ONE YEAR LATER: What Will Pope Francis Do in the Coming Year?

ONE YEAR LATER is an afternoon series focusing on the first year of Pope Francis’ papacy. Bondings 2.0 will be running this series all week.  The anniversary of his election is today, March 13th.

All week long this blog  has reflected upon the past year of Pope Francis’ papacy. Historic statements and humble actions were rightly celebrated and have led many to speculate about what is to come in the second year. Below is a sampling of articles which explored the future of the Catholic Church under Pope Francis. You can read each article in full by clicking on the links in each section.

Thomas Fox of the National Catholic Reporter writes five points on why he is hopeful for reform in “Can Pope Francis Achieve His Reforms?”:

“Can Pope Francis restore his church’s shattered credibility? Tend the wounds of millions of disaffected Catholics, pillared by decades of clerical sex abuse and cover-up? Can he bury a church authority structure modeled after kings and their courts?…

“Change does not come easily in the Catholic Church, yet I for one am more than modestly optimistic Francis will succeed in ways few have yet to imagine…

“So completely tied to the gospels, Francis exhibits an uncanny sense of freedom that comes from great spiritual security. This gives him a solid compass and a will to go forward despite the obstacles. Francis has repeatedly told the faithful that the Spirit is full of surprises. He does not believe he has to control the future. Rather he sees himself as an instrument — a means and not an end.

“Taken all together, Francis’ pontificate seems fit for the time.”

David Gibson writing for The Huffington Post believes Pope Francis’ vision for reform is larger than anyone is acknowledging. He explores three main strategies Pope Francis is using, namely leveling the hierarchy, teaching Catholic leaders to talk and trust, and evangelizing the world to convert the church. Gibson writes:

“Every personnel move and every new proposal is being scrutinized for what it might indicate about the direction of the church, what it might augur about possible adjustments to church teaching and whether the aspirations of so many will be fulfilled — or frustrated.

“But as important as such structural and policy moves can be, church leaders and Vatican insiders say the 77-year-old Francis is really focused on a more ambitious (and perhaps more difficult) goal: overhauling and upending the institutional culture of Catholicism.”

In the National Catholic Reporter, Fr. Thomas Reese wrote two pieces about the pope:  one on “Three Steps to Reform the Vatican” and one which includes his responses to the most common questions about Pope Francis. He explained the three steps:

“There are at least three things necessary to successfully reform an institution: changing its culture, appointing key people who support the reform, and putting in place structures, policies, and procedures to concretize the reform…

“The best way to respond to all of this complexity is incrementally. Don’t think that after a year of study you can come up with a comprehensive plan that will settle matters for the rest of the decade, let alone for the rest of the century.”

Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter is unsure where Pope Francis’ reforming mindset will lead, but remains hopeful. He writes:

“He is whole. He is healthy. He is humble. He is determined. We are drawn to him and, just so, he is able to draw us to Christ. I do not know what reforms to expect. I do not know what appointments will be made. I do not know what he will do that will thrill me and what will disappoint. But, I know this. Pope Francis has captured the world’s imagination not because of his agenda, but because of his personality, no, personality sounds too ephemeral, better to say because of his personhood. We are excited by the specter, I believe, because watching Pope Francis live his Christian way of life, we feel something of the excitement of the apostles on the road to Emmaus. They were glum and fearful until the stranger joined them and set their hearts on fire. Francis sets our hearts on fire too.”

E.J. Dionne writes at Commonweal:

“He has not altered church doctrine, but his shift in emphasis has been breathtaking. ‘We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,’ he has said. ‘This is not possible.’ He thus declared that the church’s main mission would no longer be as a lead combatant in the culture wars. It would stand primarily with and for the neediest…

“He has shown that the spiritual life is also a life of social commitment. He demands a lot while preaching a God of mercy, confounding scolds and religious therapists alike. By engaging joyfully with nonbelievers and those who believe differently, he speaks to those skeptical that Christianity has anything left to say.

“He called for a church that is ‘bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets,’ and has proved that such a church is hard to ignore.”

You can read further articles from America, which listed it’s best of Pope Francis coverage from the past year hereThe TabletThe New York Times, and The Guardian. For a more comedic take, check out The Onion‘s article about Pope Francis showing up at a gay couple’s wedding.

You can read Bondings 2.0 full week of coverage on Pope Francis’ first anniversary through our “One Year Later” series by clicking here. And most importantly, let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below what your hopes and expectations are for Pope Francis in his second year.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. Friends
    Friends says:

    Splendid reflections — and I think it’s also well worth citing Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson’s recently published essay on Pope Francis:–politics.html

    However, read the “Comments” at your peril. They’re predictably hateful and contemptuous — especially those written by many self-identified professing (and clearly conservative/traditionalist) Catholics, who have no use whatsoever for Francis’ modest outreach toward “unrepentant” GLBT Catholics.


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