In his April 2019 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christo Vivit (Christ is Alive), Pope Francis wrote, “Let us ask the Lord to free the Church from those who would make her grow old, encase her in the past, hold her back, or keep her at a standstill.”
While critics may interpret the bold pronouncement as a dig against defenders of centuries-old traditions and beliefs in the Catholic Church, it’s actually Lolo Kiko’s call to keep the Church and her timeless messages of love and faith relevant in a constantly evolving world.
Indeed, since he assumed the papacy on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis has gained the world’s attention—and admiration—for displaying open-mindedness and inclusivity in situations put before him. Who could forget the cold call he made to a woman pregnant with the baby of a married man, and told her he would personally baptize her infant if a priest turned her away. And then there’s the now-viral video of the Pope gently assuring the timid Emanuele that his atheist father would go to heaven.
My Pope highlights three other instances when Pope Francis practiced what he had been preaching from the start: to be “a free Church that is open to the challenges of the present, never on the defensive for fear of losing something,” as he told a group of Italian Catholics in November 2015.
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When he shows mercy and support toward the LGBT community.
In July 2013, Pope Francis was asked to comment about gay men in the priesthood. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord in goodwill, who am I to judge?” The reply, which quickly circulated worldwide, revealed his compassion for a sector that is harshly condemned for its orientation and choices.
Despite his detractors, the Pope continued to “welcome, not exclude, and show mercy, not condemnation” for LGBT. “When a person (who is gay) arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, ‘Go away because you are homosexual,’” he said in October 2016.
When he made it obligatory to report sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Just this May in an Apostolic letter set to become Church law, Pope Francis mandated that clerics and other officials are obligated to report incidents of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
It’s a groundbreaking development, to say the least. Reports of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church date back to the 1950s and continue to persist due to cover-ups on the part of the clergy, and fear and shame on the victims’ part. Pope Francis’s own efforts to end the abuse by setting up a special panel to investigate the matter have encountered setbacks, but he’s not giving up, as his Apostolic letter proves.
When he revised a line in The Lord’s Prayer.
It seems sacrilegious tweaking beloved prayers that have long been ingrained into our system, but Pope Francis did just that when he approved changing a line of the Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.”
“A father doesn’t do that,” he reasons. “A father helps you get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation—that’s his department.”
While it’s a move met with mixed reviews, Francis is sticking to his guns. “Christian prayer does not close its eyes on life,” he told members of a General Audience last May. “It is a filial prayer, not an infantile one.”