08 December 2016, The Tablet

Pope at 80: A shepherd clearly steering the flock


A milestone birthday is approaching for Pope Francis. The focus of his pontificate has been that other milestone – the Second Vatican Council – and implementing its key principles

When Pope Francis celebrates his 80th birthday next Saturday it will be a moment to reflect on his action-packed journey of a papacy, so often defined by his personal charisma and spontaneous gestures.

But his leadership of the Church is far more than just about him: it is a papacy that continues the legacy of the Second Vatican Council, contemporary Catholicism’s defining moment.

That event, which concluded just over 50 years ago, set the Church on a path of reform and unprecedented engagement with the modern world; one where condemnation was replaced with listening and where those who fall short of church teaching are offered the “medicine of mercy”.

It is this path that Francis is continuing on, and it is a direction of travel that ensures he leaves a legacy: it prevents this papacy ending up like a wonderful fireworks display lighting up the sky but after which the Church goes back to business as usual.
This is what his critics want.

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