Pope Francis proves to be the very model of a modern pontiff

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For all those assessing the meaning of Pope Francis' rise and its implications for one of the world's most powerful transnational institutions, the pontiff has already offered a warning, writes EJ Dionne.

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- The Washington Post/SMH

'If one has the answers to all the questions,' he said in an August interview with La Civilta Cattolica that has become a kind of manifesto for his papacy, 'that is the proof that God is not with him.'

That delightful rebuke to know-it-alls everywhere provides a clue as to how someone who has held the papal office since March has already revolutionised - there is no other word - the world's view of the Catholic Church.

At a time when religion has come to seem synonymous with dogmatic certainty and, in the eyes of many secular observers, fundamentalism, here is arguably the most visible religious leader in the world asserting that questions, not answers, can inspire a vibrant faith. Francis is orthodox, alright. He has reasserted the church's 'clear' teaching on abortion and said he could not do otherwise.

'I am a son of the church,' he explained. But he is an orthodox searcher who wants to share the journey with anyone of goodwill (including non-believers) who takes the quest for truth seriously.

'Who am I to judge?' he replied when asked his view of those who are gay.

For so many, judging is what a Pope does for a living. Francis did not change Church doctrine with his statement. He merely changed virtually everything about how we see the role of a supreme pontiff.

A few things are already obvious. As the first non-European Pope in more than 1200 years and the first from the global South, Francis speaks in decidedly different accents about capitalism and globalisation.

It should not be forgotten that John Paul II and Benedict XVI were highly critical of unbridled capitalism. But they still discussed the market in terms largely set by the debates in Europe and the United States.

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