04 March 2020, The Tablet

How Pope Francis outflanks his foes

How Pope Francis outflanks his foes

Pope Francis refuses to be drawn into ‘either/or’ debates
CNS, Paul Haring


What is the real lesson to take from the Pope’s response to the synod on the Amazon? Our Rome correspondent argues that both conservatives and progressives within the Church fail to understand the radical nature of Francis’ reforms

Pope Francis has escaped the trap set for him by his opponents over the Amazon synod. Contrary to what was indicated by the initial reaction to his post-synodal exhortation, Querida Amazonia – relief at a perceived decision to maintain the status quo from the conservative side, disappointment at what they saw as inertia or lack of nerve from the progressives – he has in fact decisively propelled the Church further along the path of reform.

Nearly seven years after his election, the pyramid is gradually being inverted, and the Church is becoming more like the missionary, outward-facing Church of Francis’ dreams. But just not in the way people expected. After a synod in which 128 bishops from the region voted in favour of a proposal to ordain married men as priests in the Amazon, with 41 opposed, those intent on thwarting Francis’ determination to listen to the voice of the local Church kicked up such a fuss that he decided that announcing a change to the rules on celibacy would distract the world’s attention from the central message of the synod: the desperate urgency of the need to respond to the threat to the environment and the vital importance of standing in solidarity with the Amazon’s marginalised indigenous communities.

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