Good start for new Catholic Church leader - Pope Francis epitomizes simpler, clearer faith

Pope Francis I

The inauguration of a new pope is always a cause for great celebration in the Catholic Church, and the election of Francis I has been no exception.

He has struck a remarkable chord for a man in office just a few days and has clearly tapped into a deep need among Catholics for a simpler, clearer faith.

His first acts in refusing the ostentatious trappings of office have gone down very well, as has his life story of living in humble circumstances as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, cooking for himself in a simple apartment and using public transport.

It’s clear that there was a reaction against the gilded church in the conclave, and Francis fit the bill.

Taking the name Francis was a masterstroke, aligning himself with the most popular saint in the church’s canon and sending a clear message about his priorities.

After the gilded age of Benedict and the relentless scandals dogging the church, Francis has no easy task to carry out.

However, he appears to be widely recognized as a man of action and commitment which is what the church badly needs.

Yet it is hard to see how a 76-year-old man with just one lung can have the energy and vitality to undertake the sweeping changes that the new pope needs to enact.

Tackling the Roman Curia, which has blocked any advancement of Vatican II in recent decades, is just one of the mighty tasks that Francis must undertake.

He must also put the church sex abuse scandal behind the church by forthrightly ordering that there is absolutely zero tolerance for such activity.

The church is in deep trouble in countries such as Ireland precisely because of such scandals, and Francis must make it an absolute necessity that issues be addressed in an open and compassionate manner.

His lifestyle apart, Francis does not seem to have any major differences with his predecessor on issues such as celibacy, gay marriage or women priests.

All such policies are defended as part of the historical legacy of the church, but if Abraham Lincoln had the same attitude to slavery then there would be blacks in chains today.

An overarching vision of a church for the new century should be most on the agenda for Francis, and radical change is called for as vocations plummet and scandals multiply.

But in fairness it is an enormous task for one man, and he has made a bright beginning. Even his worst critics admit that he has immediately refocused the church on its primary mission of helping those who are poor and in need.

He has many tough years ahead, but we wish the new pope well throughout.