Pope Francis may just be the breath of fresh air that the Catholic Church needs after the weakness of the former Pope, Benedict 16th. Benedict did little to deal with a range of scandals from the ongoing sex abuse tragedy to corruption at the highest level of the Roman curia.
Upon taking office, Pope Francis made it clear that he was not buying into the pomp and arrogance of the Vatican. He decided to live in a sparse apartment, refused to wear the trappings of splendor of past popes ( no red Gucci shoes), and accented whenever possible the importance of the Church responding to the needs of the poor in the world.
Now Pope Francis has taken further steps to make his mark. He has removed key members of the Vatican bank, which has been scandal ridden for years, and at one time had ties to the Italian mafia. He has also refused to attend some of the glitzy public events that had been a staple for the college of cardinals. In the process he let it be known that these church leaders were to spend less of their time and money on looking good and living the good life and concentrate instead on the mission of spreading the word of Christ and following His model.
Francis also openly admitted that there exists what he called a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, a statement that shows he is aware of the hypocrisy at the highest levels of the Catholic Church as the gay lifestyle is publicly condemned and yet it exists among key members of the church hierarchy.
Now it is important to stress that Pope Francis is not moving an inch from traditional church teachings on gay marriage, celibacy and women as priests, but he is sending a message that the Vatican will be reformed as an institution and that the cardinals and other leaders of the church will be guided by service to the poor.
This is a positive start for the reign of Pope Francis and perhaps the Catholic Church will now begin to focus on following in the footsteps of Jesus. Who knows down the road perhaps Pope Francis will address the issues of sexual abuse, homosexuality and contraception in ways that reflect the views of the faithful.