Vatican expert shares insights on Pope Francis

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Vatican expert shares insights on Pope Francis, the man, the myth and his view of the Church

Published: March 21, 2014.

The Catholic Church is merciful and missionary with servant leadership. Those are the emerging themes from Pope Francis’ first year of the papacy, according to John L. Allen, Jr. Vatican correspondent and senior Vatican analyst for CNN. Allen shared his insights with his presentation, “The Francis Revolution: Taking Stock of the New Pope at the One-Year Mark” during the 12th Annual Signum Fidei Lecture March 20 at Lewis University.

Allen, also associate editor of the Boston Globe, talked to the crowd of about 300 people inside the St. Charles Borromeo Center on the university’s main campus in Romeoville. Retired Bishop John R. Gorman of Chicago was in attendance as well as clergy and lay people from parishes in northern Illinois, Lewis University students, faculty, and staff.

In this past year, Allen said he has witnessed the pope make an impact with the populace, in the media, and on the culture of Rome. Currently, according to CNN, the pope has a 90 percent approval rating among Americans and 12 million followers on Twitter. He was selected as Vanity Fair and Time’s Person of the Year in 2013. And, his impact on the culture of Rome has been to simplify the Church and create more transparency.

Allen noted three emerging pillars of where the pope has the most impact.

First, Allen said the pope is “recalibrating” the expectations of leadership in the Catholic Church, not as power, but as service. Allen quoted the pope as saying he doesn’t want church leaders to have the “psychology of a prince, but the smell of their sheep because they are close to the people they serve.”

Second, Pope Francis sees the importance of the role of the Church as missionary in its work. Allen said the pope feels it is important to bring God’s love to the men and women who need it most. His wishes are evidenced in his deliberate stops along routes to embrace people and personally call upon people. He also has been active politically and took a pro-immigration stance in Italy; called out Brazil for claiming a “false peace” when they had not included their poor and marginalized; and gathered his leadership to speak out against a possible war in Syria.

And third, Allen believes Pope Francis will be most known for spreading the Christian message of mercy. He quoted the pope as saying, “The Lord never gets tired of forgiving.”

In the end of his lecture, Allen left everyone with a call to action. He said, “If we can come together and summon the best of ourselves, we will have the winning formula for a new evangelization.”

The Signum Fidei Lecture is organized by Lewis University’s Center for Ministry & Spirituality to celebrate the university’s Catholic and Lasallian heritage, bringing to campus men and women of vision and faith to illuminate issues affecting the Church and its people, to reflect on spirituality in the Catholic tradition, and to provide a forum for topics based on Church teaching.

Lewis University is a Catholic university in the Lasallian tradition offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 6,600 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected, and socially responsible graduates. The seventh largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. Visit for further information.

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Mona LaMontagne said:
Great presentation. Appreciated the insights.

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