Pope Francis, ten years later: his Church has a friendly face

He reformed the financial structures. He defended the doctrine. And above all he focused on hospitality. As told by Andrea Tornielli, who already knew him as a cardinal

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«These 10 years seem to have passed in a flash and there are many open construction sites: the Pope likes to initiate processes. I believe that the fruit Francis cares most about today is synodality, that is, a new style of living the Church through mutual listening, sharing and co-responsibility'. So says Andrea Tornielli, Venetian from Chioggia, born in 1964, journalist and writer, editorial director of the Vatican media for five years. Author of many books – the latest, Life of Jesus , was given by the Pope to collaborators of the Roman Curia on the occasion of Christmas greetings – he met Jorge Mario Bergoglio years before he became Francis. We asked him how the Argentine Pope has changed in these 10 years - photo | video

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When did you first meet Bergoglio? «It was the spring of 2005. I didn't know him personally, I stopped him in Piazza San Pietro to give him one of my books, Inquiry into the Resurrection . A few weeks later she wrote to me from Buenos Aires to thank me and tell me that she had read it. Since then we have kept in touch, above all thanks to two friends who knew him well, the journalists Gianni Valente and Stefania Falasca. Every time the archbishop of Buenos Aires came to Rome he had dinner one evening at their house and I, who lived on the same landing, was invited'.

Did you notice any changes from before to after the election? «In the personal relationship, in the great ability to listen and to be close to the interlocutor, nothing. However, much has changed in his relationship with the crowds: as a cardinal with Piedmontese DNA, Bergoglio was a rather shy and reserved person. Becoming Pope has – in this – transformed him: he has become much more expansive ».

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How has the Vatican changed in these 10 years? “It must be remembered that Francis had received a precise mandate: whoever was elected in 2013, after the resignation of Benedict XVI, had to take into account the requests that emerged from the meetings of the cardinals before the conclave. One of these concerned the reform of the economic and financial structures of the Holy See. News cases and scandals have made this an urgency. Francis continued and implemented the path taken by Papa Ratzinger for financial transparency, he introduced a strict procurement code. Today a trial linked to the sale of a property in London is being held in the Vatican: for the first time the investigations began thanks to a report from the internal control bodies and not for some investigation by the Italian judiciary as regularly happened in the past. Furthermore, Francis, helped by a council of cardinals representing the five continents, has reformed the Roman Curia, simplifying and unifying it, opening up spaces for the laity - the prefect of the dicastery for Communication, in which I work, is today a layman, the journalist Paolo Ruffini – and for women».

What are the basic goals that Bergoglio has achieved and those that, 10 years later, still remain unfinished? “Francis doesn't particularly like making plans or strategies. Or rather, his only real program is to help the Church to be ever more faithful to its origins, ever more attached to the essential, ever more capable of bearing witness to closeness, tenderness and fraternity in a world where hatred, opposition and violence. The most significant document of the pontificate remains the exhortation the gospel of joy , dedicated to the joy of evangelical proclamation and published in November 2013: an invitation to Christians to leave the sacristies, to be missionaries not with marketing strategies but with the testimony of one's own life, to reach the geographical and existential peripheries, not to forget never of the poor and the discarded. The Pope's insistence on mercy is also fundamental: the Christian God became Man to save the sick, to seek out the lost, to embrace and forgive. Francis did not change the doctrine, but he also underlined with his personal example the need to be more inclusive and welcoming towards everyone. This is the first form of dismissal».

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Yet there is no lack of controversy and divisions. The Pope is criticized with ferocity especially within the Church, and there are also those who say that many hopes for reform seem to have faded. “We must remember that being attacked and criticized is not a prerogative of this Pope. Benedict XVI, John Paul II, Paul VI, Pius XII… All of them have been attacked, in many cases within the Church. In my opinion, there are two novelties of the last 10 years: the diffusion of social media, which often dramatically amplifies numerically rather small phenomena. And the second element is a lack of awareness of what the Church is: at times one has the impression of watching a draft of certain talk shows on politics. But the internal debate of the Church should never be reduced to a struggle between factions and parties. However, Pope Francis does not mind criticism, if it is said to his face with the intention of helping him. As for the faded hopes, one must be careful not to calculate these 'disappointments' starting from one's own reform agendas which one wanted to attribute to the Pope but which he never had the intention of following».

Will Francis resign as Benedict did? «The Pope has repeated it many times: Ratzinger has opened a path and therefore the possibility for his successors is, in a certain sense, less traumatic. But Francis has also said that he considers the papacy ad vitam, that is, a position for life, and therefore he himself explained that, at the moment, there is no resignation on the horizon. He will do it if he no longer feels able to go forward, if tiredness and health problems make it impossible to carry out his service ».

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And what about his knee problems that force him to use a wheelchair? “In recent times we have had the example of Saint John Paul II, who remained to the end despite a disabling disease such as Parkinson's disease which had afflicted him for several years. Francis said that the Church is governed with the head, not with the legs. He accepted without problems to use the wheelchair for longer journeys even in public. But he continued to travel: last February in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in South Sudan, next April in Hungary and then in July in Lisbon ».

Is there something distressing the Pope at this moment? «Certainly the widening of what he, for nine years now, has renamed the 'piecemeal Third World War'. For a year now, after the invasion of Ukraine by Russian soldiers, Francis has limited himself to speaking of the 'Third World War' now underway, no longer in pieces. The conflict in the heart of Christian Europe risks leading humanity to self-destruction. And many other wars are going on in the world. The Pope shouts against the arms race, calls for peace for Ukraine and for the rest of the world. He is deeply concerned that we are fast approaching the brink of nuclear conflict. His words deserve to be listened to more ».

Source: oggi.it