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17 March 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

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As he embarks on the fourth year of his papacy, Pope Francis faces something of a dilemma. The authority of his office means there are many decisions he must take alone. On the other hand, he is a collegial pope who desires to govern the Church with the bishops. Every time he takes a decision that exerts his authority – such as the reform of the marriage annulments process or the removal of American Cardinal Raymond Burke – conservatives accuse him of acting in an authoritarian way. Deep down, they argue, this pope is an old-fashioned Jesuit provincial who likes to tell people what to do.

Yet Francis is intent on introducing a real collegiality and decentralising power from Rome. He has set up a council of cardinal advisers from all over the world, has rebooted the Synod of Bishops and has called for bishops’ conferences to be given greater autonomy. It is possible that further authority will be given to local Churches in the new document following two synods on the family, which is to be signed by him today, the Feast of St Joseph, and the anniversary of the day he inaugurated his papacy.





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