Popular But Facing Opposition, Francis Marks 10 years As Pope
Pope Francis marks 10 years as head of the Catholic Church on Monday, hugely popular but facing internal dissent after a decade of reform, even if he has left basic doctrine intact.
When he appeared at the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on March 13, 2013, in his plain white papal robes, the newly elected Jorge Bergoglio immediately presented an image of a different kind of papacy.
The smiling, outspoken Jesuit was in sharp contrast to his reserved, intellectual predecessor Benedict XVI, who shocked the world by becoming the first pope since the Middle Ages to resign.
And Francis had a plan – to reform the governance of the Church plagued by inertia, clean up its murky finances and turn its focus outwards.
While he has not deviated from some staunch Catholic beliefs — he has called abortion murder and homosexuality a sin – he has shown a more compassionate and less dogmatic approach, including condemning the persecution of gay people.
“No more demonisation of homosexuality, debates on extramarital relations or the contraceptive pill… all that has been taken off the table,” noted Italian Vaticanist Marco Politi.
Instead, the 86-year-old pontiff — who is seemingly never happier than when among his flock — has emphasised social justice, inter-religious dialogue, the environment and the rights of refugees.
Francis has said he would follow Benedict in stepping down if his health made him unable to do his job, but also says resigning should not be the norm, and was not on his agenda.
But preparations for a conclave, at which a successor would be chosen, “have already started — and not manoeuvres on names, but on the ideological platform of the future pope”, Politi told AFP.
On that too, however, Francis is leaving his mark, having so far appointed 65 per cent of the cardinals who will one day elect his successor.