What changes await the world of the Church

Pope Francis – who has been seen as perhaps the most radically evangelical-minded and extremely ecumenical pope in modern history – has been quietly (and not so quietly) criticised by Catholics who are of a more traditionalist bent and by others who draw their breath from the Church’s institutional and rules-based ethos.

Jan 14, 2018

By Robert Mickens
Pope Francis – who has been seen as perhaps the most radically evangelical-minded and extremely ecumenical pope in modern history – has been quietly (and not so quietly) criticised by Catholics who are of a more traditionalist bent and by others who draw their breath from the Church’s institutional and rules-based ethos.

They have accused him of being too political and overly concerned with social issues, while doing too little to re-affirm the ad intra aspects that set Catholicism apart from “the world” and other religious (including other Christian) communities.

But 2018 will be the year when Francis will focus more fully to renew and reform the elements of Church governance. He will do so by continuing to work on re-shaping the structures and competence of the various offices of the Roman Curia. And he will continue his efforts to bring about a greater decentralisation of ecclesial authority and decision-making processes.

The Pope, in October, will convene the Synod of Bishops for the third time in his pontificate. The delegates of the world’s episcopate will be in Rome to take stock of the situation of young people around the globe and look at ways to help them grapple with issues concerning their faith and vocational discernment.

Francis and his aides have been busy trying to engage the world’s youth in helping them set the agenda for the Bishops’ summit. Thus, the upcoming Synod assembly will certainly be anything but boring. We might also expect Francis to further change the procedures of how these Synod gatherings are carried out.

Another area where the Latin-American pope will continue to put his mark on the global Church is through the appointment of new personnel in the Roman Curia and new bishops in dioceses around the world. There are a number of major sees that will need new shepherds in the next twelve months and we should expect to see Francis choosing them from men who, as he likes to say, “have the smell of the sheep.”

Naming new members to the College of Cardinals is also how a pope, perhaps more than any other way, influences the inner life of the Church — especially in helping to determine those who will be candidates to succeed him as Bishop of Rome.

Although there are only a half a dozen slots, he’ll be able to fill in the college. If he chooses to stick to the arbitrary limit of 120 electors set by Paul VI, it would be foolish to bet against Pope Francis’ willingness to raise that ceiling. Even if he does not, it is still likely that he’ll name a few more cardinals at some point in 2018. It is also conceivable that, once again, at least some of them will be in dioceses or other posts that are not usually held by a man in a red hat.

So, buckle up! The New Year has just begun. And from a papal point of view, it should be a very interesting and newsworthy one. -- LCI (international.la-croix.com)

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