Many people have been surprised by the impressive evolution of the discourse of the Catholic Church, driven by the Argentinian pope. Pope Francis has changed the traditional notions transmitted by the Bishop of Rome, causing an impact on the lives of both practicing and non-practicing Catholics.
His speeches have turned the doctrine of fear for the final punishment into a discourse which extols happiness as the most important thing. As if that weren’t enough, the new pope has advised Catholics to abandon their rigid confinement in order to, in his own words, “make noise” in the diocese. Basically, he encouraged the faithful to go into the streets to help those in need.
This wind of change which renews the principles of the church has given way to the return of many faithful people who had chosen other spiritual alternatives.
The Transition of Benedict XVI
During the last years of John Paul II’s papacy, the Vatican State was controlled by conflicting cliques which the pope could no longer face.
Benedict XVI was elected at a time in which there was no figure of authority, and the officials of the Roman Curia were carrying out power struggles inside the Church. In addition, the Vatican Bank, originally created to help the religious orders and facilitate the transfer of money to remote locations, was being accused of conducting an enormous amount of suspicious transactions.
In addition, Paolo Gabriele, who was the pope’s personal butler, had leaked confidential documents which made the internal differences of the Curia public and put Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) at a crossroads which demanded a great deal of effort and immense physical and mental strength.
Gabriele was found guilty of theft and served a three-month sentence until he was pardoned by Benedict XVI. The pope commissioned research to find out what had happened. He received a devastating confidential 300-page report prepared by three cardinals, part of which was leaked to the Italian media.
As a consequence, more scandalous findings were exposed, this time involving a series of rumors about a network of gay prelates, known as the “gay lobby,” which had a negative influence on the Vatican.
For this, and other reasons, in February 2013, Benedict XVI shocked the world when he became the first pope to resign the papacy in almost 600 years, since Gregory XII in 1415.
But public attention didn’t only focus on the scandal. It immediately focused on the succession. The new pope had to fill that power vacuum and work exhaustively to renew faith.
Francis, the Pope from the End of the World
Jorge Mario Bergoglio started his career in the Church at 21, after graduating as a chemical technician. He was one of the 183 bishops of the Catholic Church, Archbishop of Buenos Aires and the Primate of Argentina. Journalist Marco Tosatti, Vatican insider of the newspaper La Stampa, revealed in 2005, when the conclave was held to appoint the successor of John Paul II, that Bergoglio had asked the cardinals not to vote for him. In that opportunity, the Argentine cardinal was second after Joseph Ratzinger.
The following election would produce a different result. On March 13, 2013, he was elected as the successor of Pope Benedict XVI by the 115 voting cardinals, in a conclave that lasted twenty-five-and-a-half hours.
He assumed the leadership of the Holy See under the name of Saint Francis of Assisi, which far from being a capricious decision became the principal basis of his papacy. Francis of Assisi combined humbleness with an innovative power of decision.
Francis’ appointment was characterized by a new approach to formalities, even before his papacy began. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first from the Americas, the first Latin-American and the first non-European pope since Gregory III, who died in 741.
When his papacy began, he became the first pope not to live in the Vatican, and also the first one to have a magazine dedicated to him, Il Mio Papa (www.miopapa.it). The aim of the magazine is to facilitate the communication with the faithful by disseminating Francis’ activities, speeches and all the information related to his papacy.