Pope Francis is one of the most controversial pope’s ever but for good reason. He is the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years with an outspoken and radical leadership style that even his toughest critics can admire. His views on church reform, climate change, poverty and divorce have put him right in the media spotlight. Pope Francis has never been one to shy away from crisis and debate. Instead he embraces them and works to find solutions. There are a number of ways that Pope Francis is shaking up the Catholic Church and challenging the status quo.
One major way Pope Francis is shaking up the Catholic Church right now is by urging young Catholics to not let adults silence them. On Palm Sunday, carrying a woven palm branch known as a “palmurello,” Pope Francis led a procession in front of the largest church in Christendom to commemorate the day the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a savior, only to be crucified five days later. Drawing on biblical parallels, Francis urged the young people in the crowd not to let themselves be manipulated.
“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass.
“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said.
“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” Pope Francis said. He urged the young people gathered to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for His crucifixion only days later.
It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?
The young people in the crowd shouted, “Yes!”
The Pope’s message came right on the heels of a meeting of young Catholics who told the Vatican they want a more transparent and authentic church. This meeting came only a day after the youth-led rallies across the United States to demand greater gun control. It’s time for Catholic Church reform and Pope Francis is responding to that call. Scandal, legalism and exclusion have made many people distrust the church. At a time when the Catholic Church, is under close watch and much scrutiny, it’s important that the Pope is pushing for change. Sometimes this change requires you to call those in leadership out for things they’re doing that are hurting the church.
Just six months into his papacy, Pope Francis sent shockwaves through the church when he said the church had grown “obsessed” with certain hot button issues like contraception and abortion and that he had chosen not to speak on these issues despite criticism. He called out the church for putting dogma before love and for putting moral doctrine over serving those who are poor and marginalized. His vision for an inclusive church was quite a contrast from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who envisioned a smaller, purer church.
Another way Pope Francis is shaking up the Catholic Church is by changing its structure and leadership. Until Pope Francis, no pope had publically demoted bishops accused of gross negligence but Pope Francis has been a change agent. He is holding bishops for more accountable for sex abuse in the church. He approved the creation of a Vatican tribunal for judging bishops accused of covering up or failing to act in cases of child sexual abuse by priests.
In addition, he is a big proponent of inclusivity. Throughout the papacy, Pope Francis has appointed cardinals that are intentional about pastoral work with little to no interest in becoming “princes of the church.” He also brought in bishops from different parts of the world including bishops from Mali, Laos, El Salvador and Sweden who were previously not represented, showing “the catholicity of the church.” Pope Francis also overturned the tradition of choosing bishops who are in charge of prestigious dioceses or Vatican departments as cardinals. His new system disrupted tradition and opening the door for more clergymen to become cardinals. He also replaced traditionalists with moderates as the church prepared for important decisions about the Vatican’s decision-making process and the nature of the family.
From the moment Pope Francis was introduced to the world, he introduced a different style of leadership. His pastoral style of leadership was what so many Catholics had longed for in the church.He is admired by so many in the church because of his love for everyone, rich and poor alike and his commitment to real reform in the church.
Pope Francis has received many gifts that have come to him, including the famous Harley Davidson and has sold each one and given that money to the poor. While he is widely popular, he is less focused on his popularity and more focused on the needs of people. One of the reasons so many people connect with Pope Francis is because he is easy to relate to. We get the sense that he washes his own clothes and makes his own meals. He has such a strong sense of his identity in Christ and it shines through in his leadership. That leadership call not only shakes things up, but also calls us into action.