Today is the first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis to the Chair of Peter. The effect of the Holy Father’s public perception of the Catholic Church is hard to believe but is an example of the power of witness.
Pope Francis has not made any major international trips. He has written only one encyclical, Lumen Fidei, which had been started by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and also gave us his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. He has made his mark by his actions more than his writings. His calls to return to the Gospel of Jesus not as an ideology but as a lived experience of missionary discipleship, and his concern for the plight of the poor have set the tone for his papacy.
Seemingly unimpressed by his popularity with the media, the Holy Father has turned his efforts to reform of the Church, with particular attention to the emphasis on the universality of the Church. His appointment of the group of eight Cardinals from throughout the world as special consultors and his recent consistory at which he created 19 new Cardinals, many from areas previously not represented in the Apostolic College have demonstrated his commitment to decentralization and an emphasis on making the Church present on the periphery.
Yet, he has still demonstrated that he is as much a pastor as an administrator with his concern for the immigrants from Africa and his seeking out those “least of the brethren” in his daily activities. His decision to avoid the panoply and privilege available to him in favor of a very simple life has sent a strong message to the would-be courtiers among the hierarchy as well as to all of us that “less is more.”
Let us rejoice in the great gift God has given to the Church in Pope Francis and continue to pray for his well-being and the success of the Franciscan reform he has begun.