TIME White House

Pope Francis Will Visit the White House

Pope Francis arrives under heavy rain, for his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on March 25, 2015.
Gabriel Bouys—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis arrives under heavy rain, for his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican on March 25, 2015.

Will discuss immigration with President Obama, among other things

Pope Francis will meet with President Obama during his trip to the United States later this year, the White House announced Thursday.

The Pope will visit the White House on September 23, according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, where Obama and Pope Francis will speak about “caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

The two leaders met last year when Obama visited the Vatican in March 2014. The upcoming visit in September is part of a larger trip for Pope Francis; during his first visit to the United States as Pope, he will also be addressing Congress and speaking at the U.N. The trip is set to take place from September 22-27.

Read next: Why Pope Francis Is Obsessed With Mary

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TIME Vatican

Read Pope Francis’ Message to the French Alps Crash Victims’ Families

Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 25, 2015.
Andrew Medichini—AP Pope Francis speaks during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 25, 2015.

The Pope "prays for peace" for those killed on the Germanwings flight

Pope Francis wants to give “strength and consolation” to the families of the victims of Tuesday’s deadly Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps.

“He expresses his deep sympathy for all those touched by this tragedy, as well as for the rescue workers working in difficult conditions,” reads a Tuesday telegram from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. A memorial mass for all the victims was also held on Tuesday.

A hundred and fifty people “including many children,” the telegram notes, appear to have been killed when a Germanwings A320 Airbus crashed in a snowy region of the French Alps. More than a dozen passengers were German school children returning from an exchange-program trip in Spain.

The full statement, via Vatican Radio, reads:

“Having learned of the tragic plane crash in the region of Digne, which caused many casualties, including many children, His Holiness Pope Francis joins in the grief of the families, expressing his closeness to them in sorrow. He prays for peace for the deceased, entrusting them to the mercy of God that He might welcome them into His dwelling place of peace and light. He expresses his deep sympathy for all those touched by this tragedy, as well as for the rescue workers working in difficult conditions. The Holy Father asks the Lord to give strength and consolation to all, and, as a comfort, he invokes upon them the abundance of divine Blessings.”

TIME faith

Watch Pope Francis Get a Pizza in a Moving Popemobile

When you’re the Pope, your wishes really do come true

Pope Francis said earlier this month that the one thing that bugged him about being Pontiff was not being able to go out unnoticed to get pizza.

At least one Neapolitan sympathized with the Pope.

In a fearless act caught on video, pizzeria owner Enzo Cacialli ran toward the Pope’s motorcade in Naples—the legendary home of pizza—and handed the Pontiff a personal pie. Pope Francis reached down and accepted the offering, which had “Il Papa” spelled out in dough on top.

“It’s really hard for me to understand what I managed to do,” Cacialli told CNN. “Giving a pizza you made with your own hands to the Pope is very emotional. It’s really hard for me to express the value of this gesture for a man we really love and value, for a beautiful person full of humanity.”

Read next: How the World Knew What to Expect From Pope Francis

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TIME Leaders

Pope Francis Will Speak at the U.N.

Pope Francis talks about importance of grandparents
Marco Campagna—Demotix/Corbis Pope Francis blesses the faithful, Vatican City, March 11, 2015.

The Pope will hold a town hall meeting with U.N. staff

Pope Francis will visit the U.N. in September during its annual gathering of world leaders.

The Pope will address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 25, meet with U.N. leadership and participate in a town hall meeting with U.N. staff, according to a statement issued Wednesday by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s office.

“His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit will inspire the international community to redouble its efforts to achieve human dignity for all through ensuring greater social justice, tolerance and understanding among all of the world’s peoples,” the Secretary General’s statement says.

Pope Francis’ visit to the U.N. will come one day after he is scheduled to address Congress in Washington, D.C. He will be in the United States from Sept. 22-27.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Says His Tenure May Last Less Than 5 Years

Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass during his pastoral visit to the parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore in Rome
Alessandro Bianchi—Reuters Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass during his pastoral visit to the parish of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore in Rome on March 8, 2015.

"I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more"

Pope Francis, who was named pontiff two years ago on Friday, said he doesn’t expect to be Pope much longer.

In an interview with the Mexican broadcaster Televisa published Friday, the Argentine Pope predicted a “brief” tenure for himself. “I have the feeling that my pontificate will be brief: four or five years; I do not know, even two or three,” Pope Francis, 78, said. “Two have already passed. It is a somewhat vague sensation.”

“Maybe it’s like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed and if he wins, is happy. I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more … But it is a feeling. I always leave the possibility open,” he said.

The papal post is traditionally held until death, though Francis’s predecessor Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 after roughly seven years in office, becoming the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years. The current Pope has suggested in the past that he would lead a short papacy and he has not ruled out retiring.

In the interview released Friday, Francis said he does not dislike being Pope, but said one thing in particular does bug him. “The one thing that I would like is to go out, without anyone recognizing me, and go to a pizzeria to eat pizza,” Francis said.

Read an English translation of the interview here.

TIME faith

How the World Knew What to Expect From Pope Francis

Pope TIME Cover
Cover Credit: STEFANO DAL POZZOLO / CONTRASTO / REDUX The Mar. 25, 2013, cover of TIME

On Mar. 13, 2013, the Vatican announced that a new Pope had been chosen

It was exactly two years ago that the Vatican announced that a new Pope had been chosen. The tweet, Habemus Papam Franciscum, has since been deleted — the Vatican wiped previous tweets when Pope Francis’ team began using it — but it wasn’t the only sign that, since day one, this Pope was different.

The man who has spent the last two years breaking down some stereotypes about his office was already doing so just by being a contender. His Latin American and Jesuit background, his age and his alignment with some of the Church’s more moderate leadership all made him, in some ways, a long-shot for the job. He wasn’t about to uproot Church doctrine, but it was immediately clear that he would follow that doctrine in a new way. As TIME’s explained in the magazine’s cover story about the Cardinals’ selection:

Bergoglio will not stray from the conservative doctrines of the rest of the Vatican. But unlike some of the other often opaquely eloquent Cardinals, he brings a prosaic and experiential perspective to administering the church. “We have to avoid the spiritual sickness of a self-referential church,” Bergoglio told La Stampa, talking about evangelism. “It’s true that when you get out into the street, as happens to every man and woman, there can be accidents. However, if the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old … I have no doubts about preferring the former.” His lifestyle is spartan compared with that of other princes of the church. He does not live in a Cardinal’s palace, and in Buenos Aires, he takes the bus to work. On March 13, as crowds gathered in the Argentine capital to celebrate, one young priest in the crowd said, “He’s the Vicar of Christ, but I used to see him riding with us on the subway.”

He will deliver much-needed oxygen to parts of the Catholic empire. Just before the conclave convened, he celebrated his 55th year as a member of the Society of Jesus—popularly called the Jesuits. That itself is a matter of rejoicing for the order—even though Bergoglio is on the conservative end of the often liberal Jesuit scale. The order has seen its once formidable influence wane as the star of Opus Dei rose during the reign of John Paul II. Bergoglio’s choice of name is also telling. Many people immediately saw the reference to the great saint of the church, Francis of Assisi. But anyone raised by the Jesuits would have heard the resonance of another great saint and member of the Society of Jesus: the evangelist to Asia, Francis Xavier. In Mexico City, stunned Jesuits simply murmured “the Argentine” at the news, with one older priest saying, “Our first Pope—let us pray for him and for our church.”

Read the full cover story, here in the TIME archives: New World Pope

TIME The Vatican

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Pope Francis

ITALY-POPE-VISIT
ANDREAS SOLARO—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis (C) greets the crowd as he arrives for a visit to the Roman Parish of "Ognissanti" on March 7, 2015 in Rome.

The pontiff marks two years ahead the Catholic Church this week

Pope Francis, who marks his second year as leader of the Catholic Church this week, has garnered the type of favorability ratings that any leader would envy. In a Pew poll released last week, nine out of ten Catholics in America gave the Pope high marks—nearly on par with the hugely popular Pope John Paul II’s top ratings. Around the world, sixty percent of Catholic and non-Catholic respondents alike said they viewed Francis favorably.

And his achievements have extended beyond popularity. As Francis’s tenure reaches the two-year mark, the Pope can already look back on significant economic reforms at the Vatican, published a report condemning unbridled capitalism and fueled an evolving discussion on divorce and homosexuality throughout the Church (not to mention being named TIME’s Person of the Year in 2013).

So how has a relatively obscure Jesuit cardinal from Latin America become such a successful leader? Here are five lessons that Pope Francis’s early tenure offer drawn from The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen, Jr.

1. Set an example
The reformist Pope immediately set his sights on the Vatican’s finances, aiming to clean up a regular source of scandal. For the Pope—who took his name from the saint who devoted himself to a life of poverty—financial reform was a priority because it brought “together the three vices that distress him more than anything else: corruption, exaggerated clerical privilege and indifference to the poor,” Allen writes

But he also knew that ensuring clean books at the highest levels would set an example of good governance for the entire Church and clear the path for pursuing a wider agenda. “Today, perhaps the most audacious of all of Pope Francis’s plans is to make the Vatican into a global model of best practices in financial administration—not just as an end in itself but as a way of leading the Church at all levels to clean up its act,” Allen writes.

2. Don’t just hire your friends
Australian Cardinal George Pell was an unlikely candidate for spearheading Francis’s financial reforms. A staunch conservative, Pell was privately disappointed with the Pope’s election, concerned that he would lead the Vatican down a liberal path. In size–he’s a 6-foot-3 former Australian football player–and in personality, he also differed from the soft-spoken Pontiff.

But Francis had heard Pell’s rants against the status of the Church’s finances and knew that his blunt style would be effective in pushing reforms through the traditional institution. At a meeting in March 2014 during which the two spoke Italian because neither was comfortable in each other’s language, Francis asked Pell to become his finance czar.

3. Take advice seriously
From the very beginning, Francis has demonstrated a willingness to listen to those around him. As his first substantial move in office, for example, he created a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprising eight members from around the global who hold ideologically diverse views. The group has since advised him on each of his major actions, and Allen calls it the “the most important decision-making force in the Vatican.” Meanwhile, Pope Francis has given renewed significance to the Synod of Bishops, an advisory group that Pope John Paul II was known to occasionally sit through while reading a book. Francis, by contrast, attended one meeting almost entirely unannounced to join in the discussion (Allen compared it to a U.S. president walking into a meeting of a House committee), and he placed a heavy emphasis on the rare Extraordinary Synod that he convened to discuss family issues like divorce and remarriage.

4. But also be willing to ignore advice
The Pope has also been willing to act unilaterally to ensure that his agenda moves forward, such as when he named Bishop Nunzio Galantino to be secretary-general of the powerful Episcopal Conference of Italy in December 2013. Galantino had a reputation of modesty that reflected Pope Francis’s persona,eschewing, for example, formal titles and rejecting a secretary or chauffeur. But he was not terribly popular with the Italian clergy. When Francis asked for potential names to fill the role of secretary-general, nearly 500 Italian clergymen submitted their recommendations and Galantino received only a single nod. Francis chose him anyway.

5. Be accessible
As the head of the Vatican, Pope Francis has plenty of headaches to deal with at home. But he’s also the leader of nearly 1.1 billion Catholics, and he has made an impressive effort to connect with his followers. There’s no better example of his outreach efforts than the cold-calls he makes to unexpecting people around the world. There was the call to Michele Ferri, the 14-year-old brother of a gas station operator who had been killed in an armed robbery; a call to a Vatican critic who was sick in the hospital; a call to an Italian woman who had beseeched the Pope in a letter to help her solve the mystery of her daughter’s murder; and many more that have not been reported in the media. In one case that was reported, the Pope dialed (he does the calling, not an aide) a convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns in Spain to wish a happy New Year. When they didn’t pick up, he left a message, jokingly asking, “What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer?” (praying, according to a local media report) He later called back, and this time the nuns were gathered around the phone to talk with Francis on speakerphone.

TIME

Will the Francis Revolution Last?

TIME Books

Not every pope with a game-changing dream succeeds in transforming the Church

This month marks the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election. The following is taken from THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen Jr.

Pope Francis enthusiasts desperately want his papacy to succeed in overhauling Catholicism, while detractors fear that the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to roll back what they see as mistakes. Both camps tend to ask the same bottom-line question: “Will it last?” That is to say, will Pope Francis be a flash in the pan, a symbol of unrealized possibilities? Or will he permanently change the inner life of the Catholic Church and the way it presents itself to the outside world?

To some extent, the answer depends on how change is defined. If one means substantive alterations in Church teaching—for instance, acceptance of abortion; gay marriage; allowing couples to use contraception; and welcoming women priests—then the answer is no. Francis has made it clear that he’s not a doctrinal radical and does not intend to upend the catechism (the official collection of Catholic doctrine). On the other hand, if one sees change as a reorientation of Catholicism toward the political center, the geographical and existential peripheries and the heart of the gospel, then it’s possible Francis will leave an imprint on the Church that will outlive his own reign, however long or short it turns out to be.

Francis has moved aggressively to shuffle personnel in key positions. He has moved toward greater internationalization (dethroning Italians as the Vatican’s financial power brokers) and chosen moderates as opposed to traditionalist hard-liners. He has also started to appoint bishops around the world who share his views, notably the new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich. Francis has acted with equal vigor on the legislative front, decreeing, among other things, a sweeping overhaul of the Vatican’s financial operation in the direction of greater transparency and accountability and issuing a series of new laws that make it virtually impossible for any future pope to return to the status quo ante.

The Francis revolution is being felt at the level of in-the-trenches application of doctrine rather than the doctrine itself. The pope is trying to encourage the most generous, merciful and flexible application possible, making it clear that his Church wants to include rather than exclude and sees people living in less-than-ideal ways as souls on the path to redemption rather than enemies who need to be excoriated. While the tension between rigor and acceptance is a constant in Catholic life—and no pope can fully alter the balance—there’s no question that in a remarkably short time, Francis has emboldened those who accent tolerance and discouraged those who want to battle with the outside world.

To what extent that new approach endures depends on a host of variables. For one thing, it may hinge on how long Francis is able to keep going at his current pace and to what extent he’s able to curb his tendency to overextend himself. It may also depend on whether he imposes a term limit on himself, following the example of Benedict XVI and resigning from the papacy in order to make way for a new approach. It depends, too, on which side of his soul prevails: the go-it-alone pontiff who believes he was elected to lead, or the pope committed to decentralization who is reluctant to overrule a body of bishops that is not always eager to follow him. It also depends on whether he continues to amass political capital or whether his papacy is blindsided by an unforeseen scandal or crisis. Perhaps, most fundamentally, the shelf life of Francis’s imprint will depend on how ready Catholics at the grass roots around the world are to embrace it and carry it forward, even when Francis himself is off the scene.

The key point to understanding Francis is this: beneath his humble, simple exterior lies the mind of a brilliant Jesuit politician. Francis is spontaneous and often unscripted, but he’s never naive. Behind his seemingly impulsive and extemporaneous flourishes is a clear conception of where he wants to go and how to get there. His supporters believe he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that his vision for Catholicism is more than a beguiling but largely unrealized dream. Yet it’s worth recalling that not every pope with a game-changing dream succeeds in transforming the Church.

***

There are really only five ways a pope can institutionalize change in the Catholic Church, not just for the duration of his papacy but to reorient it in a decisive way for years to come. First, he can summon an ecumenical council, as Pope John XXIII did on Jan. 25, 1959, when he announced Vatican II. Second, he can appoint bishops who share his vision and who will translate it into practice in dioceses and parishes around the world. Third, he can change the law of the Church to make his way of doing things not merely a pious example but a binding requirement. Fourth, he can issue teachings that set the Church on a new path. And finally, he can create new structures in the Church as a permanent expression of a particular priority.

Francis’s mission is likely to come to fruition through the bishops he appoints, the laws he issues and the structures he creates.

The Catholic system is such that the bishop is the closest thing left on the planet to a feudal lord. The Code of Canon Law makes the bishop the supreme authority in his diocese, and although bishops are ultimately subject to the authority of the pope, in reality it’s impossible for Rome to exercise close supervision over the thousands of prelates around the world. Even when the Church tries to impose checks and balances, those limits are often more nominal than real. For example, Church law requires that a bishop have the approval of a diocesan finance council for certain types of expenditures, but it also allows the bishop to appoint the members of that council. If a bishop is so inclined, he can just pick people likely to rubber-stamp whatever he wants to do.

***

A pope can fire a bishop if he has a serious complaint about his performance, either by directly removing him from office or by informing him that his resignation is expected. Francis has already removed German bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van-Elst (the so-called “bling bishop”) from the diocese of Limburg in the wake of an overspending scandal. Considering the number of bishops in the world, however, such interventions remain rare. Everything about the culture of the Catholic Church assigns the benefit of the doubt to a bishop, and for the most part bishops have the power to govern their diocese as they see fit.

Bishops don’t have to stand for reelection, so they stay in their jobs until they either reach the retirement age of 75 or are sent to a different bishopric. But even when that happens, Catholic theology holds that “once a bishop, always a bishop,” and in those relatively rare cases when a pope ships a bishop off to a lesser assignment or forces him to resign prematurely, he remains a member of the College of Bishops with all its rights and privileges. As a result, bishops can carry forward a particular pope’s agenda well after that pope is off the scene. In the 1970s, Pope Paul VI appointed a series of bishops known for reforming attitudes and a strong concern for social justice, an outlook that in the U.S. was most associated with Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago. Those “Bernardin bishops” are still a force in the U.S. bishops’ conference today, more than 35 years after the death of Paul VI.

***

Pope Francis is hands-on with regard to most aspects of governance, and as a veteran churchman he knows how important the selection of bishops is in moving the Church in his direction. Francis laid out in black and white the sort of bishop he prefers in a June 2013 speech to his nuncios. He said that the first criterion for candidates is that they must be “pastors close to the people.” In the most celebrated phrase of the speech, Francis insisted that bishops must not have “the psychology of a prince.” Francis told the nuncios that if a priest seems to want to become a bishop, that’s a strong indicator that he probably shouldn’t get the job.

It’s still too early to assess how successful Francis will be in finding men to lead the Church who fit this profile. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said in a 2014 interview, “Let’s face it, we’re still in April of the baseball season with this pope,” suggesting that there’s no real point in checking the standings so early.

What’s clear is that Francis takes the task seriously. For the most important choices around the world, Francis gets personally involved.

In the U.S., Francis tapped 65-year-old Cupich, previously the bishop of the small diocese of Spokane, Washington—and a figure who appeared on almost no handicappers’ list—to take over the critically important archdiocese of Chicago. Chicago is one of a few large dioceses around the world whose leaders help set direction for the Church in their regions, and it has long been a symbol for deeper realignments. During the 1980s and 1990s, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin embodied the moderate, reforming spirit of the Second Vatican Council. The transition to Cardinal Francis George embodied the stronger emphasis on Catholic identity in the later John Paul II years, with resistance to the inroads of secularism the defining cause. George helped make the defense of religious freedom a signature cause for the American bishops, crystallized in the tug-of-war with the Obama White House over contraception mandates imposed as part of health-care reform. Both Bernardin and George served as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference at different points, and both were seen as representing the broader spirit of their era in the American Church.

In Cupich, Francis found another defining prelate to take over in Chicago. On a personal level, Cupich is regarded as humble and open, a pastor who “carries the smell of his sheep” that Francis has often said he wants in a prelate. He is clearly a moderate, upholding Church teaching on abortion, contraception and gay marriage but, like Francis, shunning strong rhetoric on those matters. Cupich has been identified with the wing of the American bishops that has tried to steer the Church down a less confrontational path. He tends to place special emphasis on the social gospel—concern for the poor and for social justice. In 2011 Cupich dismayed some of the most aggressive pro-life forces in Catholicism when he discouraged priests and seminarians from taking part in an anti-abortion protest in Spokane. Cupich is also seen as an adept manager and an internal reformer. In his role as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, he helped lead the American Church’s efforts to recover from child sexual abuse scandals.

Francis was personally involved in Cupich’s selection, making phone calls to a wide variety of sources in and around the U.S. Church and consulting American prelates when they came to Rome.

Adding it all up, the kind of man Francis seems to look for in key posts is someone orthodox in doctrine but committed to dialogue and outreach; a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously; who emphasizes concern for the poor and those at the margins; and who gets out of the office and into the streets.

 

Excerpted from THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen Jr., published by TIME Books, an imprint of Time Home Entertainment Inc.

 

TIME

The Environment’s Pope

TIME Books

Francis is making the environment a top concern and speaking out against the ‘sin’ of ‘exploiting the Earth’

This month marks the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election. The following is taken from THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen Jr.

It was probably inevitable that the first pope named Francis—inspired by a saint who preached to birds and gave pet names to the sun and the moon—has turned out to be a strong environmentalist. In fact, Francis has said that concern for the environment is a defining Christian virtue. (The young Jorge Bergoglio trained as a chemist, so he has a foundation to appreciate the scientific issues involved.) This element of the social gospel bubbled to the surface as early as his inaugural mass, when Francis issued a plea to “let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”

St. Francis’s imprint on this pope is clearly strong. In unscripted comments during a meeting with the president of Ecuador in April 2013, he said, “Take good care of creation. St. Francis wanted that. People occasionally forgive, but nature never does. If we don’t take care of the environment, there’s no way of getting around it.”

The two previous popes were also environmentalists. The mountain-climbing, kayaking John Paul II was a strong apostle for ecology, once issuing an almost apocalyptic warning that humans “must finally stop before the abyss” and take better care of nature. Benedict XVI’s ecological streak was so strong that he earned a reputation as “the Green Pope” because of his repeated calls for stronger environmental protection, as well as gestures such as installing solar panels atop a Vatican audience hall and signing an agreement to make the Vatican Europe’s first carbon-neutral state.

Francis is carrying that tradition forward. Among other things, he told French President François Hollande during a January 2014 meeting that he is working on an encyclical on the environment. (An encyclical is considered the most developed and authoritative form of papal teaching.) The Vatican has since confirmed that Francis indeed intends to deliver the first encyclical ever devoted entirely to environmental issues.

In a July 2014 talk at the Italian university of Molise, Francis described harm to the environment as “one of the greatest challenges of our times.” It’s a challenge, he said, that’s theological as well as political in nature. “I look at . . . so many forests, all cut, that have become land . . . that can [no] longer give life,” the pope continued, citing South American woodlands in particular. “This is our sin, exploiting the Earth. . . . This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation.”

Not so long ago, the idea of Catholic environmentalism would have struck some as a contradiction in terms. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was fashionable among pioneers of the environmental movement to fault the entire Judeo-Christian tradition for humanity’s savage indifference to the earth. Lynn White, Jr., of the University of California published an influential article in the journal Science in 1967 in which he blamed the Bible for making Westerners feel “superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim.” While acknowledging contrary currents in Christian history such as St. Francis, White nonetheless ended with a sweeping indictment: “We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.”

Today things are virtually upside down, with Pope Francis seen as an important environmental advocate. Writing in The Atlantic Monthly, Tara Isabella Burton praised Francis for “publicly—with the dizzying reach granted to a man in his position—emphasizing an understanding of nature that, in contrast to the combative dichotomy so prevalent in mainstream politico-religious discourse, is intrinsically positive in its treatment of the physical world.” Burton called the pope’s vision one “that is, radically and profoundly, pro-life.” Burton’s reference to “pro-life” connotes that Francis is leading Catholics to view environmental concern as part and parcel of what it means to foster a “culture of life,” and therefore of equivalent importance as resisting abortion and gay marriage.

In the argot of contemporary environmental thinkers, if Benedict XVI was the Green Pope, then Francis may be remembered as the “Dark Green Pope”—a figure who intensifies the Church’s commitment to the environment by linking it to the corrosive effects of consumerism and runaway global capitalism. Before Francis arrived on the scene, the American political theorist Jeremy Rifkin forecast that issues such as GMOs and climate change would dissolve the old left-right divisions, creating a new “biopolitics” in which defenders of nature on the left and defenders of human life on the right would find themselves allies, standing against a 21st-century hyper-industrialism that sees everything, including nature and organic life, as a commodity. Francis, the pope of the social gospel, could develop into the leader who makes Rifkin’s prediction come true.

Excerpted from THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen Jr., published by TIME Books, an imprint of Time Home Entertainment Inc.

 

TIME

Why Pope Francis Won’t Let Women Become Priests

TIME Books

The first pope of the Catholic Church to have had a woman as a boss is steadfast in his defense of the status quo when it comes to women and Church leadership

This month marks the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ election. The following is taken from THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen Jr.

On two occasions when Pope Francis has been asked about possibly admitting women to the ranks of the clergy, he has given a firm no.

At the same time, he has said that he wants to see a “greater role” for women in Catholicism, including participation in the “important decisions . . . where the authority of the Church is exercised.” He has also said that he wants a “deeper theology” about the place of women in the faith, one that will emphasize the critically important contributions they make. During his first two years in office, however, there were relatively few steps forward in either regard. No groundbreaking new roles for women were created and no new theological study was commissioned. While Francis’s popularity tends to insulate him against the criticism that such a record might otherwise attract, over time his ability to reframe impressions of the Catholic Church as a boys’ club, at least at the top, will be an important measure of his success—not merely because it’s a question of interest to the outside world but also because Francis himself has set it as a standard.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936 and entered the Society of Jesus in 1958, meaning most of his formative experiences as a priest came before the reforming Second Vatican Council, held from 1962–65. The pre–Vatican II period was an era in which prospective clergymen typically entered the system young and lived in an environment in which interaction with the opposite sex was deliberately restricted, to the point that they were discouraged from looking too closely at women, a discipline known in the argot of the clerical world as “custody of the eyes.”

As a result, when talk turns to women, clerics of the pope’s generation often talk about their mothers or grandmothers, or perhaps a nun who taught them in grade school. They are keen to extol the domestic contributions of women—their importance in raising families, passing on the faith and imparting basic human virtues—which can make their rhetoric seem outdated and patronizing. Francis certainly feels such fondness for the women in his own family, especially, as we have seen, his paternal grandmother, Rosa.

On the other hand, Francis is atypical of many clergymen of his generation in that he did not enter a minor seminary as a teenager, where he would have been cut off from the outside world. Instead, he moved in the hurly-burly world of Argentina in the 1950s, a time when the Latin American nation was considered one of the most developed, cosmopolitan societies in the world. It was an environment in which women could serve in leadership capacities, inspired by Eva Perón’s de facto role as spiritual leader of the nation.

After earning a degree from a technical school as a chemical assistant, Bergoglio worked in the foods section of the Hickethier-Bachmann laboratory, running chemical tests on nutrients. Bergoglio’s supervisor at the lab was Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, a Paraguayan communist who had fled her country’s military dictatorship in 1949 and settled in Buenos Aires with her daughters. Although Francis didn’t realize it at the time, he would later become the first pope of the Catholic Church to have had a woman as a boss. He has often referred to Ballestrino as a major influence on his life. She was undoubtedly in his mind when he said in a 2013 interview that he wasn’t offended by Rush Limbaugh calling him a Marxist because “I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people.” Francis has said that Ballestrino drilled into him the importance of paying attention to details in his work, forcing him to repeat tests to confirm his results. “The work I did was one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” Bergoglio later said in a 2010 interview with Argentine journalists Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti. “[Esther Ballestrino de Careaga was] an extraordinary boss. When I handed her an analysis, she’d say, ‘Wow, you did that so fast. . . . Did you do the test or not?’ I would answer, ‘What for?’ If I’d done all the previous tests, it would surely be more or less the same. ‘No, you have to do things properly,’ she would chide me. In short, she taught me the seriousness of hard work. Truly, I owe a huge amount to that great woman.” In another section of the interview, Bergoglio said that Ballestrino “taught me so much about politics.”

Bergoglio reconnected with his former boss a decade later, when she and her family were under surveillance by the Argentine military regime. At one point, Ballestrino called to ask him to come to her house to give a relative last rites, which surprised Bergoglio because he knew the family wasn’t religious. The truth was that Ballestrino needed someone to stash her extensive collection of Marxist literature; the young Jesuit provincial superior agreed to do so. Later, Bergoglio helped Ballestrino find one of her daughters who had been kidnapped by military forces. (She was detained and tortured for several months before being released.) Ballestrino became one of the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, often reaching out to Bergoglio for help.

Tragically, Ballestrino herself “disappeared” at the hands of security forces in 1977. Almost three decades later, when her remains were discovered and identified, Bergoglio gave permission for her to be buried in the garden of a Buenos Aires church called Santa Cruz, the spot where she had been abducted. Her daughter requested that her mother and several other women be buried there because “it was the last place they had been as free people.” Despite knowing full well that Ballestrino was not a believing Catholic, the future pope readily consented.

Despite his talk of expanded roles for women in the Church, Francis is still firmly against ordaining women as priests or, for that matter, as clergy of any kind. He has even rejected the idea of reviving an older tradition of lay cardinals that would include women. (A lay cardinal is a nonclerical member of the College of Cardinals.) The proposal has drawn influential support from the likes of Lucetta Scaraffia, a historian and columnist for the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, but Francis has unambiguously shot it down. Francis’s clearest statement on the ordination issue came during an airborne press conference in July 2013, when he was returning from Rio de Janeiro. “The Church has spoken and says no. . . . That door is closed,” he said.

The pontiff’s rejection of female clergy is so unwavering that critics have accused him of having a blind spot on women’s issues. Jon O’Brien of the liberal dissent group Catholics for Choice, an organization that defies orthodoxy by supporting abortion rights, said in 2013 that the pope’s message seems to be “Women can wait while he takes care of more important issues.” In October 2013 a progressive priests’ group in Ireland leveled a similar charge when Francis signed off on the excommunication of Australian Fr. Greg Reynolds, in part for his advocacy of women’s ordination.

In May 2014 an advocacy group called Women’s Ordination Worldwide held a rally and press conference in Rome to complain that Francis’s reforming stance on other matters isn’t matched by his position on women’s issues. “It’s true that Pope Francis is portraying a new image of the Church being open to all and that he is trying to shake off the judgments and restrictions of the past,” said activist Miriam Duignan in Rome. “But despite this openness . . . Francis holds fast to the old party line that says, ‘Women in priesthood is not open to discussion. It is reserved for men alone. Women are not welcome.’ How long do women have to wait to be considered equal and worthy of receiving the same welcome by the official Church as men?”

For many people, including rank-and-file Catholics who believe in gender equality, it is difficult to square Francis’s overall reputation as a maverick and a progressive reformer—plus his specific pledges to enhance the role of women in Catholicism—with his steadfast defense of the status quo when it comes to female priests.

The fundamental reason for the Church’s refusal to admit women to the priesthood is that it’s bound by the example of Christ. Jesus did not include women among his original 12 apostles, so the argument runs, and the Church is compelled to follow that example, restricting the priesthood today to men. Although Francis presumably accepts that teaching, it’s not the basis of his own stance on the issue. For him, the push for women priests is where two forces repellent to him intersect: machismo, which is an especially resonant concept for a Latin American, and clericalism, an exaggerated emphasis on the power and privilege of the clergy, which is virtually this pope’s personal bête noire.

Prior to his election as pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger likewise argued that some models of feminism were based on a utilitarian logic that understands human relationships in terms of a contest for power, saying that on the man’s side of the ledger that sort of thinking “heads in the direction of machismo,” and thus feminism becomes an equal and opposite “reaction against the exploitation of woman.” In effect, the argument was that real feminism is not about an arms race with men, but rather about ending the arms race once and for all by rejecting power as the only way to evaluate one’s worth or dignity. As applied to the priesthood, the conclusion is that it’s a fallacy to believe that women will never be equal to men in the Church until they wield the same ecclesiastical power. Instead, the argument runs, real feminism means embracing “complementarity”: the idea that men and women play different but complementary roles in the wider world and inside the Church.

Naturally, it’s an argument that’s met with an uneven reception, as many women have responded that it’s rather disingenuous to play down the importance of power when you’re the one wielding it. Moreover, many theologians in Catholicism, both men and women, point out that in all its official teaching on the subject, the Church describes the priesthood in terms of service rather than power. If that’s true, they ask, couldn’t the desire of women to become priests be understood in terms of a call to serve rather than a lust for power? In other words, they wonder, has official papal rhetoric set up a straw man?

If anything, Francis recoils from clericalism even more viscerally than machismo. As Francis has defined it, clericalism means two things: first, an over-emphasis on what he called “small-minded rules” at the expense of mercy and compassion; and second, an exalted notion of clerical power and privilege, as opposed to the spirit of service. Francis sees clericalism almost as the original sin of the Catholic priesthood. In informal remarks to leaders of religious orders in late 2013, he referred to the hypocrisy of clericalism as “one of the worst evils” in the Church and memorably said that unless future priests are inoculated against it when they’re young, they risk turning out to be “little monsters.”

Francis believes the demand for women’s admission to the clerical ranks betrays an unconscious clericalism. In a December 2013 interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, he was asked about the notion that he might name female cardinals. “I don’t know where this idea sprang from,” Francis replied. “Women in the Church must be valued, not ‘clericalized.’ Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.” In his mind, conceding that the only way to elevate the role of women is to make them clergy feeds the mistaken notion that clerics are what’s most important about Catholicism, when he sees his mission instead as exalting the role of the laity. When he talks about a “deeper theology” of women, this is likely part of what he has in mind—a sort of Copernican revolution in Catholic consciousness, with laity and women the real protagonists of the Church’s mission in the world and the clergy a supporting cast. When he traveled to South Korea in August 2014, he repeatedly invoked the unique history of the Korean Church as one founded not by priests or foreign missionaries but by laypeople, and his delight in that fact was palpable.

To be sure, the argument is unlikely to satisfy many Catholics or women outside the Church, who will always see the ban on female priests as an anachronistic means of defending male privilege. But when Francis said, “That door is closed,” he seemed to mean it.

Excerpted from THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen Jr., published by TIME Books, an imprint of Time Home Entertainment Inc.

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