- Sep 14, 2020
Although the mainstream press loves to posit a fundamental difference between Popes Benedict XVI and Francis, this week the case for continuity between the two pontiffs also got a boost in two different quarters. The bottom line, actually, is probably that Benedict and Francis are alike in some ways and different in others, and a review of papal history would suggest it’s pretty much always been thus.
Catholic bishops across Europe largely have been making a stand in defense of continental unity, a position backed by Pope Francis. Yet in a major speech on Europe Saturday, Francis made clear he’s also no champion of the European status quo, and in fact seems to regard it as passing away. In that context, he laid out his own version of the “Benedict option” for the Church’s role.
Pope Francis on Saturday named Irish Bishop Paul Tighe the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, essentially cementing his status as the top aide to Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. For the better part of a decade Tighe has been an effective emissary for the headquarters of the Catholic Church, among other reasons because he’s widely regarded as perhaps the Vatican’s nicest guy.
Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement Wednesday night that the U.S. will bypass UN-sponsored programs designed to help genocide victims in Iraq and Syria and begin funding faith-based groups directly, has drawn acclaim from advocates for persecuted Christians. The question is whether the policy will be implemented fast enough to help those Christians, now preparing for the hardships of winter.
In January 2014, a Roman street artist put up an image of Pope Francis as a superhero on a street near the Vatican. City authorities scrubbed it off within 48 hours, but now it’s back in the form of a line of T-shirts, with proceeds going to papal charities and explicit Vatican support. Some Catholics may see that as exciting, others as a worrying risk of pursuing profit and celebrity under the guise of good intentions.
Given Pope Francis’s usual disinclination to answer his critics, it may seem a little puzzling as to why he quickly and publicly responded to Cardinal Robert Sarah about the implications of the pontiff’s recent decisions on liturgical translation. The nature of Sarah’s position, the pope’s readiness to be precise, and his personal investment in the issue may all help explain why Francis appears so ready to reply this time.