A year on, Pope Francis faces challenges meeting reform hopes

March 11, 2014

(Pope Francis leads his Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican March 2, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

In the year since his surprise election, Pope Francis has raised so many hopes of imminent changes in Church teaching that managing all those expectations is going to be a challenge.

The Argentine-born pontiff has caught world attention by suggesting he might ease the Catholic Church’s strict rules on divorce, birth control, married or women priests and gay unions.

Off-the-cuff comments such as “who am I to judge?” about gays has contrasted with the more distant style of his predecessors John Paul and Benedict.

But while his words and public appearances have struck a chord with many Catholics, anyone hoping for a quick turnaround on those headline-grabbers is likely to be disappointed, said Boston College theologian Richard Gaillardetz.

“There is a critical mass of Catholics who want change,” said Gaillardetz, president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. “In the minds of many people, substantial change has to mean change on what I call the hot button troika – birth control, women’s ordination and same-sex marriage.

“This pope has undertaken very substantial change, but it is not necessarily going to focus on specific doctrines,” he added.
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