“As the initial surprise and euphoria gradually fade, and we all become accustomed to the evident change of style in Pope Francis’ manner of exercising his role, we await news of the kinds of substantial change that he undoubtedly wishes to bring about.” So writes Kevin O’Higgins SJ, back from Peru and working in the Jesuit University Support Trust (JUST) in Ballymun.
Not a Magician, Maybe a Conjurer
Kevin O’Higgins SJ
As the initial surprise and euphoria gradually fade, and we all become accustomed to the evident change of style in Pope Francis’ manner of exercising his role, we await news of the kinds of substantial change that he undoubtedly wishes to bring about.The change of style should not be dismissed as superficial or unimportant. During the past year, it has been remarkable to observe the way in which the background ‘mood music’ in the Church has switched from being sombre and full of foreboding to something more light-hearted and hopeful.
Nobody could reasonably expect Pope Francis to wave a magic wand and make all of the Church’s many problems disappear instantaneously. But he has certainly succeeded in conjuring up a new, more optimistic atmosphere in which, at least, it is possible to envisage some of these problems being addressed and resolved. That, in itself, is a considerable achievement in such a short space of time.
When it comes to change of real substance, I expect Pope Francis to be guided by the Concluding Document of the Latin American Bishops’ meeting at Aparecida (Brazil) in 2007. As Cardinal Bergoglio, he played a central role in compiling this document, and he has referred to it constantly over the past year, most notably during the amazing 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.
In one of the concluding paragraphs of Aparecida we read: “This Fifth Conference, recalling the command to go and make disciples (cf. Mt 28:20), wishes to awaken the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean toward a missionary impulse. We cannot let this hour of grace slip by. We need a new Pentecost!” I believe these words provide a good, general indication of Pope Francis’ thinking as he begins to tackle reform of the Church’s central bureaucracy, thereby paving the way for a new, global missionary effort.