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Happy first anniversary, Pope Francis!

Pope Francis. (Photo added by MB)
Photo Credit: Max Rossi, added by MB to DK photo pool.
Raised Catholic, I had “fallen away” over the years and paid little attention to the Church other than to be disgusted over the scandal of pervasive child abuse and the blatant cover-up of these crimes which protected the priests while sacrificing the innocence of children.

I was glad that my Aunt Marie did not live to see what evil days had befallen her beloved faith.

Then Pope Benedict resigned, and the cardinals picked this humble Argentinian pastor who was a Vatican outsider. When he chose the name of Francis, I was electrified.

St. Francis, patron of the poor and God’s creatures, was a revolutionary choice. Legend has it that St. Francis heard the crucified Christ tell him to “rebuild my church”. At first, he took it literally and began a renovation of the church in which he prayed; however, he soon realized that this Voice called him to do much more. A rich scion, St. Francis took a vow of poverty and established the Franciscans and Poor Clares, shaking up the corrupt Church of 800 years ago with his simple Gospel message of love.

Pope Francis’ first appearance to the throngs of the faithful waiting in St. Peter’s square was emblematic of who he is. In his simple garments and silver cross, he greeted the crowd secularly with “good evening”, and they went wild. Then he asked them to pray for him and the crowd fell into prayerful silence.

Few knew just how much he would need those prayers of the people.

The Church’s sex abuse scandals were only the outward sign of the true rot that permeated the Church of Rome. The PBS Frontline documentary, Secrets of the Vatican, revealed as never before an organization run by crony clericalism which strong-armed critics, laundered money for the Mafia, and held bacchanal orgies of complete sexual license, rivaling the Roman rule of Caligula.

The Catholic Church is an ancient and moribund institution mired in centuries-old tradition and corruption. Many of the changes called for in Vatican II have not as yet been instituted. Pope Francis faces all of this not only with courage but with joy. I am astonished at the changes he has brought in his first year and look forward to a long papacy as he makes his indelible mark.

Although Pope Francis' new style of openness raising the possibility of change has been welcomed worldwide, there is one bastion of power which is not as welcoming.

"There are some who think that he has stripped the papacy of its aura, (that) this pope has become too accessible, too close to the people," said Andrea Tornielli of the website Vatican Insider".
One event I am anticipating is the upcoming synod on the family here in the United States, long a holdout on the Church's teachings on family matters.
Francis has called a synod for October -- only the third of its kind since the 1960s -- to focus on family matters, and in the interview he declared that birth control will be a topic for discussion, as will divorce. Last month, German Cardinal Walter Kasper delivered an address raising the issue of divorced Catholics who remarry, asking if it wasn't "perhaps an exploitation of the person" to bar them from receiving communion. Francis called it a "beautiful and profound presentation" and welcomed the intense discussion it generated among the cardinals.
I do not expect Pope Francis not to be Catholic; he has said that he is a "son of the Church". However, I do expect mercy.

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