View From Rome
08 September 2016
View from Rome
Popes can’t be expected to be involved in all the nitty-gritty of Church governance, so those areas that they do focus on send out an important message. In the past, they were officially in charge of the Holy Office (once known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition), signalling that safeguarding doctrine is the essential duty of the Bishop of Rome.
This Pope is different, however, and last week’s announcement of the creation of a new Vatican social justice department makes clear just how different he really is. Its new statutes reveal that a section of the dicastery will be dedicated to helping migrants and refugees and that it will be under Francis’ direct control.
For Francis, the litmus test of the Church is not how it herds people into its doctrinal system but how it treats outcasts. And so, this son of migrants has exercised a personal ministry to refugees throughout his pontificate – something seen most dramatically when he took 12 Syrian refugees back to Rome on the papal plane from Lesbos. That gesture was driven by him, and had very little to do with any curial committee. This is the style that defines this papacy: the approach of a man who is wary of systems and institutions and much more interested in exercising a one-on-one pastoral ministry, which is sometimes risk-taking and often surprising.
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