Magazine article The Christian Century

Pastor as Pope

Magazine article The Christian Century

Pastor as Pope

Article excerpt

Early this month, Pope Francis visited the Italian town of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, to reaffirm his connection to his namesake and restate his own mission. "This is a good occasion to invite the Church to strip itself of worldliness," he declared, saying that the Catholic Church and its pastors must relinquish all "vanity, arrogance and pride" and humbly serve the poorest members of society.

Though a Jesuit himself, Pope Francis has put a Franciscan face on the papacy, beginning with his choice of his name and his decision to ride in a Ford Focus (or take the bus) and to live in a simple room rather than the papal apartment. "How I would like a church that is poor and for the poor," Francis said on assuming office. His public statements have consistently called attention to the condition of refugees, the shipwrecked, the disabled, and the sick. In one of his several frank and wide-ranging interviews with journalists, Francis lamented that church leaders "have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The [Vatican] court is the leprosy of the papacy."

To some observers, Francis is a radically different man from the one who as archbishop in Argentina was a cautious administrator and found ways to accommodate the brutal dictators who ruled the country in the 1970s and 1980s (see the review of books on Francis, p. 28). In his eight months as pope he has dramatically changed the face and tone of the Catholic Church. …

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