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06 July 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

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Question: what does a pope do with bishops who don’t do what he wants? Answer: he moves them out – out of the Vatican and sometimes to a remote diocese in some far-flung part of the world.

That’s certainly how things used to be done. But in the Francis era it’s different: ever since his election the current pope has adopted a contrary approach. First, it’s because he believes passionately about the need for bishops to be sensitive pastors and close to the people – so if he doesn’t think a bishop is up to scratch, the last thing he wants to do is to send him to lead a large flock.

And second, it’s because this pope’s approach to running the Church is essentially non-confrontational. His personal philosophy is rooted in one of his favourite expressions: “Time is greater than space.” Francis simply isn’t interested in trying to impose his ideas and concepts on the Church – this week, this month or even this year. Instead, his vision is for a more open, understanding and merciful Church, which will unfold over time.

So when it comes to dealing with his opponents inside the Vatican, Francis plays a waiting game.  Speaking to Argentinian newspaper La Nación last Sunday he referred to his opponents as “nails” but stressed: “I do not cut off heads.”
These nails, he explained, “are removed by applying pressure to the top … or, you set them aside to rest when the age of retirement arrives.” In other words, people go when their time is up – and until then, he prefers to avoid battles with them so far he possibly can.





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