Two Years with Pope FrancisMarch 13 marks the second anniversary of the day the College of Cardinals surprised the world by electing, as pope, a Jesuit from Argentina. Two years on, what effect has this Argentine pope had on the wider church?
The 78-year-old pontiff came to his new job with an acute awareness that there were two things that needed to change. First, the Church needed a spiritual renewal if it hoped to be a credible witness to the Gospel. Second, the Vatican was in desperate need of institutional reforms.
Pope Francis has admitted he didn’t plan on addressing the reform of the Vatican so soon in his pontificate, but it became unavoidable. Under his tenure two new bodies were created for financial and administrative oversight: the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy. The new offices have jurisdiction, respectively, over the curia, and all Vatican offices (including Vatican City State.) These bodies along with the Vatican Bank and the Financial Information Authority have brought in lay professionals with extensive experience in these fields.
On the curial front, while there is still no draft of the new constitution for the Roman Curia, changes are being implemented bit by bit and several dicasteries already know what place their office will have in the revamped curia.
But Pope Francis’ top priority is the spiritual renewal of all the Church’s members. That’s why he celebrates Mass every morning with Vatican employees, delivering a short, informal homily that gets sent out around the world via Vatican media outlets.
This is also why he keeps insisting on a couple of things. One: whenever he can he urges people to read the Gospel. He has repeatedly advised carrying a pocket-size book of the Gospels to read for a few minutes every day, even if it's on the bus to work. The pope has gone so far as to have books distributed to the faithful during the Angelus.
Staying true to the keyword of his pontificate, “mercy,” Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year for Mercy that will begin December 8, 2015 (which just happens to be the 50th anniversary of the close of Vatican II.) If there is anyone who has not yet been moved to the confessional by Pope Francis’ words on God’s mercy, they probably will be during the Jubilee Year.
The other powerful element has been the normalcy of this pope. He speaks plainly, in language that is, for the most part, easily understandable and to the point. People connect with him because they understand instantly what he’s trying to say and why. Similarly, when he takes action he doesn’t do huge extraordinary things. He does normal everyday things that are huge in that he is doing them or because of the context in which they are done. For instance, making a phone call to a person in need of some spiritual counselling becomes headline news because it’s the pope making phone call.