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When you think of a person who is a progressive leader, who comes to mind? Do you think of the Rev. Jessie Jackson, President Barack Obama or the Dalai Lama? You might want to add another influential figure to the mix, and that is Pope Francis. Pope Francis (birth name Jorge Mario Bergoglio) is considered one of the most progressive pontiffs to ever lead the Romans Catholic Church since taking the position in 2013. The 266th pope is considered a progressive Christian, a person implementing towards social reform and liberal ideas. He may be considered part of the Christian left.

What is the Christian left? The term is defined as being "focused on behaviors that Jesus focused on while He was here in body — things like hypocrisy, organized oppression, exorbitant greed, self-righteousness, selfishness, abuse of power,” the Huffington Post reported. Pope Francis is deeply concerned about social justice, climate change, protecting the environment and the gender gap. He is a protector of gay rights and is not a big fan of capitalism. The people’s pope also unleashed his fury on the weapons industry. In fact, he called them hypocrites if they considered themselves Christian. Pope Francis has his share of critics. The opposition claimed that he’s pumping liberalism into the church and needs to be more reserved. Apparently, the pontiff doesn't mind his detractors. He has continued to make the headlines and here are the reasons why.

He appointed liberal cardinals.

Breitbart broke the news that Pope Francis appointed 17 new cardinals and many of them have liberal and progressive views on Planned Parenthood and regarding immigration. He appointed Blaise Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, who advised priests to not hold prayer vigils outside of abortion clinics as it causes more division than it causes unity. “The pastoral challenge is to get people to take a second look at the issue of abortion,” the diocese said in a statement. Archbishop William Tobin of Indianapolis was another selection, which caused concerns among conservatives. Tobin went head-to-head with Indiana Gov. and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on the banning Syrian refugees in Indiana.  

He speaks on climate change.

The Catholic Church does not have a history of electing progressive popes. When Pope Francis released a revolutionary new encyclical, which confronted climate change—the world was shocked. He said, “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God.” Pope Francis stressed that climate change is problematic when he visited with scientists at the Vatican. He agreed that humans need to safeguard the future of the planet.  Elaborating further, he explained that we are instruments to be used by God “so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it." Pope Francis believes that politics should not be involved in protecting the earth, a belief that many progressives believe.

He is not totally against gay marriage.

Pope Francis seemed to be open minded on his views of gay marriage during a flight to Rome in 2013. He told reporters that “if a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” This is unprecedented for any pope to say. However, there are mix messages regarding his stance on same-sex marriage in recent months. He said that he rejected the notion of same-sex marriage, but Christians should apologize for marginalizing and discriminating against gays. "I believe that the church must say it's sorry to this person that is gay that it has offended," said the pope. Regardless, this is a subject that has been taboo for the church and Pope Francis addressed it--possibly with resistance from older constituents. He made one thing clear, that discrimination against gays and lesbians is unacceptable.

He extended an olive branch to the divorced and the remarried.

In a document released in 2016, Pope Francis addressed elements of the Catholic doctrine and shared that life is more complicated than religious law when it came to dealing with the divorced and the remarried. Divorced and remarried Catholics are not eligible for Communion in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Yet, he opened the door a little more for those who felt shunned for divorcing and remarrying. Rather than judging them, the pope wants priests to become more accepting of all people." By thinking that everything is black and white, we sometimes close off the way of grace and growth," he penned. No pope has ever mentioned this issue as well.

He is for women’s rights.

Pope Francis explained that all Christians should make sure that the gender pay gap ends. Yes, the pope was upset that this still exists! He actually said that “disparity is a pure scandal” in 2015. “Women should not earn less than men for the same work." Women need to be valued more in the workplace and in the home. He also offered that women should play a bigger role in the church. Currently, women cannot serve in the Catholic Church as priests. Another thing he brought up was it was time for us to stop blaming Eve for giving Adam the forbidden apple (stop blaming women for everything). Pope Francis also reiterated he wants to see more women working in the Vatican department. He created a commission to study the history of female deacons called the “Commission for the Study of the Diaconate of Women.”

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