican Council and the conservative John Paul. That was seen as a balancing act aimed at keeping the disparate wings of the church happy.

So far, Francis’ changes appear to have paid off, with public opinion polls showing broad popularity, at least among Catholics.

One recent survey in Italy said 96% of Catholics there have “a lot” of trust in Francis, a level not seen since the apex of John Paul's papacy. A Pew Research poll in the U.S. said 84% of American Catholics also have a favorable view of the pontiff, compared to 67% for Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in the first Pew poll taken after his election.

“I think the ‘Francis effect’ is real. He’s captured the world’s imagination. He comes across as more authentic because he practices what he preaches,” said David Gibson, author of a biography on Benedict XVI. “He looks like your parish priest, he talks like your parish priest, and people connect with that.

“But people from the U.S. to Africa to Asia are watching and wondering how he’ll come off. Will Pope Francis translate from Rome to Rio?”

Francis will certainly take every opportunity to show off his simpler touch in Brazil, the world’s biggest Catholic country, especially after what many considered the more aloof style of Benedict, who visited Brazil in 2007.

Francis is also well known for his outreach to Jews, Muslims and even atheists, so his appeal doesn’t seem limited to Catholics alone. What’s unclear, however, is how he will deal with the millions of Brazilians who have left the Catholic faith for evangelical churches that the Vatican considers “sects.” Francis has no official encounters planned with representatives of other faiths.


Categories: Politics, Brazil, International.

Top Comments

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  • Elena

    Benedict XVI was also a very good Pope, the mere fact he considered his capacity and physical streng weren´t enough to keep leading the Church shows his humility and coherence, the difference with Francisco was that he was the kind of person who liked more introspective thougt and reflexion, while Francisco is very open, carismatic, close to the ppl and active on his conduct. Both have different aproaches, but both those aproaches are necesary to lead the Church.

    Jul 22nd, 2013 - 07:21 am 0
  • ChrisR


    You really are deluded by all this popery if you think the previous Chief Delusionist retired because of his health.

    It will all come out into the open one day, just like the gay Ricca has, just wait and see.

    Jul 22nd, 2013 - 12:35 pm 0
  • Elena

    Well, he did have problems with his heart and even some ppl accused him of trying to hide them, so don´t see where you get he was buffling? ;-) I didn´t say there was just that reason, but it´s an important reason. Greetings :-)

    Jul 22nd, 2013 - 04:02 pm 0
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