Fr Tony Flannery said German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller is leading the fight against Francis agenda.Irish Voice

How many legions has the Pope, Josef Stalin is said to have asked when trying to assess his power.

None of course, but in an increasingly fraught world where leadership is more elusive than ever, Pope Francis has been a shining exception.

Cardinal Bergoglio from Argentina was no one’s pick for Pope, but the 77-year-old pontiff has revitalized the church in extraordinary fashion.

He has consistently sought to impose a vision, not one mandated but one agreed and discussed and made all the more empowering as a result.

Last week’s Synod of Bishops in Rome was just the latest example. They gathered from all over the world for a session that was as unusual as it was exhilarating.

Under any other recent Pope the synod would have been a rubber stamp, with as much disagreement as a politburo meeting in the old Kremlin.

Instead dissent and debate bloomed and it was wonderful to see.

The conservative clerics have made it clear that they feel Francis is going too far in his embrace of more understanding of gays and divorced Catholics.

But instead of having their voices muted, they spoke in full-throated dissent and were heard across the world.

Agree or disagree with them, it was high time the lines of discussion were laid bare and the task ahead of a more unified church quantified.

It was ingenious of Francis to let the dissenters be heard to encourage debate and argument and to leave both sides feeling shortchanged by the final outcome.

But the synod did much more setting out the Francis style of consultation and discussion and no iron fist.

This is a man who understands that wielding power is about moving carefully but decisively.

The Pope considers us all human and fallible, and his papacy is centered on the notion of forgiveness and reconciliation.

He clearly wants a more inclusive and open church, one that will make way for the sinner not seek to prevent them being part of the great edifice.

It is a brave message in a world that demands certainty and often-extreme positions in order to get noticed.

“God is not afraid of new things!” Francis preached on Sunday. “Here is where our true strength is found. … It is so that we can live this life to the fullest -- with our feet firmly planted on the ground -- and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”

Francis is not flavor of the month on the right or indeed on the left, but one has the impression of a deeply caring leader leading exactly from where he wants to be, a little left of center rather like the South American church he springs from.

There will be much more to come from Francis and from the final conclusions of the synod, but it is certainly a first step in addressing the deep divisions and fractures that have damaged the church in the modern era.