Phase Two of the pontificate now underway

Pope Francis reaches new and significant milestones in the next several days. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on Dec 13.

Dec 16, 2019

Robert Mickens
Pope Francis reaches new and significant milestones in the next several days. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on Dec 13.

He will celebrate his 83rd birthday on Dec 17. This means the clock is ticking. And while Francis does not display the signs of impatience, he has begun to show a renewed determination to complete – and even accelerate – his mission to reform and renew the Church.

If you need proof, look at the dizzying pace of activities he’s been carrying out the past several weeks. It all began with the Synod of Bishops’ special assembly on the Amazon Region back in October.

The Synod assembly, far from being limited to one particular region of the world or specific portion of the Church, was an event with hugely significant global implications – in terms of global social justice and Catholic ecclesiology, ministry and mission.

The so-called “Amazon Synod” marked the beginning of Phase Two of the pontificate. One of the most important developments that are sure to come from that gathering is the establishment of an Amazon Rite, a way of liturgical worship that incorporates vital cultural elements of the people of the region.

Unannounced papal celebrations of “inculturated” liturgies
As if to emphasise the validity of such an inculturated liturgy, the Pope opened the season of Advent on Dec 1 with the Congolese community living in Rome celebrating the Zairian (or Congolese) Rite inside St Peter’s Basilica.

This modified form of Mass was devised in 1969 shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and given the Holy See’s approval in 1988. It features traditional African modes of worship and praises not usually found in European liturgical celebrations.

And today Dec 15, the Pope is going to celebrate another yet-to-be-announced inculturated Mass, again in St Peter’s Basilica. He will begin a novena in preparation for Christmas that has been a popular feature of Filipino Catholicism since the 17th century. Known as the Simbáng Gabi, it is tied to agricultural practices and features sharing.

By celebrating these special “rites” that are an expression of local or regional communities, Francis is preparing, wittingly or not, the restoration of a more ancient practice of the Church. Namely, the recognition that there can be a wide variety of ways and styles of worship that do not, in any way, threaten the unity of the Church.

Liturgical diversity, even within Europe, was commonplace until the Council of Trent (1545-1563) cobbled together numerous rites while suppressing others, and – with the allowance for some exceptions – created a single Roman Rite.

A tireless Pope
Less than a month after the Synod assembly for the Amazon was over, Pope Francis went to Thailand and Japan for a Nov 19-26 pastoral visit, one of the longest in his pontificate.

He arrived back in Rome on a Tuesday evening and, without taking a breather, was in St Peter’s Square the very next morning for his Wednesday general audience. And he has not stopped moving ever since.

Beginning on Nov 27 Francis has addressed three or four large groups of people nearly every day, individually greeting each of their members at the end of every session.

On Nov 29, he travelled across Rome to a Caritas centre where he spent some 90 minutes walking around, conversing with volunteers and the charity’s recipients, patiently posing for “selfies.” He also answered a series of questions in a public forum, despite having a bad cold.

This Pontificate is setting out on a resolute mission! --LCI (

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