It has been ten years since Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first Latin American Pope and took the name, Francis. In this decade, he has led the Catholic Church with his unique style, charisma, and controversial statements. As we mark the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ papacy, it’s an opportune time to reflect on his impact on the Catholic Church and the world at large.
The pontificate of Pope Francis has been marked by a clear emphasis on social justice, care for the poor, and protection of the environment. He has been a vocal advocate for migrants and refugees, calling on governments to provide them with support and protection. His first apostolic visit in 2013 was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where he spoke about the need to show compassion towards refugees and migrants. In 2019, he visited Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius, where he called for environmental protection and interfaith dialogue.
One of the defining moments of his papacy came in 2015 when he published his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. In it, he argued that the environmental crisis is a moral issue that requires individuals, governments, and corporations to respond. He called for a radical shift in our lifestyles and a renewed appreciation of the interconnectedness of all living things. The encyclical has been widely praised for its clear moral vision and call to action.
Pope Francis has also been a strong advocate for interfaith dialogue. He has reached out to leaders of other faiths, including Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists, and has called for greater understanding and respect between different religious traditions. In 2019, he became the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, where he met with Muslim leaders and signed a document on human fraternity.
Another significant aspect of Pope Francis’ papacy has been his approach to reform within the Catholic Church. He has called for a more decentralized Church, with greater decision-making power given to local bishops and laypeople. He has also sought to address the issue of sexual abuse within the Church and has established new procedures for investigating and disciplining abusive priests and bishops. In 2018, he held a historic summit on sexual abuse with bishops worldwide, calling for a “zero tolerance” approach.
One of the most controversial statements of Pope Francis’ papacy came in 2016, when he released Amoris Laetitia, a document on the family. Some saw the document as a departure from traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce. It, however, called for greater pastoral sensitivity towards divorced and remarried Catholics and opened the possibility of allowing them to receive Communion in certain circumstances.
In addition to his focus on social justice and interfaith dialogue, Pope Francis has also been a strong advocate for peace. In 2014, he hosted a prayer vigil at the Vatican for peace in the Middle East, which leaders of different faiths attended. He has also been a vocal critic of war and weapons of mass destruction. In 2019, he visited Japan, where he called for the abolition of nuclear weapons and met with survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Pope Francis has also been a champion of youth and young adults. In 2018, he held a Synod on Young People, which brought together bishops and young people from around the world to discuss issues such as faith, vocations, and the role of young people in the Church. He has also held several World Youth Days, bringing together millions of young Catholics worldwide to celebrate their faith and meet the pope.
Pope Francis has strongly advocated for peace and human rights in the political arena. He has spoken out against the excesses of capitalism and called for a more just and equitable economic system. He has criticized the growing gap between the rich and the poor and has called for measures to reduce poverty and inequality. In 2015, he addressed the United States Congress, called for an end to the arms trade and the death penalty, and urged lawmakers to do more to address climate change and immigration.
Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has also been a strong advocate for the sanctity of life. He has called for an end to abortion and euthanasia and has spoken out against using embryonic stem cells for research. He has also been a vocal opponent of the death penalty, calling it “an offense against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person.”
In recent years, Pope Francis’ papacy has been subject to controversy. His statements on issues such as homosexuality, contraception, and divorce and his approach to handling the sexual abuse crisis have drawn criticism from some traditionalists within the Church. However, his emphasis on mercy, compassion, and inclusion has also won him many admirers within and outside the Catholic Church. He has steadfastly committed to social justice, interfaith dialogue, and reforms within the Catholic Church.
As we mark the 10th anniversary of Pope Francis’ papacy, it’s clear that he has had a significant impact on the Catholic Church and the world. His emphasis on social justice, care for the poor, and protection of the environment has inspired millions of people worldwide to take action to make the world a better place. His calls for greater interfaith dialogue and understanding have helped build bridges between religious traditions. His efforts to reform the Catholic Church have led to greater accountability and transparency.
As we look to the future, it’s clear that Pope Francis will continue to play an important role in shaping the Catholic Church and the world. His commitment to social justice, peace, and human rights is as strong as ever, and his vision of a more just and equitable world inspires us all. Let us join him in his efforts to build a better world for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or background.
Catholic Trends is a private and non-profit media organization that provides global news coverage of the Catholic Church with a critical eye on the Church’s activities in Ghana. The views espoused in this piece are based on factual observations made in the ten years of Pope Francis’ Papacy.