POPE FRANCIS THE EMERGING PICTURE

The Holy Father aided by Sydney Deacon Nicholas Rynne
It is still early days in the Pontificate of Pope Francis. Happily the first burst of coverage in the mainstream media with its focus on trying to contrast "good" Pope Francis with suddenly " not nearly so nice" Pope Benedict XVI , has passed. It is now " back to governance" with Audiences taking place, Appointments of Bishops being made, all on a routine basis.

There are some novelties surviving. The Holy Father is living in the modern apartment  in Casa Santa Marta intended for newly elected Popes, and receives visitors there, rather than using the Papal Apartments and the reception rooms there. He says his daily Mass publicly in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta, and photos show him in white cassock and zucchetto sitting among the congregation before Mass - though lately it seems, somewhat closer to the front. His daily homilies at this public Mass are not published by the Holy See Website, but the Vatican Information Service publishes excerpts and a brief summary of what the Holy Father says.And he has taken to alternating the use of the ferula or pastoral staff of Pope Benedict XVI with that used first by Pope Paul VI and then Bl. Pope John Paul II.

The Holy Father's appointment of a Commision of eight Cardinals 
(including Australia's Cardinal George Pell) from around the Globe, to advise him on the governance of the Church - including the re-structure of the Curia - has been very widely welcomed. Some have raised the question  whether or not this arrangement will become permanent. Certainly it would provide Pope Francis with a good counter weight to the formal advice he receives from the Curia itself. Of course the College of Cardinals itself is advisory to the Holy Father and of assistance - but it is a rather unwieldy body for close co-operation, given its size.

So far, the preaching and teaching of Pope Francis has been of a pastoral nature with a strong emphasis on the need for the Church to be active and practical in taking the Good News of Jesus Christ out into the world. As yet there has of course been no time for the development of the soaring and analytical themes which we heard from Bl. Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI.But having the great benefit of the intellectual and spiritual legacy they have provided, it might be that the greater need now is the pastoral emphasis to see to the practical implementation of that glorious body of teaching.

The evolution of the Pontificate is not wholly in the Pope's hands. Events - for good or ill- will have their effect as much as the personal decisions of the Pope himself. It will be interesting to conduct periodic reflections on developments.

But so far one might say that whilst the new Holy father has provided a " jolt to the system" , the effects have been very largely salutary and in no great way harmful, even if occasionally trivial.


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