CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 May 2017

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Pope Francis on renewal

During Lent four years ago, Pope Francis was elected pope on March 13. It was a symbol of repentance and conversion. Under his leadership, the Church has constantly moved down the path of renewal and conversion, while struggling to extricate itself from the old rut.

These initiatives brought a new look to the Church, encouraging a renewal of its commission to “go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Joy of the Gospel—Evangelii Gaudium 20).

So far, one of the greatest gifts given by Pope Francis to the Church has unquestionably been the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a period for grace and spiritual renewal. As with previous jubilees which responded to the circumstances of the times, the pope set out to heal wounds in society and care for the most neglected, including refugees and divorced couples.

The pope displays the disposition of the Good Samaritan in his words and deeds, demonstrating how to find, guide, listen to and bandage the wounded. He personally went to Greece to welcome refugees to Rome and guided his Papal Foundation to care for street sleepers.

Continuing in the spirit of mercy, which leads to empathy in pastoral work, he based his The Joy of Love on the axis of mercy and communion, extending them to the domain of the pastoral care of families. This has prompted local Churches to launch more holistic care programmes on marriage and families.

Repentance and renewal concern not only individuals, but the entire Church. The pope has been pushing reform of the Curia, streamlining and reorganising its departments to respond to the challenges of society on a more holistic level.

He holds no fear of controversy. He established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and encouraged the universal Church to improve its pastoral work and administrative arrangements as preventive measures.

He redesigned the audit process of the Institute for the Works of Religion (Vatican Bank) bringing it closer to compliance with international standards.

He has boldly pointed out deep-rooted maladies inside the Church, warning the clergy against clericalism. “This attitude not only annuls the personality of Christians, but it has a tendency to diminish and devalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit put in the heart of our people.”

He has not only encouraged clergy to break away from bureaucratic thinking, but also enhanced the participation of women and young people in the Church.

He has emphasised mercy and on the question of our relationship with creation suggested ecological conversion in addressing the climate crisis from a holistic ecological perspective.

However, he is not always well received. Some worry he is too radical and five cardinals threatened to formally ask him to clarify his views on communion for remarried divorcees.

The teaching of successive popes comes in a continuum. Reforms made in the previous century were an effort to respond to the signs of their time. The universal Church, by nature, upholds unity in diversity and responds to the needs of the time through dialogue. This is the very expectation of Pope Francis for the entire Church. SE