Love him or hate him, Francis is relevant

Pope Francis on the night of his election, 2013 (CNS/Paul Haring)

As Pope Francis yesterday marked the five-year anniversary of his election, views of where his papacy stands often tell us more about the observer than the pontiff being observed, writes John Allen. Source:Crux.

If, for example, one is the kind of Catholic convinced that in a confused and troubled world, the most important quality a pope can deliver is doctrinal and moral clarity, then Francis may not score terribly well. Yet for a Catholic who believes the Church had become overly rigid and ossified prior to Francis’s election, excessively focused on a narrow canon of contentious moral issues, then this pope may loom as a titanic success story.

If resolving the Church’s sexual abuse scandals is the only test of effective papal leadership, Francis gets one assessment; if the emphasis is on his adherence to the vision of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), it’s another; and so on, almost indefinitely.

Amid the rattle and hum of clashing worldviews and agenda, is there anything that can be said about Francis’s record after five years that’s truly objective? Perhaps it’s this: Love this maverick Pope or hate him, he’s undeniably relevant.

Pope Francis is culturally relevant in a surprising diversity of places, where his unconventional style and speech, combined with his message of mercy, continue to draw wide attention and commentary. Even when embattled and under fire, Francis remains a magnet for the media.

Francis is also politically relevant, with governments around the world tracking his priorities closely, and politicians of all stripes seeking to exploit his charisma for their causes.

Finally, Francis is ecclesiastically relevant. Every major debate in the Church today, no matter where one stands, comes down to what someone makes of the Pope’s leadership.

Those measures don’t automatically tell you whether Francis is taking the Church in the right direction, or if he’s setting the right priorities in terms of its engagement with the world.

Yet what these indices of relevance do suggest is that however one adjudicates the rights and wrongs of this papacy, it matters - it matters to the world, it matters to the world’s leaders, and it matters to the Church Francis was called to lead five years ago.

– John L. Allen Jr is the editor of Crux, specialising in coverage of the Vatican and the Catholic Church.


Francis at five years: Love him or hate him, this is one relevant pope (Crux)

Five years of Pope Francis (YouTube/CNS)


Pope Francis – A Man of His Word (Vatican News)

Five years of the Pope from the “ends of the earth” (Vatican News)

Five years a pope: Francis' focus has been on outreach (CNS)

Wonder and wit: Five years of Pope Francis’ unique turns of phrase (CNS)

Reviving the spirit of reform: the Francis Papacy five years on (The Tablet)

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