Our previous Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, took a voluntary retirement from his position as the leader of the Catholic Church. It was the first time that any Pope decided to resign. Usually a Pope serve as a leader till their demise. But when Pope Benedict resigned, the whole world was left in a shock.
After the Papal elections, an Argentinean cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected as our new Pope. When he stepped out onto the balcony on March 13, 2013, nobody could have imagined how this man in simple white vestments would capture the world’s attention.
He chose the name Francis after St. Francis D’Assisi who sacrificed everything and lived his life serving the poor and nature. Some Pope’s change their names. No Pope is obligated to change his name. This is a pious tradition (not Sacred Tradition).
Pope Francis has a special energy that makes him completely different from the previously elected Pope’s. The first Jesuit pope and the first non-European pope in more than 1,200 years, he has done something’s no Pope has ever done before. He has a very outspoken style of approach in leading the church.
Pope Francis has had a great impact on the Catholic Church. First, his appearance, his face is very friendly and he is very approachable, unlike Pope Benedict, and his papal attire is very simple, unlike his predecessor Pope Benedict, who dazzled himself with red and gold. Pope Francis changed everything. He removed all the things that are royal from around his seating area and kept it all simple.
From canonizing saints by skipping the usual long procedure to adopting simplicity, here are some things that he did that had a great impact on the Catholic Church and the world:-
- Washing feet of prisoners and women
Jesus, before being crucified, had a last supper meal with his disciples. Before the meal he washed the feet of his disciples. It symbolises a master being humble enough to wash his disciples’ feet and to love one another as God loves you. During Jesus’ time, women were not given much importance in the Middle East. So Jesus washes the feet of men. This tradition is still followed every year on Maundy Thursday in the Catholic Church. Till this day, priests used to not wash any women’s feet. They washed only selected people’s feet (usually some one popular or someone very much involved in church activities). Vatican rules state it should be performed on men only. But Pope Francis shocked the world when he washed the feet of prisoners and women. This had never happened before in the Catholic Church. This one act had such a great impact on the Catholic Church and the world that many churches around the globe started doing what Pope Francis did!
- He addressed the wrongdoings of the church
He freely and openly told the world and the churches to not divert away from their actual mission. There were many political and social games being played in the churches across the globe. Some priests were giving more importance to money than God. They were giving out wrong messages. Francis believes the church has too many “small-minded” rules and hasn’t been shy about breaking them. He is not afraid to criticize the church. He is holding bishops more accountable for sex abuse
- He personally visited the people
On his trip to America, when his team was invited to have lunch with the leaders of America, he rejected it and chose to go eat the same meal with all the homeless people. He would make random calls to nuns and priests around the globe. He has made cold-calls to the sick, elderly and unemployed and spoke to them. He has visited so many sick people during his visit. He has allowed children to come to him. During one of his speeches, a child got up on the podium and sat on Pope’s chair. Pope let him sit there as long as he wanted. When others tried to take the child away, he stopped them saying, “Children are dear to Jesus.” No other Pope has ever done this. And who remembers the selfie!
- He is pushing for action to protect the environment and climate change
Pope Francis has given more importance to protecting the environment and dealing with global warming. He has spoken to world leaders and asked them to take up necessary measures. He has again and again at different occasions urged the people of the world to protect the environment.
- He raised his voice in support of many controversial social issues.
He has openly spoken about gay marriages, divorces and many other controversial social issues. He set in motion a high-level debate about whether the church could change its posture toward divorced people without altering a doctrine that declares marriage to be permanent and indissoluble. It is a hot issue within the church. Over the last two years, the Catholic Church has become more open to welcoming the LGBT community, all thanks to Pope Francis.
These are just a couple of his achievements. Pope Francis has been changing the Catholic Church and we are very much excited for all the new regulations.