Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who is personally close to the pope, says he worries that people expect too much from him, especially on visits he makes outside the Vatican, stressing he was not a young man.
He was speaking in a lengthy interview in the Boston Globe.
The cardinal joined 77-year-old Francis on a visit to the Italian city of Assisi on Oct. 4, and saw the incredible pressure he was under.
“They dragged him to every cave, every altar, and every crypt,” he said. “Everywhere he would go, someone would stand up and say, ‘This is the first time a pope has ever come here.’ I kept thinking, ‘He shouldn’t be here this time!’ ”
“He’s not a young man,” O’Malley said “and he’s got to husband his strength and his health.”
O’Malley indicated a papal visit to the US is likely in September 2015 to Philadelphia and New York. A Vatican sponsored “World Meeting of Families”in Philadelphia will be the main reason for the visit.
He also said he expected women to play a more prominent role in the church but not be allowed into the priesthood.
He stated Francis may name a woman as head of a major department in the Vatican.“I think we’re all anxious to have more lay people involved, particularly more women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican,” he said.
He also signaled a possible change on the length of time it took to have marriages annulled. by having them dealt with locally. and made more “user friendly.”
“Sometimes the process can drag on for years, and that shouldn’t happen,” he said.
However on issues such an contraception, abortion, homosexuality, O’Malley said he expected little change.
“I don’t see the pope as changing doctrine,’’ O’Malley said
“The church needs to be faithful to the Gospel and to Christ’s teaching,” O’Malley said. “Sometimes that’s very difficult. We have to follow what Christ wants..”
O’Malley felt Francis believed in recent times that the church had become “too strident, maybe too repetitious.”
The pope “wants to focus more on evangelism, mercy, and care for the poor.” O’Malley said.
O’Malley’s read on Francis carries special weight.
He is the only American cardinal who knew Francis knew well before his election. he had stayed at the Buenos Aires home of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio and he is fluent in Spanish.
He is the only American bishop on the council of eight cardinal advisors.
O’Malley also said that Francis’ eloquent concern for the poor is having an impact
“If people only think of the Church in terms of the sex abuse crisis or the culture wars, and that makes our job very challenging,” he said.
“But when they say, ‘Oh, the Church is about announcing the Good News, about God’s love for us, that God wants us to be touched by his mercy and his love and that we have to take care of one another,’ that’s the Gospel we all want to preach,” he said. “Francis has done it so well, which makes it easier for all of us.”
“We’re proud of him, that he’s so popular and has captured the hearts and the imagination of the world,” O’Malley said. “We expect Catholics to love the Holy Father, but not Rolling Stone.”