Yet Another Surprise From Pope Francis

By , November 18, 2013 7:48 am

Image:http://www.poynter.org


Most of us are rather used to getting surprises from the new and beloved Pope Francis. The first reaction from many people was that the biggest difference between Pope Francis and his immediate predecessors was a difference in style. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were never seen in any context other than a very formal setting. Their speeches were always prepared with extraordinary care and delivered in a formal, unsmiling manner. However, we are beginning to see that there is much more that is different in this new papacy other than the issue of style.

One of the first moves that he made that reflected his clear understanding of a need for restructuring and modifying the day-to-day function of the church occurred when he appointed eight cardinals, scattered around the world, only one of which was from the Vatican, to be an advisory body directly to him on what changes, adaptations and modernizations were needed to increase the effectiveness of the Church on a day-to-day basis.
The second wonderful change was in the question of agenda. The basic goal of the Church has been received from Jesus of Nazareth when he told the apostles, and their successors, (the bishops) to go “into the whole world and preach the Gospel to everyone…baptizing them.” No pope can change that as a goal but the pope would be free to choose one or another aspect of that generic mission that he wished to emphasize with greater force than had been the case. Pope Francis has chosen the issue of world poverty and is publically committed to the fact that he will be guiding the Church with an extraordinary emphasis on the poor, on the need of the Church to be a poor Church and on the need of the clergy to share in a very real way in that poverty.

Now comes another substantial innovation that will most likely have tremendous ramifications to the Church itself and to the world to which the Church has been sent. On November 5th Pope Francis launched an unprecedented worldwide consultation on modern families, including the issue of same-sex couples and the reception of the Sacraments for couples in non-sacramental marriages. As a working document, the questionnaire of 39 questions has been distributed to ALL the bishops of the world and asked them to take seriously their obligation to research all the issues, positive and negative, confronting family life across the world. I will get back to some of those issues in my next blog because this one is already too long.

I can tell you this much, however. Those questions give a very good indication of just what Pope Francis wants the Church to deal with. Tune in tomorrow.

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