Dear Editor, Thanks to Pope Francis these are halcyon days, upbeat, joyous. Long may he and they last. We certainly need him now; he has been sending out signals that he means business; radical change is coming.
But how permanent will the change be? Clergymen are renowned for ‘improving’ on the man before them. Every Pope sets the tone of his pontificate; but will his successor do his own thing, and perhaps revert to the old ways? The facts show that, as the Pope is, so is the Catholic Church.
Will Pope Francis be able to make fundamental changes to the papacy itself, which will make it impossible for any future Pope to wield such power ever again? Benedict broke the ice; that was his major contribution toward getting the papacy back to the office that Christ gave Peter. The record shows that Peter and the early Popes did not dominate the Church as it has done, more and more, in later centuries; never more so than in recent times. I have no doubt that he sees the papacy, as it is now, as the biggest problem of all. That is why he is talking about the collegiality of all the bishops, about synods, about delegation and consultation, about dialogue and sharing, about meeting people on an even footing. By deliberately ignoring the pomp and circumstance, he is, by example, shaming the clergy into doing the same. The big question is, can he make it stick? Will his legacy survive him?
The Pope is not the Church. Will this Pope be able to turn back the tide in such a fundamental way that it cannot ever revert to the bad old days? I hope and pray that Francis will be able to reform the papacy in such a way that the Church is not only Christ’s Church doctrinally, but is also Christ’s Church in the way it functions, out among the people, loving all, especially the poor, like Jesus himself.