Pope Francis lays out a blueprint for his papacy in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’

Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis carries his crosier after celebrating Mass in the piazza outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. The pontiff was making his first pilgrimage as pope to the birthplace of his papal namesake. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

ROME (RNS) Laying out a blueprint for the issues that are likely to define his papacy, Pope Francis on Tuesday (Nov. 26) issued a biting critique of capitalism, calling on world leaders to fight against poverty and for the rich to share their wealth, and urging the media to adjust its priorities.

 

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” Francis asked in an 84-page “apostolic exhortation” that is widely seen as a road map for his papacy akin to a presidential State of the Union address.

“How can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?” he asked. “Today, everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without possibilities, without any means of escape.”

While Francis did not address any major new topics in the document, he expounded on some of the topics he has prioritized since becoming pope last March: poverty, inequality, justice and the role of women in the church.

His  championing of some of these issues have earned him accolades from around the world, but also raised security concerns as some of the reforms he is pushing challenge entrenched powers. Some conservative parts of the church have also questioned whether he is downplaying traditional areas of sexual morality.

Francis blasted the “idolatry of money” in the world financial system, which he called “an economy of exclusion and inequality.” He also called on the church itself to work from the trenches: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confirmed and from clinging to its own security.”

Regarding women in the church, Francis reiterated that the ordination of women was “not a question open to discussion,” but said woman should play a larger role in “decision-making” going forward.

The pope’s inclusion of women’s ordination was significant as an attempt to tamp down expectations among liberals that, after decades of conservative dominance, Francis might revolutionize the church by ordaining women. Yet, despite drawing strict boundaries, Francis nonetheless said the role of women presents the church with “profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.”

The Rev. James Martin, a fellow Jesuit and editor at large of America Magazine, said the document painted Francis’ vision of the church as a “joyful community of believers completely unafraid of the modern world.”

The 84-page document, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), was significant for where it pointed its criticisms: the pontiff called for action rather than faith in the benevolence of the powerful, and instead of simply urging good will toward the needy, he said there was a need for economic regulation.

“A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders.,” he said. “I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule!”

The document, which will be published in book form in English by Ignatius Press next month, is considered one of most authoritative of papal statements. Earlier this year, Francis issued his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” (Light of Faith), but it was largely the unfinished work of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

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4 Responses to “Pope Francis lays out a blueprint for his papacy in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’”

  1. Denis Eble

    Pope Francis said,” I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confirmed and from clinging to its own security.”

    Whoa! What will this mean for the more traditional, more churchy Catholic? I’m not sure some in the flock want to dirty their hands out on the streets. They’d prefer lighting a votive candle with the smell of incense wafting up their nostrils.

    Perhaps Pope Francis was referring to these customs when he further said, “Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives.”

    I’d say that the Pope is looking for a new direction for the Catholic Church- a church of social action rather than personal piety. There will be backlash for sure. Perhaps even a schism. Yet, as he said, he directs Catholics to follow the example of Jesus as told in the Gospels. Matthew 25.

    Lastly, when he blasted the “idolatry of money” in the world financial system, which he called “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” my mind flashed back to Sarah Palin’s snarky dig at President Obama about ‘spreading the wealth.’

    Maybe the Pope is a Democrat??

  2. Michele Joseph

    Sure enough, Denis, you were right ! Just a day later from your comment, the well-known spiritual leader,Rush Limbaugh, stated that the Pope had “pure
    Marxism” spewing from his mouth !
    I wasn’t aware that the Rev. Rush knew so much about the Gospels & the ministry of Jesus Christ ! Well, live & learn.
    I’m like you. From the very first day, Pope Francis has seemed to me to be
    bringing a new day for the Church.
    Maybe it will be like the Church is Lazarus, about to get up and walk again.

  3. Denis Eble

    So the Leader of the Catholic Church is a Marxist? Rev. Limbaugh? Ha!

    Pity the man, the disc jockey turned radio jock. I don’t see any ministerial studies or theological college degree in his biography. Would he recognize a Marxist if he saw or heard one? Perhaps he’s angry because the Pope called-out billionaires like Limbaugh.

    Wait a minute, seems to me I’ve heard this same story before- where a brave man of faith calls out the wealthy man for being satisfied with the accumulation of money. Mark 10:17-21

  4. Michele Joseph

    Yes. Thank you. Mark 10:17-21. I pulled it out and read it again.
    I think both of Them ( Jesus & the Pope) are very threatening to the Titans
    of the Universe that rule todays’ world.
    Suppose, we, as individuals, were to do that,”sell all & give to the poor,
    and follow”? For those of us who have very little to begin with,what if
    we were to detach from our desire ? What if we were to buy only what we truly need, only from sellers who have proven to be honest, respectful, humane
    toward their employees & customers.
    We could take our country back.
    And, we wouldn’t have time to listen to, read about, or care about the drug-crazed ramblings of a fat addict-we’d be out & about, using our precious
    days to serve the needs of our brothers & sisters.

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