Pope sets out bold reform agenda

New exhortation is a powerful manifesto for mission

Pope Francis has outlined an ambitious programme of reform aimed at ensuring that the Church is fit for mission in the modern world.

The first teaching document mainly authored by Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), is a bold challenge for the Church to reform itself so that it can better reach out to the world.

The Pontiff’s pastoral vision is a clear warning to priests that the confessional “must not be a torture chamber but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy”.

God, he writes, “never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy”.

He suggests that more authority needs to be given to the local Church and insists that the Eucharist should not be seen as a reward for good behaviour, but as nourishment for people in their weakness. This will increase speculation that the issue of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics will be a key talking point at forthcoming meetings dedicated to reform.

The Pope warns that excessive concentration of power in Rome is damaging the Church’s mission and calls for a “sound decentralisation” of Church governance.

We must not be afraid, he says, to re-examine “certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots”.

The Pope attacks unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny,” urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality.

“Such an economy kills,” he warns.

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he writes.

The Pope robustly defends the Church’s teaching on reserving the priesthood to men insisting that women’s ordination in “not a question open to discussion”.

He also makes a robust defence of traditional marriage, and the rights of the unborn, which he equates with the rights of trafficked prostitutes. The Church, he writes, cannot change it’s teaching on this vital issue.

See Pages 6 & 7.


Key quotes:


“I dream of a Church transformed.”


“God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”


“Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise.”


“More must be done to help women who see abortion as quick solution to their profound anguish.”


“The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”


“Church doors should always be open: if someone comes looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.”


“Excessive centralisation complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”


“Unfettered capitalism is ‘a new tyranny'.”


“The family is the fundamental cell of society where parents pass on the Faith to their children.”


“The reservation of the priesthood to males is not a question open to discussion.”