TIME The Vatican

5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Pope Francis

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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 faith

Pope Francis Rails Against Modern ‘Throwaway Culture’

Pope Francis delivers his speech during a special audience with members of the confederation of Italian cooperatives in Paul VI hall at the Vatican
Tony Gentile—Reuters Pope Francis delivers his speech during a special audience with members of the confederation of Italian cooperatives at the Vatican, Feb. 28, 2015.

Condemns the global economic order once again

Pope Francis has once again spoken out about the global economic climate, decrying an economic system that “seems fatally destined to suffocate hope and increase risks and threats.”

Speaking in Rome, the Pope condemned what he called a “throwaway culture created by the powers that control the economic and financial policies of the globalized world.”

But he proposed a solution of sorts, in the form of economic cooperatives that would help spread wealth equally: “Money at the service of life can be managed in the right way by cooperatives, on condition that it is a real cooperative where capital does not have command over men but men over capital.”

He quoted his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, in calling money the “devil’s dung,” according to Vatican Radio. “When money becomes an idol, it controls man’s choices,” he added. “It makes him a slave.”

This is far from the first time the Pope has addressed the condition of the working class in the globalized world; in a speech at the U.N. last year, the Pope asked world leaders to redistribute wealth.

[Vatican Radio]

TIME faith

Pope Francis to Families: Get Off Your Screens and Actually Talk to Each Other

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Andreas Solaro—AFP/Getty Images Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives for the private Audience to the Accountants and Accounting Experts in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican, on November 14, 2014.

The Pontiff says technology should be used to enable conversation, not hinder it

Pope Francis wants families to know that technology isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

“By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it,” the Pontiff said Friday in his annual message for World Communications Day.

In other words, cut down on your screen time, kids.

Not that mothers and fathers aren’t beyond reproach: “Parents are the primary educators,” he said, “but they cannot be left to their own devices.”

“The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that ‘silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist,'” Pope Francis said.

This isn’t the first time the Pope has implied those family-centric Apple ads might be misleading. “Maybe many young people waste too many hours on futile things,” like “chatting on the Internet or with smartphones,” he said last year.

Even in 1967, long before the dawn of the selfie, Pope Paul VI remarked upon the rapidly expanding world of communications, noting how television and other media leave “their deep mark upon the mentality and the conscience of man who is being pressed and almost overpowered by a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.”

It’s like they say in Proverbs 18:2: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion [on Twitter].”

TIME faith

Pope Francis to Make American Missionary a Saint

Pope Francis waves during the departure ceremony at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lank on Jan. 15, 2015.
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Pope Francis waves during the departure ceremony at the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo, Sri Lank on Jan. 15, 2015.

The pope is scheduled to visit the U.S. in September

Pope Francis promised Thursday to canonize an 18th century missionary during his visit to the United States in September.

The pontiff said he would make a saint out of Junipero Serra, a missionary who brought Christianity to the western United States in the 1700s.

“He was the evangelizer of the Western United States,” Francis told reporters on the papal plane as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines as part of his Asia tour.

He is scheduled to visit Philadelphia on his visit, but is also expected to visit New York to address the United Nations…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Italy

Watch Thousands of Tango Dancers Celebrate Pope Francis’s Birthday in Rome

The Argentinian has expressed fondness for his country's dance

There’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than with a dance party, and for Pope Francis’s 78th, that means a massive tango party in the streets of Rome. Thousands gathered in and around the Vatican City to sing happy birthday in Italian, Spanish and other languages and dance to tango music—an Argentinian import like Francis himself.

Before becoming the Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio gave an interview for the book The Jesuit by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti expressing his love for the tango. “I like it a lot,” he said. “It’s something that comes from within me.”

[Reuters]

TIME faith

Pope Francis Is Selling His Fiat Car in a Raffle for the Poor

Pope Francis Attends His Weekly Audience In St Peter's Square
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter's Square at the end of his weekly audience on Nov. 19, 2014, in Vatican City

The Vatican said it is raffling off objects that the Pontiff has received as gifts

Pope Francis’ four-wheel-drive Panda Fiat is just one of a collection of items the Vatican is raffling off to raise money for charity.

Posters around the Vatican announced the raffle will also include his Homero Ortega brand hat, bicycles, and an espresso coffee machine, Reuters reports, among 13 objects and 30 unspecified “consolation prizes.”

Tickets on sale at the Vatican will cost $12.50, and the winner will be announced on Jan. 8. The Vatican announced last week that Pope Francis, who has made fighting poverty a priority, was building bathrooms for the homeless in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

[Reuters]

TIME The Vatican

The Vatican Is Building Showers for the Homeless in Rome

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CEZARY ZAREBSKI PHOTOGRPAHY—Getty Images/Flickr RF St. Peter's Basilica

Three showers are going up near St. Peter's

The Pope traditionally washes the feet of the poor on the day before Good Friday. But now the Vatican has unveiled plans to offers bathrooms to the poor all year round.

Rome’s homeless will soon be able to shower in the shadow of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Vatican plans to build the showers for Rome’s homeless to wash and change, the Vatican Insider, run by the Italy’s La Stampa, reports. It’s also helping ten parishes across Rome provide access to showers.

Pope Francis, TIME’s Person of the Year in 2013, has made poverty alleviation a priority, and this week he called on leaders converging in Australia for the G20 meeting to take responsibility for the “poor and marginalized.”

Read more at The Vatican Insider.

TIME The Vatican

Pope Francis Warns G20 of Effect of ‘Unbridled Consumerism’

Pope attends His Weekly Audience St. Peter's Square
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis speaks during his weekly audience in St. Peter's square on November 12, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During the event, the Pope asked the clergy to be humble, urging them to be understanding towards their communities and to avoid an authoritarian attitude.

"Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision"

Pope Francis warned heads of states attending the annual G20 meeting in Australia about the effects of “unbridled consumerism” and called on them to take concrete steps to alleviate unemployment.

In a letter addressed to Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is chairing this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit which begins Sunday, the Pontiff called for its participants to consider that “many lives are at stake.”

“It would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter.

Pope Francis, who has made a habit of addressing the leaders of the G20 meetings, has often raised his concerns with the global economy. Last year, in lengthy report airing the views of the Vatican, he criticized the “idolatry of money” and denounced the unfettered free market as the “new tyranny.”

In the letter published Tuesday, he said that, like attacks on human rights in the Middle East, abuses in the financial system are among the “forms of aggression that are less evident but equally real and serious.”

“Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level,” he wrote.

TIME faith

Defining Extraordinary Synod: A Glossary for the Pope’s Big Gathering

Pope Attends Holy Mass For The Opening Of The Extraordinary Synod On The Family
Franco Origlia—Getty Images Pope Francis attends the Opening Mass of the Synod of Bishops in St. Peter's Basilica on Oct. 5, 2014 in Vatican City.

In a meeting about the future of the Catholic Church, the terminology is sometime ancient Greek

There’s a lot about the Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops on the Family that may seem unfamiliar or foreign to observers—especially the vocabulary. As leaders of the Catholic church gather this week at the Vatican to discuss issues, including divorce and remarriage, here’s a rundown of synod-speak for the uninitiated:

Synod: a gathering of clergy, or a church council; synod means “coming together” in Greek

Extraordinary Synod: a synod called for a special and urgent purpose

Synod Father: a priest participating in the synod

Intervention: a written statement composed and submitted by a synod father about views and topics he would like considered in the synod

Ecclesial: having to do with the church

Relator (pronounced, real-AH-tor): the designated person in an ecclesial gathering who conveys, writes or records the information that the meeting will discuss. The 2014 Synod Relator is Cardinal Péter Erdo of Esztergom-Budapest, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Hungary.

Secretary General: the synod’s basic administrator who assists in all the synod’s preparations and forthcoming documents. The 2014 Synod Secretary General is Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri

Mitre: the pointed hat a bishop wears for special occasions, like synod masses

Auditor: person specially selected by Pope Francis to observe the synod and all its proceedings

Fraternal delegates: representatives of non-Catholic Christian communities who are present at the synod

Voting members: cardinals and other papal appointees who can vote in the synod

Non-voting members: auditors, observers, and other participants who cannot vote in the synod

TIME Religion

The Great Nunquisition: Why the Vatican Is Cracking Down on Sisters

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FILIPPO MONTEFORTE—AFP/Getty Images Nuns pose with the jersey of Argentinian football star Lionel Messi and flags prior Pope Francis Sunday Angelus prayer at St. Peter's Square on July 13, 2014 at the Vatican.

Today's generation of nuns are progressive women, two things the Church isn't used to

Nuns are an endangered species. They are dying and not being replaced.

If you think the news is bad now, a world without nuns would be a far worse place. The nuns that I know are much too humble to tout their achievements and all of the good they contribute to society, but make no mistake, they are an integral part of the fabric that holds our civilization together.

In 2014 there were just 49,883 religious Catholic sisters in the United States, down 13% percent from 2010 according to figures from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. To put it in greater perspective, that is a 72% decline since 1965.

Because nuns don’t brag about all of the good that they do or hashtag how awesome they are on Facebook, many people have no idea about the things they accomplish on a daily basis.

You probably haven’t heard about Sister Joan Dawber. Sister Joan, a Sister of Charity of Halifax, runs a safe house in Queens for victims of human trafficking—former sex and labor slaves. She takes these women in when they have no one else to protect them and risks her life to help them rebuild theirs.

About 20 minutes away by car from Sister Joan’s safe house, Sister Tesa Fitzgerald works tirelessly to raise the children of mothers who are incarcerated. When those women get out of prison Sister Tesa helps them get clothes, jobs and an apartment. Those women credit Tesa with nothing less than saving their lives.

Most people don’t know about Sister Nora Nash, a Franciscan Sister who lives just outside of Philadelphia. As her order’s Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Sister Nora wakes up every single morning determined to make corporations more responsible to the human race. Sister Nora and her assistant director, Tom McCaney have taken to task the grocery store chain Kroger over the rights of farm workers, Hershey’s chocolate company over child labor, McDonald’s over childhood obesity, Walmart on raising their minimum wage and Wells Fargo over predatory lending practices. Nash wakes up every single morning determined to make corporations more responsible to the human race. Then she follows through on it.

For more than four decades Sister Jeannine Gramick has been tireless in her fight for gay rights through her organization New Ways, despite coming under intense scrutiny from the Vatican.

Sister Dianna Ortiz made headlines in 1989 when she was abducted, tortured and raped while working as a teacher in Guatemala. After living through that horror, instead of allowing herself to sink into a terrible depression, she headed up an organization to help thousands of torture survivors around the globe find the will to keep living.

It’s a problem that you haven’t heard about these women. You would think that, during a time when the Church has suffered from great criticism and weathered very public scandals, it would be celebrating these incredible achievements. Think again.

The Vatican doesn’t celebrate these women. In fact, it has done the very opposite. Attacks on American nuns have been happening since 2008, when the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life initiated an “Apostolic Visitation,” a euphemism for investigation, of the nuns.

To put it in perspective, previous “visitations” conducted by the Church were designed to investigate things like the priest sex abuse scandal.

The nuns nicknamed it the Great Nunquisition and in the past eight years they’ve come under scrutiny from the church patriarchy.

A 2012 Vatican document highlighted the Church’s problem with the Leadership Council of Women Religious, the largest group of nuns in the United States. The document claimed that the LCWR was “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death” and that Roman Catholic views on the family and human sexuality “are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes church teachings.”

Today’s nuns are simply too progressive for the Vatican. The Vatican chooses not to celebrate nuns and it chooses not to empower them.

Pope Francis has been hailed as a progressive icon. Yet on the subject of women in the Church, he remains loyal to a long-held and antiquated stance: he doesn’t think women should become priests.

Nuns are dying out because their population is aging and young women are not joining their ranks in the numbers they once did.

The young women who could be the nuns of tomorrow share a lot of the same values as the nuns of today. They are fiercely dedicated to the concept of social justice and doing good in the world. Seven in 10 millennials consider themselves social activists, and 72% of them are eager to participate in a nonprofit young professional group.

They want to be of service.

I recently spoke to a young woman who was discerning to be a Catholic sister, but changed her mind before she took perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

I asked her why and the answer was very simple and yet disheartening.

“I want to work for an employer that values what I do.”

She plans to work for an NGO. She wanted to be of service to the world, but she also wanted to feel empowered in her job.

Why would a generation of young women raised to believe that they can be anything join an institution that tells them there is something they absolutely cannot be, that there is a certain level they will never reach? Many of the women who are nuns today joined the vocation because it was a way to become highly educated, travel the world and dedicate themselves to a higher good without being beholden to a husband or children.

Young women today can do that with a passport and a Kickstarter account.

I am constantly reminded of something Sister Maureen Fiedler, a feminist and the host of the public radio program Interfaith Voices told me when I interviewed her for my book: the fact that Jesus was, and is, an “equal-opportunity employer.” He loved everyone the same.

If Catholic nuns are to survive in this country, something has to give. The Vatican needs to treat the nuns with more respect. The rules will have to evolve. Women will need to be given more power and leadership roles in the church.

Speaking at the annual LCWR assembly earlier this month, Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio described exactly what it means to be a nun today: “We are about drawing in the poor, the lonely, the marginalized, all those seeking to be part of a whole,” she said. “This is nothing more and nothing less than the most awesome vocation.

It is awesome. The nuns are awesome. But if the Vatican doesn’t start treating them as such, there is no incentive for more young women to aspire to join their ranks.

Jo Piazza is the author of the new book, If Nuns Ruled the World, which shatters the stereotypes of American Catholic nuns and profiles 10 daring sisters. A veteran journalist whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Slate, the Daily Beast and Yahoo, Piazza holds a masters degree in Religious Studies from New York University.

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