A Humble Pope Challenging the World The New York Times - A...

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9/19/15, 2:27 PM A Humble Pope, Challenging the World - The New York Times Page 1 of 15
9/19/15, 2:27 PM A Humble Pope, Challenging the World - The New York Times Page 2 of 15 is not just trying to change the Roman Catholic Church. He seems determined to change the world. Popes are expected to challenge society. But Francis, 78, who lands in Cuba on Saturday and prepares to arrive in Washington on Tuesday for his first visit to the United States , has achieved a unique global stature in a short time. His humble persona has made him immensely popular, a smiling figure plunging into crowds at St. Peter’s Square. He speaks in deeply personal terms about people discarded by the global economy, whether refugees drowned at sea or women forced into prostitution. His blistering critiques of environmental destruction have seized the world’s attention. But he is also an inscrutable tactician whose push to change the church has stirred anxiety and hope — and some skepticism. Many conservatives project their fears onto him. Many liberals assume he is a kindred spirit. Others argue that Francis is less concerned about left or right than he is about reversing the church’s declining popularity in Latin America and beyond. “Francis is a great showman,” said Rubén Rufino Dri, a longtime critic of Francis and an emeritus professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Buenos Aires. He added, “His repositioning of the church is paternalistic. It is not a strategy for empowering its followers. This is by no means a revolution.” Francis has not fully revealed his hand. But already his spiritual mission to place the poor at the center of the church has enabled him to thrust it to the center of the global debate on issues such as climate change , migration and the post-2008 rethinking of capitalist economics. To some degree, the question of how Francis will change the church — and its role in society — misses the point that much change has already occurred. Doctrine is the same, but Francis has changed its emphasis, projecting a merciful, welcoming tone in a church that had been shattered by clerical sexual abuse scandals and identified with theological rigidity. He has emphasized its historic connection to the destitute while sidelining culture war issues. In turn, his
9/19/15, 2:27 PM A Humble Pope, Challenging the World - The New York Times Page 3 of 15 geopolitical influence, and that of the church, has risen.

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